Manitoba First Nations Worried About Changes to Child-Welfare System

Cora Morgan, Manitoba First Nations family advocate,

There are concerns more Indigenous children will be permanently taken from their homes

Some Manitoba First Nations say they are worried some of the reforms planned for the province’s troubled child-welfare system could worsen the problem of having Aboriginal children raised in non-Indigenous homes.

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs says government plans to expand subsidies to include people seeking permanent guardianship of foster children will only make it faster and easier for kids to be taken from their parents forever.

“This is putting children at risk of being in non-Indigenous homes permanently,” said Cora Morgan, the assembly’s First Nations family advocate.

“When probably close to 90 per cent of our children are placed in non-Indigenous homes, and they’re not having access to culturally appropriate services or meaningful connections to culture and identity, then I have trouble with that.”

Indigenous people make up 17 per cent of Manitoba’s population, but almost 90 per cent of the 10,700 children in government care are Aboriginal.

System encourages taking children

First Nations leaders have long said the system is set up to encourage the seizure of children, because agencies are paid partly based on how many kids they care for.

The Progressive Conservative government, elected in 2016, has promised reforms but has yet to release details.

Families Minister Scott Fielding said legislation will be introduced soon to offer the same kind of subsidies foster parents have to people who seek permanent guardianship. The aim is to give kids a more stable environment rather than have them bouncing between temporary foster homes.

Morgan is worried the subsidies will encourage the current majority of non-Indigenous foster parents to seek permanent care of their charges. Fielding said his goal is to entice more family members who may not otherwise be able to afford to take care of the children.

This is putting children at risk of being in non-Indigenous homes permanently. – Cora Morgan

“We absolutely want more permanent guardianship, and the vast majority of people who take on permanent guardianship is a family member,” he said.

Not providing subsidies to permanent guardians in Manitoba means that “for a lot of people that may take on someone, that is a barrier to basically taking on a lifelong commitment.”

Fielding said courts are already required under law to favour family members in awarding permanent guardianship, so the expanded subsidies should make it more possible that children end up in the culture and language to which they are accustomed.

Fielding is also working on other changes first announced last month, including the launch of customary care, which allows First Nations children to stay in their community in the care of extended family and community leaders.

Preventative supports

The government has also promised to focus more on preventative supports for families to help them before they face apprehension.

A public inquiry report released in 2013 into the death of Phoenix Sinclair urged the government to address the fast-rising number of Indigenous children being taken from their parents.

Two years later, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report called on all governments to provide adequate resources to keep Indigenous families together and, when children are apprehended, ensure they are placed with families where they can maintain ties to their language and culture.Assembly of First Nations National chief says there is a gap in services and programs for Indigenous children on reserves that needs to be immediately addressed. Perry Bellegarde spoke after a demonstration on Parliament Hill.

The Canadian Press



Families Unsure Whether To Take Part In Missing Indigenous Women Inquiry

Missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. (CBC)

Manitoba coalition for MMIW families hosted meeting to talk over inquiry in Winnipeg on Saturday

  • Staff | The Canadian Press Posted: May 14, 2017

Some families of missing and murdered Indigenous women remain uncertain if they should take part in a national inquiry aimed at examining the violence in their communities, according to a group representing them.

Representatives of the Manitoba Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Coalition said a meeting Saturday to talk over the responses from inquiry staff to major questions have failed to produce clear answers.

The group has raised concerns about the inquiry process and how traumatized families and survivors will be treated.

Coalition co-chair Hilda Anderson-Pyrz said these people need to be confident that it will be worthwhile for them to get involved.

“They need to give reassurance their voices will be heard in a good way and a meaningful way,” Anderson-Pyrz said following the four-hour-long, closed-door meeting in Winnipeg’s North End.

A major worry among the families is that the inquiry, announced by the federal government in December 2015, will be conducted within a framework that doesn’t account for Indigenous ways and traditions, said Sandra DeLaronde, also a coalition co-chair.

