Tag Archives: Indigenous

Watchdog: Calgary Police Made Mistakes In Investigation of Colton Crowshoe

Colton Crowshoe’s family speaks out against police investigation. Jul 26. Calgary. Body found in pond next to Stoney Trail

The Canadian Press  | April 13, 2017

CALGARY — An Alberta agency that investigates police says Calgary officers made a series of mistakes as they investigated the disappearance of a young indigenous man who was later found dead.

But the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team says it does not believe those errors in Colton Crowshoe’s case were the result of racism or that they amounted to a crime.

“The evidence gathered in the ASIRT investigation clearly demonstrates that the initial stage of this investigation was beset by a series of assumptions, errors, and oversights by (Calgary Police Service) personnel,” executive director Susan Hughson said Thursday afternoon.

“I want to make it clear, CPS has not been cleared of wrongdoing. CPS’s investigation into Colton Crowshoe’s missing person complaint was not done properly. The one thing we can say is that it was not the result of racism that we could find evidence of, but they are not cleared.”

Police charged 18-year-old Crowshoe in July 2014 with trespassing and break and enter. He was released from custody and was last seen on video walking away from a police station in good spirits.

But a few days later his family reported him missing and, three weeks later, his body was discovered in a city retention pond. An autopsy determined his death was a homicide and that case remains unsolved.

Crowshoe’s relatives alleged police did not take their missing person report seriously and accused the force of racism.

Colton Crowshoe

Hughson said ASIRT reviewed 28 other missing persons investigations and could find no evidence race played a role in how Crowshoe’s was handled.

Still, the investigation was botched.

“Several of the missing person policy protocols were not followed,” she said. “As a result, there was minimal investigation of the missing person report, no follow-up or file continuity, no accountability or file ownership, a failure to document relevant new information, and most importantly, no police-initiated communication with the family.

“They (the family) may have been wrong about the racial profiling potentially, but they are not wrong that there were problems with Colton’s missing persons investigation.”

The family also alleged that Crowshoe was roughed up during his initial arrest.

ASIRT examined that allegation as well and found that there were no grounds for criminal charges against officers.

“In this case, it is clear that at the time this contact occurred, the officer is in the lawful execution of his duties. He is doing his job,” Hughson said.

She gave the Calgary Police Service credit for reviewing the case itself after it came to light and making changes to the way missing persons cases are investigated.

She said there are lessons to be learned for all police forces when it comes to missing persons cases.

“They need to be treated as potential homicides in many cases,” she said. “Often people will turn up so I understand why there is almost a complacency … but in the cases where they don’t, that time can be critical.”

The Calgary Police Service issued a news release late Thursday saying their internal review has resulted in changes being made to improve the process of managing missing person files.

Those changes include “clearer guidelines for frontline officers and investigators as well as a more thorough accountability framework” that adds checks and balances to ensure missing person files are “managed to the highest standard possible.”

The service also said its policy around communicating with family members of missing persons has also been strengthened.

“To ensure we have covered all the concerns in the ASIRT investigation, we will be reviewing their report in detail to determine if any additional lessons can be learned,” said the statement.

“The tragic death of Mr. Crowshoe remains an active investigation and we ask for anyone with information to come forward.”

Hughson said Crowshoe’s family is devastated by the young man’s death.

“Someone out there knows what happened to Colton Crowshoe,” she said.

“This is a good, loving family that never gave up. Please, I am going to ask you to come forward. Give this family the chance to heal.”

[SOURCE]

 

Hundreds Gather at Vigil and March for Christine Wood in Winnipeg

Christine Wood, 21, disappeared in Winnipeg in August 2016. Photo: Red Power Media

Hundreds remembered Christine Wood at a vigil on Wednesday 

By Red Power Media, Staff | April 13, 2017

A vigil was held Wednesday evening in Winnipeg for Christine Wood. It began at 341-Burrows Avenue, the house where Winnipeg Police believe the young indigenous woman was murdered. Friends, family and community members then marched to Thunderbird House on Main Street.

About 250 people gathered to remember Christine.

During the march drummers lined the street to pay their respects to Christine’s family.

On Aug. 19, Christine, 21, went missing after a visit to Winnipeg with her family from Oxford House First Nation in Manitoba. She never came back to her hotel after going out that evening.

On Saturday, April 08, Brett Overby, 30, was charged with the murder of Christine.

Police also allege Christine was killed on or around Aug. 20 – the day after she went missing.

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Officers arrested and charged Overby, with second-degree murder. Christine’s body has still not been found.

A community vigil for Christine was held at St. Mary’s Parish on 365 Burrows Avenue, near the location where she was killed. The service was put on by Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO), the Canadian Centre for Child Protection and the Bear Clan Patrol.

Melinda Wood weeps as she attends a walk for her daughter Christine with her husband George Wood, left, and Winnipeg Police Chief Danny Smyth, right. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

Winnipeg police chief Danny Smyth led the march alongside Christine’s parents, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson and Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Derek Nepinak.

The march finished with a memorial at the Thunderbird House.

Marchers make their way to a memorial for Christine at the Thunderbird House. Photo: Red Power Media

Police say the accused and Christine were unknown to one another and it does not appear there was a relationship between them.

Christine’s family and her parents George and Melinda Wood, along with members of the community, including the Bear Clan Patrol, have all been looking for Christine since her disappearance on Aug. 19.

“I can’t really explain how it feels to lose a child like that, a daughter, your only daughter, your baby,” George Wood, Christine’s father said. “I just hope whoever this person is, and I’m not going to waste my words labeling him, I just hope he does the right thing to say where he put her body.”

People living on the Oxford House First Nation also gathered for a vigil to honour Christine last Saturday.

Brett Overby Charged with Second Degree Murder in Christine Wood Homicide, Body Still Missing

Christine Wood, 21, disappeared after she went out with friends for the evening on Aug. 19, 2016. (File Image)

Police believe Christine Wood killed hours after going missing

By Black Powder | RPM Staff, April 10, 2017

Days after police charged a Winnipeg man with second-degree murder in the disappearance of Christine Wood, officers said they still have not found her body.

According to Global News, on Saturday, Brett Overby, 30, was charged with the murder of Christine Wood, 21. Documents also allege Wood was killed on or around Aug. 20 – the day after she went missing.

On Aug. 19, after going out that evening, Wood from Oxford House First Nation, never returned to the hotel where her family was staying after coming to Winnipeg for a medical appointment.

The case was treated at a missing person’s investigation until January 2017, when the homicide unit took over as lead investigators.

Overby, was arrested March 21 after police searched a home in the 300 block of Burrows Ave. At the time, he was charged with an unrelated offence.

CTV News reports, Winnipeg Police Service Sergeant John O’Donovan said officers ended up at that home as a result of information from a number of warrants and production orders on electronic devices Wood used prior to her death.

The Forensic Identification Unit stayed at the home for several days.

Overby, was questioned, but he was let go as there wasn’t enough forensic evidence to lay any charges.

