Tag Archives: Manitoba Legislature

Pepper spray and riot police: When the Manitoba Legislature was stormed in 1999

Fog from pepper spray drifts in front of police at the Manitoba Legislature on April 6, 1999, when protesters voicing concerns about poor First Nations housing, unemployment and land claims pushed past barricades and into the lobby. (CBC)

Manitoba has seen protests, but scene at U.S. Capitol this week was ‘a unique situation’: former premier

Opening day of Manitoba’s spring session of the legislature in 1999 became one marked by riot police, pepper spray and an angry crowd pushing its way through the doors.

“We have people trapped between the doors, please step back,” shouted a voice from a loudspeaker.

But even that day was a far cry from the scene at the U.S. Capitol this past week, which a former Manitoba premier — who later became Canada’s ambassador to the U.S. — describes as “a unique situation” incited by the president.

Back in April of 1999, a rally of about 500 people, led by Indigenous groups lobbying the Manitoba government for better housing and education and demanding action on poverty and unemployment, knocked down steel barricades and pushed past police to charge the front doors.

They were met by at least 70 police and sheriff’s officers, as well as riot police, who tackled some to the marble floor of the foyer.

“Somehow the Filmon government has to hear us, has to listen,” Bill Traverse, then-grand chief of the Southern Chiefs’ Organization, said at the time about Gary Filmon’s Progressive Conservative government.

“We have to say what has to be said.”

WATCH | The Manitoba Legislature is stormed by protesters on April 6, 1999:

A large chunk of Traverse’s jacket was ripped off his back in the clash.

But it all quickly came to an end.

Several Indigenous leaders, such as Francis Flett, the grand chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, urged the crowd to let cooler heads prevail, according to a May 1999 report by Windspeaker News.

“We don’t want anyone injured here,” she said. “We’ve made our point and have sent a message to the government.”

Protesters pushed past the barricades at the Manitoba Legislative Building in 1999. (CBC).

It was a scene unusual in its intensity for the Manitoba Legislative Building, but as the provincial seat of government, the legislature has routinely been a rallying point for protests.

More recently, hundreds of people have descended on the legislative grounds for protests around Black Lives Matter, climate change, and against COVID-19 restrictions.

“Sometimes you almost have to have air traffic control, you know, when one or two groups are planning different issues to be protested at the same time,” said former premier Gary Doer, joking about how many people sometimes fill the grounds.

Usually, speeches are made, signs are waved and after a couple of hours the crowds peacefully disperse and move out.

But there have been times when the crowds pushed their way inside.

WATCH | Protesters storm through legislature doors in 1999:

Teachers storm the halls

In May 1996, about 300 teachers stormed the building to protest government proposals aimed at stripping their collective bargaining rights.

Crowding the hallways, they chanted “resign, resign” outside the office of education minister Linda McIntosh.

Earlier that day, at its annual general meeting, the Manitoba Teachers’ Society had denounced proposed government changes to collective bargaining. They then took their outrage to the legislative building.

“There is nothing as draconian as these proposals anywhere in Canada,” said then-MTS president Ken Pearce, according to a report by the Alberta Teachers’ Association.

“Teachers are angry on a level I’ve never seen before. And it’s no wonder. Our bargaining rights will become a mere shell of what they are now — we’ll all be reduced to collective begging,” he said.

WATCH | A 1996 CKND report on the teachers’ protest at the Manitoba Legislature:

Student sit-in

In 1990, university students rallied at the legislative building to protest what they said was underfunding of post-secondary institutions.

A crowd from the three Winnipeg universities and Brandon University chanted Filmon’s name in taunt of the premier while they listened to speeches from opposition party politicians.

“But before the Liberal spokesman could finish, all hell broke loose,” according to an account in the book Taché Hall: Celebrating a Century of Residence Life.

“What had started as a few people muttering ‘Storm the Lege’ had turned into loud cries. Everyone looked at each other, and as soon as we had enough confidence in ourselves as a group, all it took was one signal. Then we stormed the Lege.”

While security looked on, students scrambled up the legislature’s main stairs and filled the second- and third-floor balconies of the centre block, the account says.

“People were going nuts. No thinking involved, just reaction.”

Everyone assembled for a sit-in as the university student union presidents met with Filmon and emerged about an hour later.