“If we let the inquiry go on its own, it will completely be in a legal tradition,” said DeLaronde. “It’s the only chance we’re going to get, and if it’s not done right, we’ve lost the opportunity.”

‘We’re still in the dark’

More than 30 people attended the meeting, according to attendee Sue Caribou, who has seen several of her relatives murdered and others go missing.

“We’re still in the dark,” Caribou said.

The coalition sent 43 questions to inquiry officials after an earlier meeting with the inquiry’s commissioners in Winnipeg.

That meeting came a few weeks after the inquiry postponed a series of regional advisory meetings supposed to help determine what issues should be covered when formal hearings get underway.

A copy of the questions and responses was supplied to The Canadian Press by people who attended Saturday’s meeting.

One question was whether the inquiry’s five commissioners and staff will receive “trauma informed” training. No one from the inquiry’s “health team” at the May 4 meeting assisted a family member who broke down and left, the coalition said in the document.

The coalition also asked how the inquiry will reach families and survivors in Canada’s isolated or northern communities and those who don’t use social media.

Inquiry officials responded that commissioners, directors and most of the staff will be trained in June 2017. They responded the inquiry is still working on an outreach strategy which may include “posters, podcasts on local radio stations.”

The inquiry is to complete its work and wrap up by December 2018, and the document says it is planning to do its work within the existing timeframe and budget.

Sheila North Wilson, grand chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO), said the inquiry might need longer than its current timeline to do the job in a meaningful way. (CBC)

Sheila North Wilson, the grand chief of an organization advocating for northern Manitoba First Nations, said it may not be enough time to get the job done in a meaningful way.

“The biggest need, immediately, that I see is we need to provide better resources and opportunities for our women and girls and families because ultimately that’s what leads to what happens,” she said.

“Women become vulnerable, people that take advantage of vulnerability have their way and then become victims of this issue.”


Enbridge Setting Stage For Big Project

Pipes are being stacked at Enbridge’s “storage” area located roughly 2 1/2 miles east of Morden on the south side of Highway 14

Written by Pam Fedack |, May 10, 2017

Enbridge is getting set for a major project that will snake its way through Southern Manitoba, and activity has been well observed in the Winkler and Morden area.

Over the last several weeks, pipes have been moving into the area by the truck and trainload to a storage site along the corridor between the two communities on the south side of Highway 3.

enbridge trains

Train cars parked in Winkler with Enbridge pipes side of Highway 3.

Enbridge Spokesperson, Suzanne Wilton said the company plans to replace their entire 1,600 kilometre main line, (Line 3) which runs from Hardisty, Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin. Wilton noted replacing the pipeline will make it safer and restore it to its full capacity.

Wilton said they have storage sites like the one between Winkler and Morden at various locations right across the entire length of the pipeline.  She said these storage sites allow them to mobilize and put pipe in storage so that’s it’s ready for when they need it.  “Pipe is the longest item of lead time, and so we procur the material well in advance, have it engineered and ready so that when we actually need it, we can fully mobilize.”

Enbridge received approval in Canada late last year to undertake this project, and Wilton said they are currently in the pre-construction phase.  “Of course all of this is pending U.S. regularatory approval,” said Wilton. “But given the long lead time of the project we’re now beginning some of those activies that’ll be required that when we do go into contruction, we’re ready.”

Wilton said the new Line 3 pipline is not scheduled into service until 2019.  She said they may start some construction sometime this summer, primarily in Alberta and Saskatchewan.  “This is just providing us plenty of lead time.  That pipe will stay in storage until we actually need to move it onto the right of way in the construction phase.”

Line 3, comes through Manitoba south of Brandon, runs down through the Morden area, and ultimately crosses the into the U.S. at Gretna.


