Tag Archives: Inquiry

First Nations child advocate says child welfare system ‘eats up’ Indigenous kids

Cora Morgan, First Nations Family Advocate at The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) in Winnipeg, Monday, February 22, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

WINNIPEG — A Manitoba First Nations children’s advocate says the child welfare system “eats up” Indigenous children and is designed to keep their families at a disadvantage.

Cora Morgan, with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, told the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women that the system is set up to apprehend children, not to support families.

“Any challenges that our families are faced with, it’s used against them instead of them being offered support. It victimizes our families,” she said Monday.

“A lot of these things are just perpetual. You can find five or six generations of a family where their children have been taken.”

The inquiry is holding hearings in Winnipeg this week and is expected to focus on child welfare.

Morgan said violence against Indigenous women and girls can be linked to child welfare because it not only removes them from their families, but also takes away their identity and self-worth.

“The system just eats up our children to the point where they lose value for life,” she said.

Manitoba has the highest per-capita rate of children in care and almost 90 per cent are Indigenous. The province said last week that the number of kids in government care dropped for the first time in 15 years to 10,328.

Morgan told the inquiry about a mother who had four children, all of whom were seized at birth primarily because of poverty.

Too much money is being spent on taking kids away from their families and not enough is invested in finding ways to keep them together, Morgan said.

“You keep hearing our government say apprehension is the last resort but it’s the first resort,” she said. “It’s always the first resort.”

Inquiry commissioners said they have heard about the effects of child welfare at every hearing. Qajaq Robinson said many people testified they were survivors of the system and that is “indicative of a huge problem.”

“Whether it’s children, who as a result of their mothers being murdered, ended up in care or women who, as a result of their children being apprehended, lost financial support or lost housing and then ended up in precarious situations having to resort to survival sex work,” she said, adding people are being failed in numerous ways.

“Every jurisdiction we have been to, I have heard it personally from witnesses,” Robinson said.

Morgan gave the inquiry a list of recommendations including supporting First Nations-led initiatives to bring children home and to stop penalizing victims of domestic violence by taking their children away.

The Canadian Press

Source: CTVNews.ca

Teen Held Captive, Tortured Dismissed By Police As Runaway Case, MMIWG Inquiry Hears

Commissioner Michèle Audette hugs families from Unamen Shipu, Que., who gave devastating testimonies at the MMIWG inquiry on Wednesday in Mani-Utenam. (CBC)

Jean-Frédérick Gosselin sentenced to 5 years for attack in 2014, but Innu mother’s faith in justice is gone

The adoptive mother of an Innu teenager who was kidnapped, held captive and savagely tortured for weeks in 2011 said police never supported her in her search, dismissing her daughter’s disappearance as a runaway case.

Maria, whose real name cannot be published because her adopted daughter, now 22, was still a minor in 2011, recounted the anguish she endured in her testimony Thursday, the fourth day of Quebec hearings of the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG) in Mani-Utenam, near Sept-Îles.

She said the then-15-year-old, who is her biological great-granddaughter, failed to come home from a pool party in Quebec City where they were living in August 2011.

After her daughter’s disappearance, Maria said she drove up and down a 1,000-kilometre stretch of highway between Quebec City and Natashquan, her home community, searching for clues and following up tips she received from friends.

“I had the impression police weren’t helping me. They weren’t nice with me when I went to ask for information,” said Maria, who added she did receive support from the Missing Children’s Network in Montreal.

Maria said her hopes were shattered several times after police called to tell her they had found her daughter, who turned out to be a different Indigenous girl, one without the distinctive birthmarks and piercings Maria had described to police.

Found naked, curled up in closet

On one of her lone trips, Maria received a phone call that police had found her daughter, curled up and naked, in an apartment closet.

She raced back to Quebec City from Sept-Îles — a nine-hour drive.

“I would never wish this on anyone,” Maria said, describing what her daughter had lived through.

“She had been knocked out, had cigarette burns all over her.”

Maria said her daughter had been held captive all that time in a home in Wendake, the Huron-Wendat enclave in Quebec City.