Brett Overby, 30, was charged with the murder of Christine Wood, 21. Instagram. Source Global News

On April 6, forensics tests came back and the following day the Crown Attorney authorized a second degree murder charge against Overby.

Police were able to provide evidence to the Crown’s office that Wood, not only was she present, but she was killed in that house.

Although police believe Wood was killed in Overby’s home, they do not have any information from the accused on where her body is.

During a media conference Monday, Police Chief Danny Smyth said “We will continue on this investigation until we find her remains.”

In September the police said there were “multiple sightings of Wood.” They also said she was was facing some “personal challenges” and may be associated with people tied to drug trade.

However, police now say, they do not believe drugs or gang affiliations are involved.

Police also say the accused and Wood were unknown to one another prior to Aug. 19 and it does not appear there was a relationship between them.

Winnipeg police press conference concerning Christine Wood, Monday.

Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson was at the media conference speaking on behalf of Wood’s family.

“After the most difficult eight months of our lives, we are mourning the loss of our daughter,” North Wilson said in a statement written by Wood’s family.

The family will be in Winnipeg for a vigil on Wednesday.

Advocates Say Missing And Murdered Women’s Inquiry Failing To Reach Out To Families

Lorelei Williams, left, speaks as Fay Blaney, right, listens during a Coalition on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls news conference in Vancouver on April 3, 2017. (DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The Canadian Press | Apr. 03, 2017

The national missing and murdered Indigenous women’s inquiry has failed to adequately reach out to loved ones and survivors, says a coalition of advocacy groups and families less than two months before hearings are set to begin.

The Coalition on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in British Columbia is calling on the commission and federal, provincial and territorial governments to do a better job of communicating with distraught families.

“This is the last chance that family members who want to be heard, will be heard,” said Michele Pineault, the mother of Stephanie Lane, whose DNA was found on serial killer Robert Pickton’s farm. “This inquiry is very, very important to a lot of people.”

Coalition member Fay Blaney said at a news conference on Monday that the group was concerned about recent media reports that said the inquiry had only located about 100 family members or survivors.

An RCMP report in 2014 said police had identified nearly 1,200 missing or murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada.

Ms. Blaney said she understood the federal government had not shared with commissioners the names of those who came forward during preinquiry consultations due to privacy obligations.

She said the commission should immediately request that all levels of government and Indigenous organizations reach out to family members and survivors to ensure they know how to register to be a witness.

The coalition is also concerned that federal, provincial and territorial governments appear not to be assisting the inquiry, Ms. Blaney added.

Chief commissioner Marion Buller was not immediately available to comment, but the inquiry is holding a series of regional advisory meetings across the country to receive input from survivors and families before the first public hearing on May 29 in Whitehorse.

The commission has said families and survivors who would like to share their stories do not need to apply for standing and should instead send an e-mail or call a toll-free number.

But Lorelei Williams, whose aunt went missing decades ago and whose cousin’s DNA was found on Mr. Pickton’s farm, said the commission should be pro-actively reaching out.

“I’m feeling so frustrated and very upset about what is going on with this inquiry so far,” she said. “Families are freaking out right now.” Ms. Williams questioned why preinquiry consultations were held at all, if not to collect names of family members for the inquiry.

“What did they do that for?” she asked. “I’m going to assume that those families put their names forward for a reason. … They want to be a part of this.”

Shawn Jackson, a spokesman for Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, said it transferred to the national inquiry in November a database of information collected during the preinquiry process, including meeting recordings and correspondence.

However, Mr. Jackson said many people participated in the consultations anonymously and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada is prevented by privacy rules from providing the lists of participants.

The coalition is also urging the inquiry to make efforts to include “families of the heart,” or friends. Evelyn Youngchief’s friend Georgina Papin was killed by Mr. Pickton and she said many friends of the missing and murdered would like to speak.

“We’ve been waiting for a very long time,” she said. “Changes need to be made on how aboriginal women are looked at. Stop killing us.”

Stephanie Lane’s mother, Ms. Pineault, said it has been difficult to tell her story over and over again for the past 20 years.

“It’s at a point now where I just want to say, ‘I want a life of normalcy. I just want to stay home and not have anything to do with this.’ But I have to do it to the bitter end.”

[SOURCE]

On Cross-Country Tour, Trudeau Hears Growing Anger and Frustration from Indigenous Canadians

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with the public as a pipeline protestor stands behind him at a town hall at the University of Winnipeg in Winnipeg, Thursday, January 26, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with the public as a pipeline protestor stands behind him at a town hall at the University of Winnipeg in Winnipeg, Thursday, January 26, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Trudeau challenged time and again by indigenous people at town hall meetings

Staff | Jan. 28, 2017

Ottawa (NP) – On his just-completed nine-city town hall tour of Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau got sharp and sometimes angry questions about aboriginal affairs — a sign of the growing impatience and frustration many indigenous people and their leaders have with his government.

And the reviews, in some cases, have been less than kind.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with pipeline protestors as they stand and hold signs at a town hall at the University of Winnipeg in Winnipeg, Thursday, January 26, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with pipeline protestors as they stand and hold signs at a town hall at the University of Winnipeg in Winnipeg, Thursday, January 26, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Felix Thomas, who was at Trudeau’s Wednesday night town hall forum in Saskatoon, characterized one of Trudeau’s answers on indigenous youth centre as “dismissive.”

Trudeau told the crowd in Saskatoon that First Nations chiefs who told him that money was needed for TVs and sofas in indigenous youth centres had not been listening to their own youth.

“When a chief says that to me, I pretty much know that they haven’t actually talked to their young people,” Trudeau said in Saskatoon. “Because most of the young people I’ve talked to are asking for a place to store their canoes and paddles so they can connect back out on the land and a place with Internet access so they can do their homework in a meaningful way because their homes are often too crowded and they need a place to work and study.”

Trudeau offered an almost identical answer — that chiefs were out of touch with their own youth — when challenged the next night in Winnipeg by Eric Redhead of Shamattawa First Nation, a community of about 1,500 located about 800 kilometres north of Winnipeg near Hudson Bay.

Shamattawa had pointedly asked Trudeau why the federal government was slow to respond to the suicide crisis on many First Nations reserves. Redhead singled out the Jan. 8 deaths, by suicide, of two 12-year-old girls, Jolyn Winter and Chantell Fox, from Wapakeka First Nation, in northwestern Ontario, about 200 kilometres from the Manitoba border.

One of the girls was the granddaughter of Wapakeka Chief Brennan Sainnawap who, in a letter to Health Canada last July, begged for more funds to deal with a mental health crisis among youth in his community. His request was turned down. A senior Health Canada bureaucrat explained that the request came “at an awkward time” in the federal government’s budget cycle.

This week, an anonymous donor, moved by the deaths of the two girls and the plight of the Wapakeka community, pledged $380,000 which the community believes can pay for four mental health workers.

A protestor shouts at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as he speaks a town hall at the University of Winnipeg in Winnipeg, Thursday, January 26, 2017.