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Principal After Violent Death: Drugs and Gangs ‘Killing Our Youth’

Views of Sagkeeng First Nation which sits on the north and south shore of the Winnipeg River near Pine Falls Manitoba. Dec 19, 2014 Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press

  • Staff | CP – Apr 26, 2017

SAGKEENG FIRST NATION, Man. — The killing of a 19-year-old high school student and a graphic video believed to be linked to the death has shocked a small Manitoba First Nation that has seen more than its share of tragedy.

RCMP said Wednesday they were reviewing the video circulating on social media to determine whether it was indeed connected to the death on the Sagkeeng reserve, 120 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.

They also said they had arrested two girls, 16 and 17 years old, on charges of second-degree murder.

RCMP would not identify the victim, but community members said she was Serena McKay. The two accused cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

All three were students at the Sagkeeng Anicinabe High School, said principal Claude Guimond.

“We’re not a very big school. We only have about 220 students here … and all three of the students in the video, I know them personally and it was hard to take,” Guimond said.

“Tuesday we had a healing ceremony for our students and staff … and one of the recurring things that came out was how social media — Facebook, you know — made things even worse by people reposting the video.”

The video shows a young woman lying bloodied on the ground and barely conscious as she is repeatedly kicked and punched in the head. It appears to have been taken on a cellphone. Female and male voices can be heard.

McKay is the woman being attacked in the video, Guimond said.

RCMP would only say the victim’s body was found Sunday night, near a home in Sagkeeng, about two hours after she was reported missing to the detachment in the neighbouring town of Powerview.

Counsellors were brought in this week to help students and staff at the school deal with the death. A vigil was planned for the community on Thursday evening.

Sagkeeng, a community of some 3,000 residents, was also the home of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine, whose body was pulled from the Red River in Winnipeg in 2014. She had left Sagkeeng just two months earlier. Her father, Eugene Fontaine, was beaten to death on the reserve three years earlier.

The small community has seen several other cases of missing and murdered indigenous women, including 17-year-old Fonessa Bruyere, who was killed in Winnipeg in 2007.

Guimond said gang activity and drug use have encroached on the community from the city.

“Over the last 10 years, what I’ve noticed is that more and more of the gang influence is filtering on to the reserve from Winnipeg,” Guimond said.

“With gang activity comes drug trafficking and stuff like that, and that’s what’s killing our youth here.”

Sagkeeng Chief Derrick Henderson said everyone is trying to come to terms with the latest death.

“It’s been tragic and it’s pretty sombre right now.”

By Steve Lambert in Winnipeg

The Canadian Press


Video Linked to Serena McKay Homicide Needs to Be Pulled Off Facebook, Chief Says

The body of Serena McKay, 19, was found Sunday evening in Sagkeeng First Nation. Two teenage girls have been arrested and charged in her death. (Del Daniels/Facebook)

2 teenage girls from Sagkeeng First Nation charged with 2nd-degree murder in McKay’s death

CBC News Posted: Apr 26, 2017

The chief of Manitoba’s Sagkeeng First Nation wants the video of a vicious attack on a young woman — some say the same woman later found dead in the community — pulled off Facebook.

The body of the woman believed to be the victim in the video, 19-year-old Serena McKay, was found Sunday night near a home in the community 100 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.

The video is disturbing and its continued existence is extremely difficult for McKay’s mom, who hasn’t even seen her daughter’s body yet, said Chief Derrick Henderson.

Serena McKay

“I know the mom personally. It’s very hard for her,” he said, adding he hopes she will see her daughter on Wednesday and then funeral arrangements will be made.

“Today’s going to be a tough day for her,” he said.

Two teenage girls from the community have been charged with second-degree murder in McKay’s death. The girls, aged 16 and 17, cannot be identified due to provisions in the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Both are being held in custody.

​All three went to Sagkeeng Anicinabe High School, but McKay lived in the neighbouring community of Powerview-Pine Falls.

The video, which has been shared many times on Facebook, shows a girl being beaten but doesn’t clearly identify anyone.

“I’ve asked Facebook and I’ve asked the major crimes unit to get that video removed, whatever it takes,” Henderson said. “I mean that’s part of the investigation again, right? It’s evidence.