She told commissioners she wasn’t able to recount the details of the torture and sexual violence her daughter endured.

“She remembers vaguely that she was tied to a wall, her arms pinned in the air, and the man was throwing knives at her,” Maria said, saying she can’t shake the thought her daughter could have died at any moment.

‘There is much injustice’

The teen had tried to escape but was knocked unconscious by her perpetrator by a blow to the head. A court later heard she came to in a bathtub filled with icy-cold water. Maria said the girl suffered serious long-term injuries as a result.

Jean-Frédérick Gosselin, now 40, was charged with forcible confinement, armed assault and sexual assault.

The Crown later dropped the forcible confinement charge. Gosselin pleaded guilty to the other charges and was sentenced to five years in prison.

Maria said that the five-year sentence doesn’t begin to repair the harm he caused.

She said her daughter never received any support from Quebec’s Crime Victims Assistance Centre, CAVAC.

Maria told the inquiry she had never had faith in the judicial system, which she says is devoid of any human values.

“There is much injustice,” Maria concluded.

Maria’s own traumatic childhood

Maria said she adopted her great-granddaughter as a toddler because of the unhealthy, beer-bottle-strewn environment she found her living in.

“I went in at 4 a.m., she was still walking around in her diaper. I couldn’t believe my great-granddaughter was living in this house,” she told the commissioners.

Like many of the witnesses speaking at this inquiry, Maria has lived through many traumatic episodes.

Raised with her family in the bush near Ekuanitshit, 200 kilometres east of Sept-Îles, at eight, Maria was sent away to a sanatorium in Gaspé.

She said Innu children from all over Quebec were sent there to be treated for tuberculosis, even though she doesn’t believe she had TB.

“We played around and had lots of fun. We certainly didn’t look like sick kids,” Maria said, suggesting the children were being “used as guinea pigs.”

After 13 months in the institution, Maria returned home to her mother, where she said she was the victim of sexual abuse perpetrated by a distant relative who’d come into their tent at night.

“I was afraid if I told my mother, she’d confront him. And I couldn’t lose my mother. She was the most important thing in my life. So I buried the secret within me.”

Maria said she was then forced into a violent marriage which lasted 34 years.

She said once her children were grown, she had enough of it and left, reclaiming her life.

Peace, at last — and laughter

Now Maria said she is a happy person, grateful to have a great-great-grandchild. At times resorting to humour, Maria showed how vital that’s been to her recovery.

“My doctor told me I had one foot in the grave. I told him the other one is ready,” she said, setting off another wave of laughter from the hearing’s participants.

“Don’t be afraid to love your children. There is no shame in loving your child,” she told the audience as she finished her testimony.

Innu singers chant a song of respect for the witnesses appearing before the MMIWG inquiry and for victims of violence and their families. (Julia Page/CBC)

Innu singers chant a song of respect for the witnesses appearing before the MMIWG inquiry and for victims of violence and their families. (Julia Page/CBC)

The MMIWG hearings continued in the small Innu community until Friday.

Earlier this week, four women testified they had been victims of Alexis Joveneau, a Belgian missionary, alleging there were several others.

Joveneau, who arrived in Quebec from Belgium in the early 1950s, died in Unaman Shipu, also known as La Romaine, in 1992.

Women and men described to the inquiry’s commissioners the power Joveneau wielded over the communities, helping the government to force the people of Pakua Shipu to a new reserve 175 kilometres away in the 1960s, and the devastation left by the alleged sexual abuse.

Missing parents and children

In some cases, Innu families are speaking out for the first time in decades.

The family of Anne-Marie Jourdain said they believe their mother was murdered at the end of November 1957, while she was out trapping in the woods north of Port-Cartier, about 60 kilometres southwest of Sept-Îles.

Families from Pakua Shipu, near the Labrador border, also told commissioners how their children were never returned after being taken away for medical treatment to the nearby hospital in Blanc-Sablon in the 1970s.