A protestor shouts at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as he speaks a town hall at the University of Winnipeg in Winnipeg, Thursday, January 26, 2017.

“Now we have a private donor who stepped up — this is not the Conservative government, this is your government — who said it was an awkward time,” Redhead said. “We didn’t vote you in for that. Is this the new government now where the private sector is funding the First Nation suicide prevention program?”

In response, Trudeau agreed with Redhead’s assessment. “We have seen far too many tragedies ongoing in indigenous communities and we need to more. Absolutely.”

But then Trudeau largely repeated his answer from the night before in Saskatoon, saying, indigenous leaders who ask for sofas and TVs for their youth centre “haven’t done a very good job of listening.”

“‎The Prime Minister was reflecting on countless conversations he has had – over many years – regarding challenges facing Indigenous youth,” Trudeau’s press secretary said in an e-mailed statement late Friday night.  “It is important for him to hear the perspectives and ideas from everyone – including leaders, young people, parents, and elders – in order to better understand the issues they are facing, and how best they can be addressed from community to community.”

As for the comments about canoe storage and wi-fi, Ahmad said, “During these conversations, First Nations youth often raise the need for greater investments in youth programming and services, and we will continue listening to youth in Indigenous communities across the country while working in partnership with them to develop new solutions and opportunities.”

But even as heard much during those town hall meetings, Trudeau was challenged time and again by indigenous people. It happened in Kingston, Ont., in Peterborough, Ont., in Halifax as well as Saskatoon and Winnipeg.

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“We live in third world conditions in our First Nations communities and that has to change said a woman in Winnipeg

“The conditions on our reserves our horrible! Horrible!,” said a woman in Winnipeg who said she was a member of the Ebb and Flow First Nation, a community of about 2,000 near the northern edge of Lake Manitoba. “We live in third world conditions in our First Nations communities and that has to change. How is your government is going to help our communities? ”

In Fredericton, Trudeau was told his government had not put in place appropriate measures to consult First Nations on the  Energy East pipeline project. In Kingston, an indigenous woman broke down in tears begging him to “protect our water.” In Peterborough, he was introduced by Curve Lake First Nation Chief Phyliss Williams who reminded the prime minister that her community had no potable water and was living under a boil water advisory.

At more than one, he was criticized for failing to implement the United Nations Declaration of Rights and Indigenous Peoples. Two Dalhousie University students, Alex Ayt and Kathleen Olds, asked Trudeau for a selfie during a photo opp  at a Halifax coffee shop.  They  then used the occasion of being up close and personal with the PM to press him on UNDRIP.

Before Christmas, at events like the Assembly of First Nations annual special assembly in Gatineau, Que., many chiefs spoke about how the Trudeau government was slow to keep commitments, such as lifting a freeze on operating transfers to First Nations governments.

And they spoke of how the current government began with high hopes and high expectations among indigenous Canadians.

“During the election campaign (Trudeau) and his party convinced a lot of our people who normally don’t vote in elections to step forward and come to vote with the hope that change would come about. But change has been very slow in coming,” Jean Guy Whiteduck, chief of the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, an Algonquin band based in Maniwaki, Que., said at that December AFN meeting. “At this stage I don’t know if he gets a passing mark.”

During the series of town hall meetings, Trudeau heard from only a handful of chiefs but heard plenty from angry everyday citizens of First Nations communities.

Pipeline protestors stand and hold signs as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with the public at a town hall at the University of Winnipeg in Winnipeg, Thursday, January 26, 2017.

Pipeline protestors stand and hold signs as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with the public at a town hall at the University of Winnipeg in Winnipeg, Thursday, January 26, 2017.

But his response in each case was similar usually. First, he would acknowledge the grievance put to him, often agreeing that the complaint is a valid one, before promising to do better. But that promise would frequently be followed by a recitation of some of things his government has done.

“We invested historic amounts of money in budget 2016 and [we will] continue to invest,” Trudeau said in Winnipeg in response to the woman from Ebb and Flow. “I think that we are starting on a path that is going to change the future for your daughter and the present for yourself. We’re not moving as fast as I’d like on that path — I absolutely agree — but it’s a difficult path to walk.”

— with files from the Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Source: National Post

Canadian Indigenous Injustice: A Colonial Problem?

A traditional dancer at the Manito Ahbee Festival, a gathering that celebrates Indigenous culture and heritage to unify, educate and inspire. Credit: Travel Manitoba/cc by 2.0

A traditional dancer at the Manito Ahbee Festival, a gathering that celebrates Indigenous culture and heritage to unify, educate and inspire. Credit: Travel Manitoba/cc by 2.0

Read Submission: 

LONDON, Nov 6 2016 (IPS) – The history of Canada’s indigenous population has been, for the most part, kept in the shadows. According to leading expert on indigenous justice Lisa Monchalin, the consequences of colonialism and dispossession on native communities have been “glossed over”, unacknowledged and dismissed by the “settled” population.

At the launch of her new book “The Colonial Problem: An Indigenous Perspective on Crime and Injustice in Canada” earlier this month at University College London, Monchalin emphasised the impact colonial legacies have left on indigenous peoples in modern-day Canada.

During colonial times, she explained, the native population was compelled to become dependent on a foreign system which paid little heed to their own distinct culture and customs. European settlers suppressed the rights of the indigenous groups, rapidly establishing a European hierarchical structure which considered them nothing more than an “Indian problem”.

The colonial solution to the Indigenous “problem” was nothing short of deadly. As a direct result of European settlement, the native population became a vanishing race with an estimated 80 to 90 percent dying from diseases brought from Europe. In the 1700s, blankets infected with smallpox were distributed as a means of eradicating Indigenous peoples.

Those who did not die of disease were forcefully displaced. Many were pushed onto smaller parcels of land, obliged to culturally assimilate and abandon their traditions or left to die off in territories with few resources.

In many ways, Monchalin said, “colonisation can also be drawn back to the prevalence of violence against indigenous communities through the centuries, including acts of gender-based violence”.

Before colonisation, traditional native societies prided themselves on being matriarchal, honouring and valuing the “sacred” nature of women within their community. Women were granted a strong voice through positions of leadership and power and there was an equitable division of labor. “Acts of sexual violence were a rarity before European contact,” Monchalin said.

Under the European system of governance, native women were forcibly dispossessed of their agency. They could no longer be considered valiant leaders, rather, their colonisers wanted to enforce the message that they were little more than subordinates to the male members of the community. Under colonial rule, only men were accepted to speak on behalf of their communities.

The colonisers began to formulate the image of the native woman as an “exotic other”.  They referred to indigenous women as “squaws”, the female version of a savage. They described them as having “no human face, lustful and immoral”, Monchalin explained.

These ingrained colonial perspectives not only converted the native female identity into a sexualised commodity, it also led to the widespread sexual objectification of native women, with acts of sexual violence committed justified by the fact that these women were “human in form only”.

The subordination and oppression of native women rooted in colonial times is still prevalent today. Sexualized and romanticized constructions of the “erotic” indigenous women have resulted in widespread reports of sexual harassment and violations across the country.