“It’s pretty hard once it gets out there, I guess. But there must be some mechanism there available.”

RCMP are aware of the video, but a spokesperson would not confirm whether the person being attacked is McKay. Sgt. Paul Manaigre said officers are reviewing the video to determine if it is relevant to their investigation.

He also said the video is being passed around via Facebook Messenger, which means it cannot be controlled by Facebook but only by those sharing it.

Henderson hopes the homicide sparks a conversation that starts to bring changes to Sagkeeng.

​”It’s devastating for everybody. Even me, as a leader, it’s so hard to stomach, but we have to continue and move forward and try to make it a better place for our people,” he said.

“I’m not sure what the circumstances are of what happened but I know a lot of it can be related to lots of factors like addictions. I know that’s an issue in my community, it’s an issue everywhere, and we need to deal with those things.”

Henderson also wants to see parents held more accountable for keeping an eye on their children.

“They need to be more responsible towards their children: ‘Where are you? Why are you not home?’ Things like that,” he said. “Where’s the moms and dads?”

Henderson plans to speak about those issues at a vigil for McKay planned for Thursday at 6 p.m. in Sagkeeng.

McKay was last seen by a family friend on Saturday evening and was reported missing to Powerview RCMP on Sunday around 6 p.m.

As officers searched the area, they received a call two hours later — around 8 p.m. — that her body had been found.


Indigenous Women Demand Stronger Provincial Support For National Inquiry

The Urban Warrior Alliance camps outside the legislature to protest the delays in the missing and murdered indigenous women inquiry Tuesday. RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The Urban Warrior Alliance camps outside the legislature to protest the delays in the missing and murdered indigenous women inquiry Tuesday. RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Winnipeg Free Press, By: Alexandra Paul Posted: 07/26/2016

A group of indigenous women camping at the legislature wants to know whether Manitoba supports a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women.

“Our understanding is the government is holding up the inquiry over the terms of reference and over semantics. So what’s going on? The families are waiting,” said Chelsea Cardinal, one of two women at the camp Tuesday.

There were three tents set up on the legislature’s front lawn; a similar tent camp two years ago also called for a national inquiry, before Ottawa signed on to it.

The group is expected to take turns, holding down the camp, where a fire for prayers was lit Monday evening, over the next four days and nights.

The latest camp comes after a week or more of mixed signals and growing frustration among indigenous advocates in and outside Manitoba that the inquiry is being held up.

The national inquiry will look at the estimated 1,200 missing and murdered indigenous women and girls in Canada, including more than 100 who are from Manitoba.

Prior to the premiers’ meeting last weekend in Whitehorse, federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett attempted to settle public concerns after a copy of the terms of reference for the inquiry was leaked. She assured advocates that policing and child welfare issues, both systemic issues, would form a big part of the mandate.

Aboriginal leaders and premiers also added their oar to calm the waters by stating there was no need to wait for an inquiry to get to work on the socio-economic issues behind the problem, another issue indigenous advocates and families have repeatedly raised.

And late Tuesday, in response to word the camp had been set up, Manitoba waded in to break through the continued confusion with an unequivocal statement of support for the national inquiry.

“Manitoba’s new government intends to move forward with an order in council in support of the federal government’s establishment of a national inquiry. We will do this in a timely manner as we continue to work with our federal and provincial partners to finalize the draft terms of reference,” Justice Minister Heather Stefanson said in an email to the Free Press.

The statement raised one of the major points of confusion, that the terms of reference were an issue still to be worked out with Ottawa. Stephanson’s statement did not go into details.

The concern with the Pallister government is Manitoba may try to delay the national inquiry, or at the very least pare down it’s scope, to leave out systemic issues such as the child welfare and policing, women at the legislature camp said.

The camp’s concerns echo the province’s First Nations and indigenous leaders who met a week ago with the provincial ministers for justice and indigenous and municipal affairs and issued public statements urging the province to sign on to the inquiry.