A witness said death certificates were never provided for at least eight babies, who were never properly buried.

Read full story: HERE 

By Julia Page posted in CBC News, Nov 30, 2017

Justin Trudeau Berated at Hill Gathering over Missing, Murdered Women Inquiry

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stood quietly with his head down Wednesday as families expressed extreme anger toward him about the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

Trudeau must reset the inquiry led by four commissioners, Maggie Cywink from Whitefish River First Nation said in a speech to an annual gathering on Parliament Hill.

“If you want to be remembered as a prime minister who is healing ties with First Nations, then you must start with our women and families,” said Cywink, whose sister, Sonya Cywink, was found slain near London, Ont. in 1994.

“Will you be seen as yet another politician, in the very long list of politicians, who simply peddled in the age-old craft of empty promises?

The government’s version of reconciliation looks a lot like colonization, said Connie Greyeyes from Fort Saint John, B.C.

“How do you come out here and say that you support families?” she said.

“How dare you come out here and say these things?”

Before Trudeau began to address the audience, someone in the crowd urged that he “go home.”

He went on to thank family members for sharing their frustration and for challenging him to do better.

“The missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls inquiry is something that I have long believed in, long supported,” he said. “It was never going to be easy.”

His wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, told family members she can’t imagine what it is like to lose a loved one for “senseless reasons.”

“I stand here before you as a woman, as a mother, as a fellow Canadian, as a human being,” she said. “We are suffering with you.”

One of the inquiry’s commissioners, Michele Audette, attended the Hill event.

The Canadian Press, October 5, 2017



‘Our Women Don’t Believe in Justice’: Fear of Police Not Going Away in Lac Simon

Lac Simon Chief Adrienne Jérôme told the Viens inquiry Wednesday that women in her community ‘are afraid of the police, afraid to make a complaint. They don’t feel protected.’ (Viens inquiry)

Women in Algonquin communities closest to Val-d’Or don’t feel protected by police, chief tells inquiry

CBC News Posted: Jun 07, 2017

Women in Lac Simon are still fearful of provincial police, two years after allegations of officers abusing Indigenous women first surfaced, a Quebec inquiry heard Wednesday.

Chief Adrienne Jérôme of the Lac Simon Anishnabe Nation, just east of Val-d’Or, Que., was testifying on the third day of the commission looking into relations between Indigenous people in Quebec and government services, notably policing and justice.

“Our women don’t believe in the justice system,” Jérôme told retired Superior Court justice Jacques Viens, the inquiry’s commissioner.

“They’re afraid of the police, afraid to make a complaint. They don’t feel protected.”

The Quebec government launched the inquiry last December, a year after CBC/Radio-Canada reported several Indigenous women said they’d been physically and sexually abused by provincial police officers stationed in Val-d’Or.

Montreal police investigated the complaints but no charges were ever laid.

Jérôme said that wiped away what little faith Aboriginal women had left in the justice system.

“The anger is still there. The injustice is still there,” she said.

Adrienne Anichinapeo, the chief of Kitcisakik, another Algonquin community 120 kilometres south of Val-d’Or, said the women who had the courage to come forward to complain about police treatment in 2015 feel betrayed.

Chief Adrienne Anichinapeo of Kitcisakik, a tiny Algonquin community 120 kilometres south of Val-d’Or, said women who spoke out about police abuse feel betrayed by the system’s failure to act on their complaints and have been left to fend for themselves. (Viens Inquiry)

They need psychological and social support, Anichinapeo said.

“These women have been left to fend for themselves.”

Children fear police

Jérôme said the mistrust of police is often established in childhood.

She said social workers for the government’s youth protection agency ask too much of Aboriginal parents and are too quick to seize children from their homes.

She testified youth protection workers are often accompanied by police on home visits.

“Our children are afraid of police,” she said. “When they see a police car, they burst into tears inside their homes.”

She said Lac Simon faces a host of social problems, including substance abuse, suicides, school bullying and a major housing shortage.

She said policing, education, social, health and psychological services are all chronically underfunded.