“All Filmon had ‘promised’ was a later meeting,” the Taché Hall account says, noting the students felt hollow but headed out.

Washington chaos ‘unique’: Doer

None of the events in Manitoba can be compared in any way to the chaos that erupted at the Capitol in Washington this week, when a mob supporting outgoing President Donald Trump pushed past barricades and forced their way inside the U.S. Capitol.

Five people have now died — including a Capitol Hill police officer — as a result of the riot that happened hours after a Trump said at a rally he would “never concede” to president-elect Joe Biden, and urged the massive crowd to march to the Capitol.

In the Manitoba incidents, protesters weren’t goaded by someone holding the highest seat of power; they did not attack any security or make it beyond the foyer to ransack offices. No windows were broken. No one died.

While the events at the Capitol will go down in history, the ones at the Manitoba legislative building hardly register in online searches. Doer, who was leader of the Opposition NDP at the time, doesn’t recall the 1999 protest at all.

“I never felt unsafe in the building, and I don’t recall anything that made me feel unsafe inside the legislative building,” said Doer, who is also familiar with the seats of power in the United States, where he was Canadian ambassador from 2009 until 2016.

“I noticed that when the Washington rioters were besieging the Capitol Hill, a lot of the windows were broken and the doors seemed to be pretty porous, which surprised me, having gone through that building a number of times when I was ambassador.”

That said, Doer noted he never felt unsafe in Washington, either.

“I witnessed the almost daily protests walking right by the embassy of Canada, on the way to the Capitol building … and there was never an experience of anything that represented a risk inside the building until this week,” he said.

When he attended the Capitol building for the state of the union address, “the security was incredible,” Doer says.

“So this [riot at the Capitol] was a unique situation, in my view. It was incited by President Trump,” he said. “It started with the president signaling it and messaging it and encouraging it this week.”

Given that, he’s surprised security wasn’t tighter.

Despite the rarity of such outbreaks of disorder, Doer has no doubt “every legislature in Canada” is re-evaluating security procedures.

“You don’t want to ever [reveal] what your security procedures are because you don’t want, tactically, to be conveying that to people that may be interested to know what your vulnerabilities might be,” he said.

“I’m sure the emergency measures people, and the security people are reviewing it, but quietly.”

By: Darren Bernhardt · CBC News · 


Punches Thrown, Arrest Made During Counter Rally at Manitoba Legislature

A group of individuals surround a police car during a disturbance at the Manitoba Legislative Building, in Winnipeg. Saturday, June 03, 2017.

Punches Thrown at Rally at Legislature

Punches were thrown and a 22-year-old man was arrested as a rally and counter-rally collided at the Manitoba Legislature on Saturday.

The man was arrested for obstructing a peace officer but he was later released from custody on a promise to appear in court.

A group consisting of members of Fascist Free Treaty 1, the American Indian Movement, the Crazy Indian Brotherhood, and Urban Warrior Alliance confronted a group that one of their members called a “white supremacist” group.

The confrontation turned violent, as members of both sides got involved in an altercation and began throwing fists at each other. This prompted security at the Legislature to call the police.

“There was a call for several Islamophobic, ultra-nationalist and white supremacists to hold rallies all throughout Canada,” said Omar Kinnarath, a member of the Fascist Free Treaty 1 group.

In a release to the media, Kinnarath called these rallies the ‘1 million deplorable Canadian march’. According to the group’s Facebook page, the marches were being held to protest against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The rally of the self-styled anti-fascist group started out at City Hall, where they had planned to confront what they called a “white supremacist” group. But once they realized that the group had moved to the Legislature, they moved there to confront them.

A group of individuals shout and make an obscene gesture, while they surround a police car during adisturbance at the Manitoba Legislative Building, in Winnipeg. Saturday, June 03, 2017. Sun/Postmedia Network. Chris Procaylo/Winnipeg Sun

Upon arrival at the lawns of the Legislative building, the self-styled anti-fascist group far outnumbered the protestors from what they referred to as the “white supremacist” group. It was then that things turned violent, and punches were thrown from both sides.

Once tempers had been settled by the police and the legislature security, the self-styled anti-fascist group took their rally on to Broadway Street, directly in front of the Legislature. The police kept a close watch as the group waved flags and chanted.