“In Canada, 87 percent of indigenous women will experience physical violence in her lifetime. One in three of these women will be raped,” she said.

Indigenous women continue to be victimized by the persisting structures of a dehumanizing colonial system which stripped them of their agency and considered them “lesser being”. This came to the fore in 2014 when 1,181 cases of missing native women between 1980-2012 were made public. The crisis was largely dismissed and a truth inquiry only established last year. Police brutality conducted against indigenous women has also been reported across the country.

Many believe that the historical legacy of Euro-centric suppression contributes to the ongoing issues of injustice and inequality demonstrated towards indigenous peoples. In 1873, one of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s (RCMP) main objective was to address the “indigenous problem”, the goal being the “silent surrender” of the native people.

This led to the creation of “residential schools”, government-funded schools responsible for educating aboriginal children in Canada. The Canadian government developed a policy called “aggressive assimilation”. They believed that a church-run, industrial boarding school was the best way to prepare them for life in mainstream society and ultimately, abandon their “savage” traditions.

However, this government initiative took a turn for the worse. Native children were subjected to violence and abuse. Sexual abuse was found to reach epidemic levels within the schools and some children were even reported to have been used for “nutritional experiments”. After over a century of “state-sponsored violence”, the last residential school closed in 1996.

The need to suppress, silence and condemn a people based on their ethnicity has led to state-induced violence and mistreatment of native peoples by state authority to the present day. Systemic issues of racism and discrimination “legitimize” acts of police brutality and unjust incarceration of indigenous peoples. In fact, there’s a clear Indigenous overrepresentation in the Canadian prison system, with roughly 4.3 percent of the total population incarcerated.

The legacy of colonial injustice persists today for aboriginal peoples in Canada subjected to abuse, violence, and prejudice daily. Seven generations of residential school victims, deep-rooted female exploitation, state-induced violence, and unlawful incarceration, amongst a host of other atrocities, has led to a build-up of intergenerational trauma within indigenous communities across the country, she said.

However, Canada’s federal government has begun to address the widespread neglect and failed policies felt by past generations of indigenous people.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has publicly declared his commitment to beginning a new prosperous relationship between Canada and its indigenous people. “No relationship is more important to me and to Canada than the one with First Nations, the Métis Nation, and Inuit,” he said at the assembly of First Nations in December 2015.

Canada plans to invest 8.4 billion dollars over five years, beginning in 2016–17, to improve the socio-economic conditions of Indigenous peoples and their communities and bring about transformational change.

“Through education, awareness raising and a willingness to confront and question the violent past, the people of Canada can finally celebrate Indigenous identity and ultimately, reconstruct their rich traditions that were forcibly broken down under colonialism,” Monchalin concluded.

The article Canadian Indigenous Injustice: A Colonial Problem? written by Rose Delaney appeared in IPS Inter Press Service News Agency on Nov 6 2016. 

http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/canadian-indigenous-injustice-a-colonial-problem/

The US And Canada Have Blood On Their Hands In Honduras

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Members of the military police march during a parade commemorating Independence Day of Honduras. | Photo: Reuters

By: Grahame Russell, teleSUR English‎, Oct 22 2016

The international community needs to be held to account for propping up and subsidizing the murderous regime in Honduras.

Honduran military and police forces, backed by the international community and in particular millions of U.S. dollars, once again brutally attacked peaceful protesters in a week that saw more social movement blood spilt.

The march on Thursday organized by the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, or COPINH, and OFRANEH, an organization which represents the Afro-Indigenous Garifuna people, converged outside the Attorney General’s office to demand justice following the assassination of two more prominant social movement leaders in the country.

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During the attack, heavily armed police and COBRA forces (Special Operations Command) indiscriminately fired tear gas canisters and water cannons and physically beat girls and boys, women and men, and the elderly.

Police and COBRA forces attacked just as OFRANEH was initiating a drumming and spiritual ceremony. COPINH was once led by globally-renowned activist Berta Caceres, who was murdered this year for opposing the construction of a dam. They are two of the most respected community organizations in Honduras since before the 2009 U.S. and Canadian-backed military coup, and particularly since then.

Eyewitness Karen Spring from the Honduras Solidarity Network reported:  “The repression was brutal and I’ve been in a lot of repressive marches since the 2009 coup.  This one was up there with the worst, especially since a COPINH member reported that one police took his gun out and fired a shot at his feet.  It all happened so fast and no one expected it; there was no time to get children and elderly out.  People were grabbing kids and running with them as they were crying and choking from the teargas.  The police chased protestors for almost 2 kilometers from the Attorney General’s office.”

COPINH and OFRANEH marched to denounce the assassinations  this week of Jose Angel Flores and Silmer Dionosio George, two leaders of MUCA, or the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguan, and the recent attempted killing of two COPINH members. The organizations also are demanding justice for the March 3 assassination of COPINH co-founder Caceres; the establishment of an independent international commission to investigate her assassination; and to demand cancellation of the concession granted illegally to the DESA corporation to develop the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam project in Rio Blanco, along with numerous other illegal mining and hydroelectric concessions on Lenca territories in western Honduras.

Berta Caceres’ Daughter Speaks

After the attack, Berta Caceres’ daughter – Bertita – spoke in a press conference:

“This is yet another act of repression against people demanding justice for the assassination of our compañera Berta Cáceres. How is it possible that soldiers, weapons and repression are the only way the regime deals with us, even when we have Protective Measures from the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights? … Despite all this repression, harassment and criminalization, we will not permit the construction of development projects of death in our communities.”

Do Not Write Letters of Protest to the Regime

Wondering what to do about this latest act of State repression in Honduras?

Don’t write letters of protest to the regime.

They are impervious to them.  In power since the 2009 coup, the economic, military and political elites care about two things: maintaining their mutually beneficial economic and political relations with and support from the international community (primarily: governments of U.S., Canada and the European community; the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank; and a host of global investors and companies working in the sectors of African palm, sugar cane, bananas, garment “sweatshop” factories, mining and tourism); and, maintaining relations with and support from the U.S. military.

The repression, corruption and impunity in Honduras are not “Honduran” problems. They are problems of this so-called “international community” together with the Honduran elites. International economic and military relations are the lifeblood of the regime.  This is how power works.

Through our denunciations and activism, we have to make this “international community” take responsibility for its actions. If accountability is not brought to complicity of the military, economic and political backers of the Honduran regime, the repression, corruption and impunity will not stop.

Grahame Russell is a non-practicing Canadian lawyer, author, adjunct professor at the University of Northern British Columbia and, since 1995, director of Rights Action (www.rightsaction.org / info@rightsaction.org).  Follow, also, the work of the Honduras Solidarity Network (http://www.hondurassolidarity.org/).

http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/The-US-and-Canada-Have-Blood-on-Its-Hands-in-Honduras-20161022-0010.html

Deeds, Not Words ~ Indigenous Day of Action – Oct10

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Indigenous Day of Action #DeedsNotWords

Justin Trudeau. It is time for DEEDS, Not WORDS, that truly respect Indigenous Rights. 