NDP MLA Nahanni Fontaine, the NDP government’s former adviser on missing and murdered indigenous women’s issues, told the women Tuesday their presence reminds the province it owes the public an explanation on where it stands.

“You cannot just do the work and not advise the families of the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls on what you’re doing,” Fontaine said.

The federal Liberals made the national inquiry, something former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper opposed, a major election promise.

But since Justin Trudeau became prime minister, headway in Ottawa appears to be meeting headwinds in Manitoba by the Conservatives under Premier Brian Pallister, the women at the camp said.

They cited Leslie Spillett’s removal from the Winnipeg Police Board this month as a jolt, especially since the respected indigenous advocate hadn’t been given the courtesy of a phone call before the announcement was made public.

“What is going to be happening next? We took a few steps forward with the national inquiry happening. Now it’s being held up again. To us, it seems like tactics,” Sandy Banman said.

Fontaine told the women to expect an announcement from Ottawa as early as next week on the start of the national inquiry.

The most recent media reports noted the province wanted a commissioner from Manitoba named to the inquiry and they had questions over the inquiry’s terms of reference.

Read more by Alexandra Paul   .

Protesters Accuse Manitoba Government Of Stalling MMIW Inquiry


MMIW camp-out at the Manitoba Legislature

Role police, CFS play in MMIW cases must be examined in national inquiry, protesters say

CBC News Posted: Jul 26, 2016

About half a dozen tents were set up outside the Manitoba Legislative Building by protesters who say the province is keeping a national inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women from getting underway.

Last week, Brian Pallister’s Progressive Conservative government said it is moving forward with an order in council in support of the inquiry, but officials are still in negotiations with the federal government over the terms of reference.

“Now that the inquiry has been called, it feels like Manitoba is stalling. We seem to be the ones holding everything up, and that’s not OK,” Sandy Banman, one of the protesters, said Tuesday.

About half a dozen tents are set up on the Manitoba Legislative Building grounds by a group saying the province is delaying the start of the national inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women. (CBC)

About half a dozen tents are set up on the Manitoba Legislative Building grounds by a group saying the province is delaying the start of the national inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women. (CBC)

On July 14, Justice Minister Heather Stefanson told CBC’s Power & Politics that she was concerned there hadn’t been enough consultation and the province, which counts one of the largest Indigenous populations in the country, wanted the federal government to appoint a commissioner from Manitoba.

The protestors said they are concerned the draft terms of reference for the inquiry reveal that a thorough review of police conduct is not part of the agenda.

Protester Sandy Banman says the Manitoba government is stalling the inquiry. (CBC)

Protester Sandy Banman says the Manitoba government is stalling the inquiry. (CBC)

“They’re trying to say that police and [Child and Family Services] will not be held accountable or will not be part of the inquiry,” Banman said. “Those things are off the table. We’re here to say we don’t want them off the table. That’s very, very important.”

The inquiry’s mandate isn’t expected to include the option of recommending that police reopen cold cases, and Banman said that’s “very disturbing.”

“There’s families hurting, like really hurting, in this camp,” she said. “We have individuals who are directly affected. All of the family members we’ve spoken to say that this is outrageous; like, families need closure.”

The group is staying on the Legislative Building grounds for four days and four nights and may stay longer.

The group is staying on the Legislative Building grounds for four days and four nights and may stay longer.

A sacred fire was lit to start the protest on Monday night while about 35 people watched.

Banman said the group is staying there for four days and four nights — a reference to the four quadrants on the medicine wheel and the seasons — and they are considering staying longer.


Manitoba Chief Says MMIW Inquiry Terms Of Reference Falls Short On Policing, Child Welfare


By Dennis Ward and Kenneth Jackson | APTN News, July 19, 2016

A chief in Manitoba says she’s seen the terms of reference of the missing and murdered Indigenous women inquiry and believes they fall short when it comes to policing and child welfare.