According to a media release from Kinnarath, this is the third time in three months these types of confrontations have happened. He states that the first was on March 4 at City Hall to protest against The Canadian Coalition of Concerned Citizens. He claims this group to be a far right, anti-refugee group, and the counter protest to this group saw 300 members.

The second counter rally, according to Kinnarath’s release, came on March 19, again at City Hall. This time, another group Kinnarath claims to be on the far right, the Soldiers of Odin, organized a rally that saw 100 people there to counter their rally.

Sun/Postmedia Network


Family Holds Winnipeg Vigil For Woman Found Dead On First Nation

Terry White slouches over while crying at a vigil for his fiancé Krystal Andrews at the Manitoba Legislature Thursday. (CBC)

Terry White slouches over while crying at a vigil for his fiancé Krystal Andrews at the Manitoba Legislature Thursday. (CBC)

CBC News

Krystal Andrews, 23, found dead on God’s Lake First Nation Nov. 9

The family of a woman found dead on a remote, northern Manitoba First Nation this week gathered for a vigil at the steps of the Manitoba Legislature Thursday night.

Krystal Andrews, 23, was found dead in an isolated area on God’s Lake First Nation on Monday. RCMP are calling her death suspicious.

Carol Nazzie, 25, said she is still having a hard time processing what happened to her childhood friend.

Krystal Andrews

Krystal Andrews, 23, was found dead in God’s Lake Narrows.

“Just devastated, it’s just heartbreaking,” she said. “I just can’t believe this is happening.”

A family member told CBC News on Tuesday that Andrews had phoned her fiancé Terry White early Sunday morning to tell him she was on her way home from her friend’s house in God’s Lake. She never made it back.

“She was a loving and caring woman, she makes people laugh and she was a very smart girl,” White said at the vigil for Andrews, adding she was an honour student in school.

“My babies just came to my mind when I heard they found her. I just wanted to go get her and give her a kiss.”

Andrews and White, both in their early 20s, were high school sweethearts and had been together for nine years.

Terry White

Terry White hugs his daughter Khloe at the Winnipeg vigil for his fiancée Krystal Andrews Thursday night. (CBC)

White said while the past few days have been hard, he was grateful to receive support from the dozens of people at the vigil.

“It means a lot to me, makes me feel a lot better,” he said, adding his fiancée was “a great mother” to their two children.

Andrews and White were supposed to get married in 2016.

RCMP continue to investigate Andrews’ death on God’s Lake. An autopsy is being performed on her body in Winnipeg. No arrests have been made.

God’s Lake First Nation is about 550 kilometres north of Winnipeg.


Mom Of Missing Woman To Camp Outside Legislature ‘As Long As It Takes’ For Answers

By Marianne Klowak, CBC News

Brenda Osborne says she will stay through the winter to get the province to pay more attention to the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women. (Marianne Klowak/CBC)

By Marianne Klowak | CBC News

Brenda Osborne ‘keeping hope’ new federal government will deliver on election promises

Brenda Osborne sits on a lawn chair inside a tent on the grounds of the Manitoba Legislature, where she plans to spend the winter or until she and other families get the answers they want about their loved ones.

“As long as it takes,” Osborne said Monday, when asked how long she planned to camp out. “As long as people [are] willing to help us and understand what we’re going through here, we’ll still be here.”

The tent encampment, started by her family, has been on the grounds since Oct. 1. It’s to draw attention to missing and murdered indigenous women, as well as children apprehended by the province’s child welfare system.

Osborne’s daughter, Claudette, was 21 when she vanished from Selkirk Avenue and King Street on July 25, 2008. She was the mother of four children. Osborne’s family has carried out countless searches, dragging the river, and digging up ditches in southeastern Manitoba looking for her remains.

Osborne says indigenous women and their families are tired of living in fear, and tired of broken promises.

“Why should we live in fear? A lot of people [are] living in fear of Child and Family Services. Young children and women who have been apprehended and they go missing. Some have even been murdered while in the care of CFS,” said Osborne.

New government, new hope

Osborne is hoping the new federal government will mean change.

“I am keeping hope. That is all we have. Instead of spending money to keep murderers safe in protective custody, what about our women? We aren’t safe. I am prepared to be out here for as long as it takes. Even in the winter. My daughter is missing. She is loved and not forgotten. Her children need their mother,” said Osborne.

Osborne is sleeping in a tent on the grounds. During the day, she is joined by others who have missing loved ones, those who are willing to help in the search or just to sit and show support.