First Nations in Canada are waking up to the reality that the Trudeau government has a big smiley face for a front man, but when it comes to business, nothing has changed. This government approved the Site C mega-Dam in Treaty 8 (BC Peace River region), against the objection of First Nations whose lands will be devastated by flooding, destroying access to their food, medicines, and sacred sites. Just this week, they approved the dangerous and climate-destroying Lelu Island Liquid Natural Gas plant against the wishes of local First Nations. Now under review in Alberta by a system that has never denied a tar sands mine is the Teck Frontier tar sands mine, which would be the largest ever. The federal government, which campaigned on implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, has since informed chiefs from across Canada that adopting UNDRIP is unworkable. Now they have backtracked on their obligations under the Paris climate accords, too.

It is already clear what needs to be done. Canada needs a leader with political integrity and courage to do it. We demand that the Trudeau government to take credible action to:

  • Implement UNDRIP in Canadian law.
  • Clearly indicate it respects Indigenous Peoples’ right to say no to development on their land. (This means Free, Prior, and Informed Consent, not manipulated sham consultations).
  • Stop the Site C dam.
  • Close the funding deficit for First Nations now.
  • Stop pipeline, gas, and oil megaprojects: build green energy, transit, and houses.
  • Introduce a climate plan that respects the 1.5-2 degree temperature target that Canada helped negotiate in Paris. Adopting Harper’s emission reduction targets is a betrayal of that commitment.
  • Fully fund Indigenous-owned and controlled renewable energy projects.

Accordingly, this Thanksgiving, Indigenous communities and supporters will be conducting actions, holding ceremonies, and gatherings across Canada to protect land and water and to demand the Trudeau government stop pretending, and start acting like it respects our rights. It is high time for deeds, not words. We ask First Nations and allies on both sides of the medicine line, on the land or in cities, to respond to this call by undertaking action, in accordance with their own capacities, responsibilities, and their protocols.

To join us please email indigenousdayofaction@gmail.com.

Background

On matters of substance, this government is pursuing the same assimilation agenda as previous governments. There has been no change to the disastrous comprehensive claims policy. 150 years of Canada trying to terminate and extinguish Indians has not worked. We are still here and we will still be here hundreds of years from now. Until Canada reckons with, recognizes, and respects Indigenous Peoples’ rights and title, and make legitimate redress for past wrongs, there will be no lasting peace.

This government has still not committed to a plan to undo the deliberate cultural genocide that targeted Indigenous languages and traditions. No serious commitment to Indigenous language revitalization has been put forth. The important recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples have been ignored.

Optimists believed this government would deliver more money for programs and services. Yet the much vaunted spending announcements of this government will not kick in for years, and will still leave First Nations gasping, at poverty-level funding below funding for the average Canadian, after decades of an arbitrary 2% funding cap that has scrimped First Nations into a $60 billion funding gap. The lack of clean water, safe housing, and adequate education, coupled with abusive government and failure to redress the legacy of cultural genocide, have produced a profound mental health and suicide epidemic in many communities.

In the face of government indifference or hostility, Indigenous Peoples across Canada and the United States have had to protect their waters and lands from abusive development that violates their duties to protect the land: from hydro dams at Site C in British Columbia, Keeyask in Manitoba, and Muskrat Dam in Labrador, Newfoundland, to Mi’kmaq people and their allies in Stop Alton Gas protecting the waters of the Sipekne’katik district of the Mi’kmaq Nation; the Algonquins of Barriere Lake in their decades long struggle for their rights against government abuse, now fighting a Copper One mine being developed on their territory without consent; Neskantaga First Nation, trying to stop Noront’s Ring of Fire drilling on its land; and Indigenous peoples and allies fighting toxic, reckless pipeline and oil development in places like Aamjiwnaang, Kanehsatake, Unist’ot’en, Tsleil-Waututh, Secwepemc territory, and Standing Rock, North Dakota. For legitimate defense of their rights, many Indigenous land and water protectors are criminalized or targeted with legal harassment and intimidation by big corporations, like Vanessa Gray of Aamjiwnaang, currently facing expensive court proceedings.

As part of this day of action, we call on Canada to take seriously its obligations under international law, the Canadian constitution, and the principles of justice, and once and for all reconcile itself to our continued existence on this land as Indigenous Peoples. The government has ignored the excellent recommendations of Commission after Commission. Will it ignore the recommendations of the Murdered and Missing Women and Girl’s Inquiry too? Now is the time for Deeds, not Words.

Event Listings Updated as Information Is Received:

Stand for Indigenous Peoples Day – Arcata/Wiyot Homelands:http://bit.ly/2dyTFJz – FB event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/138960843232274/

Treaty 6 Check Stop Idle No More: http://bit.ly/2dLRJM9 – FB event page:https://www.facebook.com/events/352892858387822/

Roundy at the Square, Toronto: http://bit.ly/2dtyMTg – FB event page:https://www.facebook.com/events/706487162841062/

Treaty Truck House Rally: http://bit.ly/2dBbmXV

Long Beach Gathering: http://bit.ly/2dVmpPg – FB event page:https://www.facebook.com/events/1749530795308191/

Picnic for the Peace: http://bit.ly/2cUZRgB – FB event page:https://www.facebook.com/events/550122018513298/

Regina Action: http://bit.ly/2dVsMlP – FB event page:https://www.facebook.com/events/1094679317285025/

Algonquins of Barriere Lake: http://bit.ly/2dVDqc1

Fort Qu’appelle SK: http://bit.ly/2dvMViO – FB event page:https://www.facebook.com/events/712907362205845/

Victoria: http://bit.ly/2cXfNdp – FB event page:https://www.facebook.com/events/210372236043694/

Red Nation New Mexico: http://bit.ly/2dI9Qp1 – FB event page:https://www.facebook.com/events/189734328127097/

We will be adding local events on our website. Check here to see if something is happening around you: http://www.idlenomore.ca/events & http://www.defendersoftheland.org/story/325.

ENDORSED BY:

Aamjiwnaang and Sarnia Against Pipelines
ALBA Canada
Algonquins of Barriere Lake
BorealAction -Treaty 6 Idle No More
Chippewas of the Thames
Ellen Gabriel, Kanehsatake Mohawk
Eriel Tchekwie Deranger, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation
FightC
Greenpeace Canada
Idle No More
Idle No More Duluth
Idle No More Duluth Wolf Action
Idle No More Toronto
Idle No More Ontario
The Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Network
Leap Manifesto
Long Beach Gathering
No One is Illegal – Toronto
No One is Illegal – Coast Salish Territories
Pamela Palmater, Mi’kmaq Nation
Red Nation – 2nd Annual Indigenous Peoples Day
Rising Tide Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories
Say “No” to Site C Dam
Secwepemc’ulecw Grassroots Movement
Stop Alton Gas
Tears 4 Justice
350.org
Unist’ot’en – People of the Headwaters
Vancouver Island Community Forest Action Network
Womens’ Committee of the Defenders of the Land network

For More Info: indigenousdayofaction@gmail.com

Poster Artist: Tannis Nielsen
Find more of Tannis’ art supporting the Idle No More Movement here:
http://www.idlenomore.ca/tannis_nielsen

WHEN: October 10, 2016 at 6am – October 11, 2016

WHERE: Turtle Island

By Idle No More (Posted Oct 02, 2016)

Give First Nations Power To Call In Military When Rights Are Threatened, Chief Tells Defence Minister

A Mohawk Warrior in a golf cart watches approaching Canadian army armoured vehicles during the 1990 Oka crisis.