MKO Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson said one of things she’d heard from almost every single family member is the issue of policing and the lack of respect families say they’ve received.

“There’s nothing specific in the terms of reference (TOR) that deal with the role of police agencies across this country on this issue,” said North Wilson.

North Wilson said the TOR don’t go far enough “in scope to look at the effects indifferent or ineffective policing has had on the families of (MMIW).”

North Wilson said the TOR also falls short on Indigenous children in care of provinces, which is nearly 90 per cent in Manitoba, or about 9,000.

North Wilson was part of a group of chiefs’ organizations that met with province of Manitoba province Tuesday.

Chiefs in Manitoba met with Manitoba’s Indigenous Affairs and Justice ministers Tuesday to find out why Manitoba is holding up the inquiry.

The new provincial government has been blamed for not wanting to sign off on the terms of reference and wanting a commissioner from Manitoba to be named to the inquiry.

“It shouldn’t be a deal breaker,” said North Wilson. “We shouldn’t hold up the process if we don’t have a Manitoban appointed as one of the five commissioners.”

Families were told there was supposed to be an announcement on July 6 until Manitoba said they didn’t agree to TOR.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett told APTN last week that before the inquiry can be announced all provinces and territories have to sign off on the TOR and commissioners, which was believed to be five. It’s not known if that number has changed since Manitoba’s demands. It is also unknown if Manitoba is the only province holding up the process.

But for families the question remains, if the provinces were not on board, why did INAC promise families the announcement was good to go for July 6?

“We should be informed. (Bennett) says ‘families first’ but we are not first,” said Laurie Odjick, whose daughter Maisy, 16, went vanished in 2008 with her friend Shannon Alexander, 17, from Kitigan Zibi First Nation about an hour north of Ottawa. “We need to be involved. No one is helping us. These politicians need to be held to their promises.”

With No Date Set For MMIW Inquiry, Manitoba Mother Regrets Voting Liberal

Joyce Gabriel visits her daughter Rocelyn's grave in Portage la Prairie, Man. every day. With no date set for an inquiry into Canada's missing and murdered Indigenous girls and women, Gabriel says she regrets voting for Trudeau. (CBC )

Joyce Gabriel visits her daughter Rocelyn’s grave in Portage la Prairie, Man. every day. With no date set for an inquiry into Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous girls and women, Gabriel says she regrets voting for Trudeau. (CBC )

‘Almost every Aboriginal person here, we went and voted for him. Now, I think it was a mistake,’ she says

CBC News, Jul 14, 2016

A Manitoba mother is questioning her decision to vote Liberal as one year of power for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau approaches and still, there is no date set for an inquiry into Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous girls and women.

Joyce Gabriel’s 20-year-old daughter, Rocelyn, froze to death near Portage la Prairie’s recycling depot on Jan. 26, 2014.

“Mr. Trudeau at the time said, ‘Yes. I support the families and I am going to put on an inquiry.’ I think he just wanted the families’ votes,” Gabriel said.

“Almost every Aboriginal person here … we went and voted for him. Now, I think it was a mistake.”

Gabriel said she was not surprised to learn that Manitoba had not officially committed to the inquiry. Politicians, she said, will never understand the plight of Indigenous families who have lost loved ones until they step into their shoes.

“Without being in our shoes, [Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister] will never understand,” she said.

Disappointment across Canada

The desperation, hurt and disappointment in Gabriel’s voice was echoed Thursday by First Nations chiefs who also pointed to the delay in the federal government’s commitment to hold a national inquiry.

During the final day of an annual general assemble meeting in Niagara Falls, Ont., the chiefs called on the provinces and Ottawa to stop putting off the task.

First Nations chiefs urge holdout provinces, Ottawa to stop ‘dragging feet’ on MMIW inquiry

Negotiations continue

Manitoba Progressive Conservative Justice Minister and Attorney General Heather Stefanson said the province has committed to the national inquiry, but continues to negotiate with the federal government to make sure the initiative will not cover ground already dealt with by past inquiries, including the inquiry into the death of Phoenix Sinclair.