Daniel Highway is from Brochet and now lives in Winnipeg. He is at the tent site to listen and offer hope. He wonders why the politicians inside the legislative building aren’t doing more to help.

“These politicians should be coming out and talking to these people. They know what is going on at the ground level. They should be talking to them. But maybe they don’t want to now because we aren’t close enough to the provincial election,”said Highway.

More money to teach parenting skills

Highway wants the new prime minister to allocate more money to education.

“More education for First Nations people, because a lot of their problems stem from a lack of parenting skills,” said Highway.

Highway was a residential school survivor and sat on a CFS board for aboriginal children. Most of the province’s nearly 11,000 children in care are First Nations children.

“There are just too many in care. This has to change,” he says.

Highway said he believes the seed for change starts at the grassroots level. And he hopes women such as Brenda Osborne won’t have to sleep outside all winter to see it.

“Hopefully they won’t have to stay too long. They are all saying they will stay until they see change. Sometimes that change can be pretty slow, and sometimes it doesn’t happen at all.”


25 Years Since Elijah Harper Said ‘No’ To The Meech Lake Accord

Aboriginal leader Elijah Harper, a former Manitoba MLA and MP, played a key role in defeating the Meech Lake accord. Here, Harper holds an eagle feather for spiritual strength as he refused to support the accord in Winnipeg in 1990. (Wayne Glowacki/Winnipeg Free Press/Canadian Press)

Aboriginal leader Elijah Harper, a former Manitoba MLA and MP, played a key role in defeating the Meech Lake accord. Here, Harper holds an eagle feather for spiritual strength as he refused to support the accord in Winnipeg in 1990. (Wayne Glowacki/Winnipeg Free Press/Canadian Press)

CBC News

Retired indigenous leader Phil Fontaine remembers “a powerful moment for First Nations.”

It’s been 25 years since Elijah Harper held an eagle feather, stood in the Manitoba Legislature and quietly said no to the Meech Lake Accord.

The accord was a series of constitutional amendments aimed at keeping Quebec in Canada – but was fiercely opposed by indigenous leaders who felt it ignored their rights and place in this country.

Phil Fontaine was then Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and a key player in the accord’s defeat. Fontaine says AMC had been looking for a legal way to challenge the accord but soon realized the solution had to be political.

Truth Reconciliation 20150602

Former Manitoba Grand Chief Phil Fontaine. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Fontaine says he called Elijah Harper, who was meeting with his constituents in northern Manitoba.

“I said, ‘look we have to meet to talk about the accord and we think you can play an important role in this,” he says.

According to Fontaine, the two arranged to meet in the restaurant of the Charter House hotel in downtown Winnipeg,

The accord required unanimous ratification by parliament and all 10 provincial legislatures. In Manitoba, the first ratification vote was set to take place on June 12, 1990 and was expected to be passed without any resistance.

If Harper voted against it, Fontaine said, the accord could be defeated.

That meeting between Fontaine and Harper lasted over an hour and Fontaine remembers Harper – then the only aboriginal MLA in Manitoba – feared his political career might suffer from going against the accord and the entire legislature. Harper was also dealing with a possible challenge to his leadership.

“I said, look, don’t worry about that. Just focus on this issue. This is the big issue,” Fontaine says.

On June 12, 1994, Fontaine says chiefs were meeting downtown and decided they wanted to be there when Harper voted no so dozens marched from their meeting to the legislature.

“But when we got to the legislature, up to the steps, we were met by security,” he says.

CBC footage from the time shows scuffles as those security guards try in vain to keep chiefs out.

“There was a real big push. Pascal Bighetty, who was a chief, his sports jacket was torn,” recalls Fontaine.

Eventually, the chiefs managed to push through and made their way to the gallery to witness Elijah Harper stand up and say no.

“It was an empowering moment,” Fontaine says. “This was a powerful moment for First Nations.”

Between June 12 and 21, Harper stood up with the feather and refused to support the accord 8 times. Soon, Newfoundland and Labrador followed suit and the accord withered and failed.

Fontaine says it was a turning point in history for indigenous people.

“We came to the realization very quickly that our voice mattered. We could make history, we could change the course of history. We knew and understood what was possible.”

There will be an event marking the 25th anniversary of Elijah Harper’s stand on the grounds of the Manitoba Legislature this Saturday.