A Mohawk Warrior in a golf cart watches approaching Canadian army armoured vehicles during the 1990 Oka crisis.

By Steve Lambert | The Canadian Press

WINNIPEG — Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan is considering a request to give First Nations the power to directly call in the military when their treaty, environmental and other rights are threatened.

Ron Swain, vice-chief with the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, told Sajjan during consultations with indigenous groups Wednesday that aboriginal communities deserve the same rights as provincial governments, which have the authority under the National Defence Act to call in the military to fight civil unrest and during other crises.

“We believe, in protecting our sovereign territory and our issues around environmental concerns, we should be able to trigger the same response and have our Armed Forces defending our treaties and our territories,” Swain said during a break in the closed-door meeting in Winnipeg that included about a dozen aboriginal leaders and academics.

Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images

Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty ImagesDefence Minister Harjit Sajjan

The meeting, which focused on indigenous issues, was one of several discussions Sajjan is holding around the country as part of a broad review of Canada’s defence policies.

Swain, whose group represents First Nations and Metis who do not live on reserve, pointed to the Oka crisis of 1990, when the Quebec government called in the military to try to restore order after repeated clashes between police and Mohawk protesters.

He said indigenous communities should be able to call in the military to come to their defence in such cases, or in the event that development that could pose a risk to the environment is taking place without First Nations consent. Swain cited the current standoff involving the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota over construction of an oil pipeline.

“Our people and our communities are very concerned about water and this whole issue about pipelines.”

Even municipalities appear to have an easier time getting military intervention, said Swain, who pointed to the 1999 snowstorm in Toronto that had then-mayor Mel Lastman pleading successfully for army aid.

A spokesman for Sajjan was noncommittal on the idea.

“We thank vice-chief Swain … for bringing this idea to our attention; it is certainly something we will consider as we move forward in the policy review process,” Jordan Owens, Sajjan’s press secretary, wrote in an email.

Earlier in the day, Sajjan said the meeting would look at a wide variety of topics — everything from the Canadian Rangers, a largely indigenous group of army reserves that helps patrol the North, to job opportunities for indigenous youth in the military.

“There are countless stories out there within the military that we do need to share, that we can inspire the younger generation to be able to look at, potentially, the military as a career, but also to look at it as an opportunity for learning and apply it to other careers as well,” Sajjan said.

Canada’s revamped defence policy is expected early next year and is expected to address everything from overseas military missions to cyber terrorism.

This article originally appeared in the National Post on September 14, 2016

[SOURCE]

 

#MMIWG: What A National Inquiry Can And Cannot Do

MMIW

APTN National News |

The Minister of Indigenous Affairs is expected to announce the details of the long-awaited national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls Wednesday including the terms of reference and commissioners that will take the lead.

The inquiry was first announced by Carolyn Bennett and Status of Women Minister Patty Hadju back in December 2015. The government followed the announcement with 17 information sessions to hear from families across the country about what they wanted from the inquiry and how the terms of reference should be written.  Part of what the government heard was:

Part of what the government heard was:

  • The leadership should represent Indigenous communities and regions.
  • It should also have a timetable that is sensitive to the needs of survivors, families and loved ones.
  • Efforts must be made to avoid a long, drawn-out and legal process.
  • The inquiry should include as many individuals and organizations as possible including survivors, families and loved ones, national Indigenous organizations, front-line workers, and Indigenous community leaders and organizations.
  • It should also respect different points of view.
  • The inquiry should take a broad approach to its analysis of the issues. It should look at the economic, cultural, political and social causes of violence against women, girls and trans and two-spirit people.
  • It should also look at the causes of unequal and unjust treatment of Indigenous women, girls and trans and two-spirit people and recommend solutions to the causes of violence.
  • The inquiry should provide a variety of cultural, spiritual and religious supports and ceremonies.
  • The ceremonies should reflect the diversity of all participants and regions and be supported by elders.
  • As well, it will be critical to have professional mental health counselling and community-based health supports. Professional and culturally-sensitive counselling will be needed if the inquiry is to be effective and avoid causing further trauma.

Police have been a focus of many families and groups who are looking to the inquiry to find answers.

In June, Assembly of First Nations National Chief addressed a conference of Canadian police forces telling those gathered that he was “putting them on notice” because families wanted answers on how investigators handled these cases.

BELLEGARDE-POLICE

Police services across the country have long been criticized for their handling of cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and a number of families are awaiting news about how police forces will be scrutinized during the inquiry.

In July, APTN National News was the first to obtain a draft of the terms of reference that will guide five commissioners in their duties. While police are not mentioned specifically, the early draft seems to give the commissioners the leeway to examine any institution they believe needs to appear at the inquiry.

But what can a national inquiry accomplish? Are there limitations?

The Women’s Legal, Education, Action Fund is a coalition of advocacy groups including the Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto that legal action to advance women’s issues.

According to Christa Big Canoe, the organisations involved are watching the process to put together the inquiry.  and has prepared a FAQ on what an

In anticipation of the national inquiry call, it prepared a FAQ on what an inquiry can and cannot do

It is reproduced here.

#1: What is a national Commission of Inquiry?

National Commissions of Inquiry are federally established investigations into issues of national importance. Federal inquiries are established under terms set out in the Inquiries Act. This Act says that the federal Cabinet can establish an inquiry at any time.

  • Cabinet also has the discretion to determine the inquiry’s subject and scope. The Act is broad and gives the federal government ample discretion, so there is a lot of room for flexibility and creativity in designing the inquiry process. This can help to ensure a future inquiry will be a meaningful and sensitive process that includes diverse stakeholders.
  • However, this also means that early and thorough research and consultation is especially important, as this will help inform the inquiry’s design so that it can facilitate and support a fair, responsive, and effective process.

#2: How is it different from a Truth and Reconciliation Commission or a Royal Commission?

Inquiries can take several forms. Royal commissions are a type of public inquiry. They receive a special seal from the Queen, but otherwise are not different from other types of public inquiry.

  • Truth and reconciliation commissions are generally created to address mass human rights violations in a country’s past, usually as a country is transitioning from autocratic to democratic rule.
  • Canada’s recent Truth and Reconciliation Commission was unique because it was established as one part of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, which was negotiated by residential school survivors, churches that operated the schools, and the federal government.

#3: How long do inquiries usually last from start to finish?