“That way, there is more money freed up to actually go towards implementing whatever recommendations come forward,” Stefanson said.

Led by commissioner Ted Hughes, the $14-million public inquiry — one of the biggest in Manitoba’s history — examined how Manitoba’s child and family services (CFS) system failed five-year-old Phoenix before she was murdered by her mother and stepfather in 2005.

Consultation with Indigenous people on the inquiry’s terms of reference are also a priority for Stefanson, she said.

“We want to make sure that they see these terms of reference. They may have something to add to it,” she said.

“I am very concerned that there hasn’t been enough consultation there.”

Stefanson insists the inquiry’s commissioner be from Manitoba — a  province with an Indigenous population of 17 per cent and for many, ground zero of the Canadian crisis. Stefanson said she is hopeful that Carolyn Bennett, minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, will agree to a commissioner from the province.

Bernadette Smith, whose sister, Claudette Osborne vanished from Winnipeg’s North End in 2008, seconds Stefanson’s opinion.

“I know that Manitoba and families across the country would like to see [NDP MLA] Nahanni Fontaine appointed,” or Smith added, a member of a family personally affected by the issue.

Before being elected, Fontaine was Manitoba’s special advisor on aboriginal women’s issues and a community leader.

Despite these sticking points, Stefanson disputes that Manitoba is last to officially commit to the inquiry.

“I think there’s been many provinces … that have not yet completed that process,” she said, declining to name any in particular.

Meanwhile, Bennett said in a speech to the chiefs this week the federal government was “very close” to announcing the launch of the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, but did not give a date.

with files from Susana Mas, Meagan Fiddler and Alana Cole

Archeologists Uncover Evidence Of Early Aboriginal Agriculture On The Red River

A team of archeologists are seen working at a site in Lockport, Man.

A team of archeologists are seen working at a site in Lockport, Man. | June 21, 2016

A team of archeologists on the banks of the Red River have collected evidence that the First Nations people of the Prairies, long thought to be nomadic, were Canada’s first settled farmers.

The site, located in Lockport, Man., may well be the location of Canada’s earliest farm and the only known indigenous agricultural settlement in western Canada.

A group of nine anthropology students from the University of Manitoba helping with the research have made a number of exciting discoveries during the five-week dig, including fragments of pottery, bone, and tools dating as far back as 1200 A.D.

“They’re finding bits of ceramic, bits of bone fragments,” Robyn Neufeldt, an anthropology professor at the university, told CTV News. “We’ve actually found bone tools and an arrowhead.”

A group of nine anthropology students from the University of Manitoba found fragments of pottery, bone, and tools dating as far back as 1200 A.D. at the site in Lockport, Man.

A group of nine anthropology students from the University of Manitoba found fragments of pottery, bone, and tools dating as far back as 1200 A.D. at the site in Lockport, Man.

The artifacts will be sent to labs across Canada and the United States for further testing.

“(The site) roughly dates to the time of the Vikings,” said University of Manitoba archeology professor Robert Beardsell — a period known as “the medieval warming period.”

At that time, global temperatures were rising, particularly in the North Atlantic region. In North America, that meant nomadic tribes that had traditionally followed bison herds began to settle and started cultivating crops.

The Lockport site may well be Canada’s earliest example of this settlement process. Researchers say the Red River provided the settlers with fish, while fertile ground beside it made the prefect spot for growing crops.

“(The settlers) were certainly involved with corn and beans — probably squash and probably sunflowers as well,” said Leigh Syms, a former curator at the Manitoba Museum.

The current dig is considered the archeologists’ last chance to collect artifacts because the Red River is quickly eroding the land around it.

The team also has only a few days left before their permit to dig on provincial park land expires.

With a report from CTV’s Manitoba Bureau Chief Jill Macyshon