Jérôme said the First Nations communities are left begging for money, and they’re often caught between two levels of government.


Frustrated Families Vow to ‘Blockade’ Missing and Murdered Inquiry Hearings

Jocelyn Wabano-Iahtail, right, comforts Shirley Gunner, as John Fox looks on during a news conference regarding the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls national inquiry in Ottawa. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Father of murdered woman says inquiry is at a ‘crisis’ point

By John Paul Tasker, CBC News Posted: May 23, 2017

Some family members of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls are vowing to blockade meetings of the national inquiry to protest what they call a disastrous start.

“We are prepared to take blockades against this inquiry, if it goes through our communities we will be there, it doesn’t matter where,” John Fox told reporters Tuesday.

Fox said many families are “tired of the commissioners,” the people who are responsible for collecting testimony from families, and they are frustrated with the lack of familial support. Fox said calls to the 1-800 number are not returned and emails go unanswered by the bureaucrats staffing the inquiry’s office. He wants to ensure he can get on the list of speakers when the inquiry finally rolls through his town.

“What are we supposed to do? What other things can I do to get my name on there?” he asked.

Fox, the father of Cheyenne Marie Fox, a 20-year-old woman who died in Toronto in 2013, said the inquiry has unfairly placed the blame on families for cancelling scheduled meetings this summer rather than admit they were simply not prepared.

The inquiry has said it would go ahead with the first meeting in Whitehorse at the end of the month, but suspend others until the fall because many witnesses told them that they would be out on the land hunting, trapping and harvesting and would not have time to meet with commissioners. Fox said Tuesday that was nonsense.

“They took that little bit of information, somebody said it in passing, but now they paint all our families with that one big brush, but that’s not fair,” he said. “The harvesting and all of that other stuff, that’s always going to happen … we would be there.”

‘They can’t even get the race horse out of the gate.’– John Fox

Fox said Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett was able to hold pre-inquiry meetings throughout the country in a matter of months, but, nearly a year after the launch of the national inquiry, things remain largely at a standstill.

“Why can she pull off the pre-inquiry, and get all the statements in that short period of time? And this inquiry now … they don’t have an idea of what they’re going to do? All the money and expertise in front of them and they can’t even get the race horse out of the gate.”

(As of May 23, the inquiry has already spent roughly 10 per cent of its $53-million budget.)

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde also voiced his frustrations Tuesday. Bellegarde said he has invited the five MMIWG commissioners to meet with family members on three different occasions but was rejected.

“Clear communication and outreach to family members are essential to rebuild trust and ensure the national inquiry is a success,” Bellegarde said, adding the process must take a “families first” approach, based on respect for survivors and their loved ones.

Jocelyn Iahtail, who has long fought for a national inquiry, said many families have simply given up hope with the process so far because it has not respected Indigenous spirituality and language.

Jocelyn Iahtail, who has long fought for a national inquiry, said many have simply given up hope with the process so far because it has not respected Indigenous spirituality and language.

She said while Marion Buller, the chief commissioner, admitted last week some mistakes had been made, more needs to be done to regain the trust of many family members. Elders are trying to speak in their Indigenous languages but are simply not understood by record keepers, she said, and there is little respect paid to sacred instruments like the drum, fire ceremonies and tobacco.

“We cannot have our sacred stories yet again shelved like every other report has been shelved. We’ve had many family members state that it is running very much like the Indian residential school process when they were meeting with adjudicators. It is like a court process. We’ve been very consistent since the beginning that it has to be Indigenous knowledge-based.”

Iahtail said the commission has also been tight-fisted with money to help families travel to inquiry meetings, and has been reluctant to provide legal services to those in need.

Buller said Friday she understands frustration from families, but chalked up problems to poor communications.

“I don’t think it’s a matter of staff issues. It’s our fault for not communicating the tremendous work we have already accomplished.”

The commission has cycled through three directors of communications in 10 months, and has been plagued by complaints from family members about compressed timelines. The first interim report from the inquiry is due by November 2017.