The length of an inquiry can be decided by the government or the Commissioners at the start of the inquiry process, and the Commission is expected to keep to its deadlines.

  • Past inquiries have varied considerably in length. For example, the Canadian Panel on Violence Against Women lasted two years, the Manitoba Aboriginal Justice Inquiry took three years, and the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples lasted five years.

#4: Who can establish an inquiry?

National Commissions of Inquiry are established by the federal Cabinet.

#5: What could inquiry proceedings look like?

The Commission has the power to determine the methods of an inquiry. Some Commission meetings and proceedings may be open to the general public and informal in nature. These could involve open houses, or opportunities to submit written comments.

  • A Commission may also decide to have some proceedings that are adversarial (i.e. court-like) hearings with witnesses, cross-examination, and legal representation. This format is adopted when Commissioners feel the need to test the evidence of presenters to sort out an unclear or contested situation. These types of proceeding may require the involvement of lawyers.
  • A commission may also hold closed hearings for highly delicate evidence, or the Commission may hold invitational symposia (i.e. meetings that are only open to those who are personally invited) or other meetings to hear the views of experts or certain key stakeholders. Again, the wide discretion of the Commission with regards to designing its own process is important to keep in mind. A Commission can use any combination of the above-mentioned types of process.
  • It can also design new and unique types of proceeding.

#6: Who will be able to participate in these proceedings?

Participation in an inquiry may depend on the type or format of the proceedings.

  • For open and informal proceedings, the Commission may encourage widespread public participation, usually by means of written comments submitted on paper or electronically, or by presenting to Commissioners in person.
  • Adversarial hearings may require standing to participate. This means that people who want to participate in the hearing process will need to establish either: 1) how they are affected by the issues being addressed in the hearing, or 2) how their participation would further the public interest. In this situation, the Commission would have the discretion to determine how it will assess whether individual applicants should have standing.
  • The Commission would also have the authority to determine who will be granted standing. In addition to granting standing to participate in this sort of proceeding, a Commission has power under the Inquiries Act to require the attendance of witnesses through subpoenas. While formal in nature, these adversarial 3 proceedings do have the potential to delve into contested or unclear proceedings do have the potential to delve into contested or unclear situations in search of a full picture of what has happened.
  • A Commission may also restrict participation to certain groups or individuals, depending on the issue being considered. For example, closed hearings may only be open to people who are personally invited.

#7: How will members of the public know whether they can participate?

Once a Commission of Inquiry is established and has designed its process, there will likely be some form of public notice informing members of the public about upcoming opportunities to participate in the inquiry. Such notices should also specify the means by which members of the public and interested parties will be able to participate.

#8: Could funding be available to inquiry participants?

A key issue for any Commission of Inquiry, and for its potential participants, is whether funding will be available to those from whom the Commission wishes to hear (i.e. grants standing to). In the past, such funding has been available at some Commissions for those taking part in either the fact-finding part of the Inquiry or its policy deliberations. It is useful to explore the practices of past Commissions to see how this funding is determined, as each Commission can establish its own rules and practices. However, as the Missing Women Inquiry in B.C. has demonstrated, it is essential that the government which establishes the Inquiry provide it with enough funding to permit it to grant funding to participants who need it. Some experts have provided guidance for setting up future Commissions of Inquiry funding mechanisms.

#9: What languages can an inquiry be conducted in?

There are no specific provisions in the Inquiries Act concerning which language an inquiry must use in its proceedings. Most national Commissions of Inquiry in the past have generally been conducted in either English, French, or both, though some have also enabled people to participate in Indigenous languages.

#10: What support could be provided to participants in an inquiry including survivors and the families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls?

Given that a Commission has the discretion to hire any staff it may require, and because it has the power to design its own process, it could ensure that support is provided to survivors, families, and others.

#11: Can an inquiry integrate ceremony?

Yes. As a Commission has the discretion to create its own process, it has the authority to integrate ceremony.

#12: Who leads an inquiry? And how are they chosen?

The Inquiries Act requires the Cabinet to appoint the Commissioners who will lead an inquiry. The Act specifies that Cabinet has the discretion to appoint one or several Commissioners (s3).

  • In the past, Commissioners have tended to be retired judges, Attorneys General, or academics.
  • However, Commissioners may be any person or persons whom the Cabinet determines has qualifications to lead a particular inquiry, and appointing a retired judge does not in and of itself does ensure an inquiry’s independence.
  • Examples of Commissioners who have been appointed for other inquiries include Justice Sidney Lindon who led the Ipperwash Inquiry, while the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples was co-chaired by George Erasmus a former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, and Justice René Dussault from the Québec Appeal Court, with Viola Robinson, former president of the Native Council of Canada; Mary Sillett, former president of the national Inuit women’s association Pauktuutit and of the Inuit Tapirisat Canada; Paul Chartrand, a Métis lawyer and head of the Department of Native Studies at the University of Manitoba; Justice Bertha Wilson, former justice of the Supreme Court of Canada; and Allan Blakeney, former premier of Saskatchewan.

#13: What powers do Commissioners have?

Commissioners have quite extensive investigative powers.

  • They are able to summon any witnesses to give evidence in person or in writing, or provide documents requested by the Commission (s4 Inquiries Act).
  • Commissioners’ power to enforce the attendance of witnesses and compel them to give evidence is equal to that of courts in civil cases (s5 Inquiries Act).
  • Commissioners have the statutory authority to hire administrative, legal, research, and investigative staff as well as recognized experts to assist the Commission in its tasks.
  • Commissioners also have the discretion to hire whoever else they deem necessary (s11 Inquiries Act). This can include interpreters and support workers.

#14: Where can an inquiry take place?

Commissions have the discretion to hold meetings in and visit different parts of the country.

#15: Can there be regional or provincial branches of an inquiry?

While some provinces have their own legislation allowing their governments to establish provincial Commissions of Inquiry, these inquiries would only be able to examine agencies and issues that fall under their provincial jurisdiction. Although, it is worth noting that Ontario’s Public Inquiries Act permits the province to partner with the federal government in a joint public inquiry (s4). This section would allow a future national Commission of Inquiry to address provincial agencies and issues in Ontario.

  • The fact that a national Commission of Inquiry is federally established does not legally preclude provinces from engaging in the process. To date, all provinces have publicly expressed support for a national inquiry into violence against Indigenous women and girls. This may indicate some willingness by the provinces to collaborate and assist with a future national inquiry.
  • Further, as a national body, a federally established Commission of Inquiry is in a perfect position to address issues of interprovincial coordination and cooperation as well as coordination (or lack thereof) between the provinces and the federal government. This is significant in the context of violence against Indigenous women because the failure to provide co-ordination between different jurisdictions of the State has been identified by the United Nations inquiry report on murders and disappearances as a violation of the rights of Indigenous women in Canada. (This issue was also identified by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in its 2015 report, a 2013 Human Rights Watch report, a 2011 report by the SisterWatch program with the Vancouver Police Services, and a 2010 report by the Federal Provincial Territorial Coordinating Committee of Senior Officials on Criminal Justice. For more information on this issue please see this past LSC report).

#16: What is the possible scope of an Inquiry?

When Cabinet establishes a public inquiry, it must also specify the inquiry’s terms of reference. These terms of reference delineate the scope of an inquiry.

  • They generally specify: who the Commissioner(s) will be, the mandate or purpose of the inquiry, and the powers the Commission will have.
  • These terms of reference can also set the duration of an inquiry and any other specifications or guidelines Cabinet may want to include. Former Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Brian Dickson engaged in a pre-inquiry process to determine the terms of reference for the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. This pre-inquiry process is a good mechanism for ensuring consultation that will assist a government with developing strong terms of reference.
  • Public inquiries can investigate and study facts and statistics as well as policies and broader systemic issues. As will be discussed in the five sub-questions below, both facts and their broader historical, social, and legal contexts are equally important.
  • An inquiry can be well-equipped to study these things in an effective and helpful way.  Can an inquiry develop a clearer idea of the statistics of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls? Yes. Data collection and analysis is often a critical part of public inquiries. All inquiries are required to examine what is known, identify gaps in knowledge, and attempt to fill these gaps.
  • Gaining an understanding, and contributing to the public understanding, of an issue is an important cornerstone of any effective inquiry. Further, the databases and other resources prepared during a Commission’s activities can be a very useful public resource if independently maintained after the inquiry ends.
  • An example of this can is the Krever Inquiry, which was established to examine the tainted blood supply in Canada. The inquiry’s work and data collection ultimately led to the establishment of the Canadian Blood Services, an independent agency that continues to administer the country’s national blood bank. As such, these resources produced during the inquiry process continue to be an important living document for the public.
  • The independent collection, ongoing management, and public reporting of data is an especially important issue in the context of violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada. Over the course of many years, collection, analysis, and public release of statistics and other data has been uneven and insufficient. This has deprived families, communities, Indigenous peoples’ organizations, and the public of an accurate, comprehensive, accessible, and up-to-date statistical picture of disappearances and murders.
  • The Sisters in Spirit database of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, which was in the process of addressing these issues, was defunded by the federal government in 2010. The RCMP have not been transparent with their data on this issue.
  • Several grassroots databases have been initiated across the country that would benefit from being better resourced, more coordinated, integrated, and standardized.

Can an inquiry examine the root causes of violence against Indigenous women and girls?

Yes. The majority of the literature on the subject of violence against Indigenous women and girls is unanimous about its historical, sociological, and legal root causes. The 2015 Inter-American Commission on Human Rights report on missing and murdered Indigenous women in British Columbia discussed the systemic and sociological factors responsible for the disproportionate violence faced by Indigenous women in the province. It explained that the disappearances and murders of Indigenous women in Canada are part of a broader pattern of violence and discrimination against these women throughout the country (p11). The report also noted systemic failures in policing, as well as the legacies of Canadian colonization and the persistence of discriminatory laws such as the Indian Act were responsible for the violence (p12).

The 2015 United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) report confirmed the broad systemic causes for violence against Indigenous women in Canada. These included the social and economic marginalization of Indigenous women in Canada, failures by the police to promptly and thoroughly investigate instances of violence against Indigenous women, and the reluctance of the federal government to take immediate and effective state action (p3).

Can an inquiry examine government policies, laws, and practices?

Yes. A national Commission of Inquiry will be able to examine existing laws and policies, as well as the legacies of past laws and policies. A Commission will also have the authority to examine prevalent practices within government agencies that may not be explicitly required by law (and/or may be inconsistent with the law).

Can an inquiry examine RCMP policies and conduct?

Yes. A national Commission of Inquiry will be able to investigate and examine systemic issues within the RCMP that relate to violence against Indigenous women and girls, including RCMP policies and the conduct of RCMP officers.

Can an inquiry examine individual cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls?

It is important for the future inquiry to ensure that all investigations of missing and murdered women are thorough and unbiased. It is also important to review cases in a way that highlights both positive practices where they exist, as well as system failings that need to be addressed. If this is consistent with the Commission of Inquiry’s terms of reference, it may be possible for it to examine individual cases.

However, given the high volume of implicated cases, individual case reviews for all past cases may not be feasible. More importantly, a public inquiry may not be the most helpful or advantageous way to review individual cases. Rather, an independent civilian investigation unit whose sole purpose and focus is to investigate individual cases may be appropriate. Such a unit could liaise with the Commission but its mandate could extend beyond the life of the Commission. Ultimately, it will be important to ensure that any inquiry or civilian investigation unit reviewing individual cases is independent from government and accountable.

#17: How can an inquiry ensure it does not merely duplicate what has been done already by other inquests and inquiries?

When setting the inquiry’s terms of reference and determining its scope and tasks, preliminary research and consultation will be required to determine where knowledge gaps exists and how the Commission may be able to fill these gaps. This preliminary research will also be helpful in identifying steps that governments can take right away, without waiting for the results of the inquiry. For a more detailed description and discussion of the findings of past inquiries and reports, as well as a discussion of areas that still require further research and study, please see past work by the Legal Strategy Coalition on Violence Against Indigenous Women.

#18: How is the independence of an inquiry ensured?

The independence of past Commissions of Inquiry has generally been protected by ensuring that they are established at arm’s length from government. Practically speaking, this would require the Commission to have control over its own budget, structure, and other administrative decisions. In addition, the Commissioners must be seen to be independent, that is, not subject to guidance or direction from government once its initial terms of reference have been provided. It is also important that the Commissioners should not have been part of any past government or agency whose conduct will be examined.

#19: Are there any mechanisms to ensure a Commission’s accountability in the process and outcome of an inquiry?

Yes. The more proceedings are made open and accessible to the public, the more accountable and transparent the Commission will be perceived to be.

  • Encouraging public scrutiny and media access can also help to ensure accountability.
  • It is worth noting that the ultimate findings of a public inquiry are judicially reviewable by the Federal Court. This means that an individual can apply to the Federal Court to review a Commission’s decisions if it is believed that the decisions included factual or legal errors, failed to follow established procedures, or failed to conform to the scope of the Commission’s mandate.
  • Judicial review can help to ensure a Commission’s accountability.

#20: When the inquiry provides recommendations, is there a way to guarantee that these recommendations are implemented?

There is no statutory duty to implement the recommendations of a national Commission of Inquiry.

  • However, it is possible to take measures to improve the likelihood of recommendations being implemented. For example, eight years after the release of the final report of the Manitoba Aboriginal Justice Inquiry, the Manitoba government established the Aboriginal Justice Implementation Commission.
  • This Commission was tasked with reviewing the original inquiry recommendations, assessing the extent to which they were implemented, and ultimately directing how they could best be implemented more effectively. What is included in the Commission’s mandate regarding expected outcomes will matter, as will public attention to ensuring that the Commission’s work is orientated towards producing action and concrete measurable change.

http://aptn.ca/news/2016/08/01/mmiwg-what-a-national-inquiry-can-and-cannot-do/