Talks on with Indigenous Demonstrators to Reopen Pinery Provincial Park

pinery-closure

The Ministry of Natural Resources wants a trailer at the park entrance moved

Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry says talks continue in an effort to resolve an issue that led to the closure of a provincial park nearly two weeks ago.

Pinery Provincial Park in southwestern Ontario was closed to the public on Nov. 9 after demonstrators set up a trailer by the front gate in support of what police said was a land claim.

Ministry spokeswoman Emily Kirk says the trailer has been moved so that it now blocks the park entrance.

Kirk says the ministry and Ontario Provincial Police are involved in discussions with the individuals involved.

The park near Grand Bend, Ont., boasts about 10 kilometres of sand beach along Lake Huron and 21 square kilometres of forests and rolling dunes.

It has been the site of land claim protests in the past.

An Indigenous family led by demonstrator Maynard T. George has made several attempts to “repossess” Pinery Provincial Park in past years, saying the land belongs to approximately 100 of his great-grandfather’s descendants.

In 2004, then Ontario attorney general Michael Bryant told the legislature that George’s claim was “an individual grievance” and not a land claim.

Bryant noted that the First Nations in the area — Kettle and Stony Point First Nation — had said that they didn’t endorse the grievance and that they have no land claim at Pinery.

Pinery Park is located near the former Ipperwash Provincial Park is where a land claim demonstration turned deadly in 1995 when a police sniper killed Dudley George — no relation to Maynard George.

The Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation approved the deal with the federal government in 2015 to settle that claim.

The Canadian Press

[SOURCE]

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Government to Announce Payout of $800M to Indigenous Victims of ’60s Scoop

Government to announce payout of $800M to Indigenous victims of ’60s Scoop

Sources say the agreement includes a payout of between $25,000 and $50,000 for each claimant.

The federal government has agreed to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to survivors of the ‘60s Scoop for the harm suffered by Indigenous children who were robbed of their cultural identities by being placed with non-native families, The Canadian Press has learned.

The national settlement with an estimated 20,000 victims, to be announced Friday by Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett, is aimed at resolving numerous related lawsuits, most notable among them a successful class action in Ontario.

Confidential details of the agreement include a payout of between $25,000 and $50,000 for each claimant, to a maximum of $750 million, sources said.

In addition, sources familiar with the deal said the government would set aside a further $50 million for a new Indigenous Healing Foundation, a key demand of the representative plaintiff in Ontario, Marcia Brown Martel.

Spokespeople for both Bennett and the plaintiffs would only confirm an announcement was pending Friday, but refused to elaborate.

“The (parties) have agreed to work towards a comprehensive resolution and discussions are in progress,” Bennett’s office said in a statement on Thursday. “As the negotiations are ongoing and confidential, we cannot provide further information at this time.”

The sources said the government has also agreed to pay the plaintiffs’ legal fees — estimated at about $75 million — separately, meaning the full amount of the settlement will go to the victims and the healing centre, to be established in the coming months, sources said.

The settlement would be worth at least $800 million and include Inuit victims, the sources said. The final amount is less than the $1.3 billion Brown Martel had sought for victims of the Ontario Scoop in which at-risk on-reserve Indigenous children were placed in non-Aboriginal homes from 1965 to 1984 under terms of a federal-provincial agreement.

In an unprecedented class action begun in 2009, Brown Martel, chief of the Beaverhouse First Nation, maintained the government had been negligent in protecting her and about 16,000 other on-reserve children from the lasting harm they suffered from being alienated from their heritage.

Brown Martel, a member of the Temagami First Nation near Kirkland Lake, Ont., was taken by child welfare officials and adopted by a non-native family. She later discovered the Canadian government had declared her original identity dead.

Her lawsuit, among some 17 others in Canada, is the only one to have been certified as a class action. Her suit sparked more than eight years of litigation in which the government fought tooth and nail against the claim.

However, in February, Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba sided with Brown Martel, finding the government liable for the harm the ‘60s Scoop caused. Belobaba was firm in rejecting the government’s arguments that the 1960s were different times and that it had acted with good intentions in line with prevailing standards.

While Bennett said at the time she would not appeal the ruling and hoped for a negotiated settlement with all affected Indigenous children, federal lawyers appeared to be trying to get around Belobaba’s ruling. Among other things, they attempted to argue individuals would have to prove damages on a case-by-case basis.

A court hearing to determine damages in the Ontario action, scheduled for three days next week, has been scrapped in light of the negotiated resolution, which took place under Federal Court Judge Michel Shore.

One source said some aspects of the many claims might still have to be settled but called Friday’s announcement a “significant” step toward resolving the ‘60s Scoop issue — part of the Liberal government’s promise under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to make reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous people a priority.

Jeffery Wilson, one of Brown Martel’s lawyers, has previously said the class action was the first anywhere to recognize the importance of a person’s cultural heritage and the individual harm caused when it is lost.

The Canadian Press

[SOURCE]

SIU Lays Charges Against OPP, London Police in Death of First Nations Woman

Debra Chrisjohn. (Facebook)

Officers involved in woman’s death still on active duty 

By Black Powder | RPM Staff, July 13, 2017

Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) has laid charges against two police officers in the 2016 death of Debra Chrisjohn a member of the Oneida Nation of the Thames.

In a release from the SIU, charges were laid against Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Const. Mark McKillop, and London Police Service (LPS) Const. Nicholas Doering for criminal negligence causing death and failing to provide the necessaries of life.

On the afternoon of Sept. 7, 2016, police were called to Trafalgar Street and Highbury Avenue North in the east end of London.

According to CBC News, the SIU said there were reports of a woman obstructing traffic at the intersection.

Chrisjohn, 39, was arrested by London police and then transferred to the Elgin County OPP detachment on an outstanding warrant.

Paramedics took Chrisjohn to St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital at 7:52 p.m. She was pronounced dead almost an hour later.

Both officers are still on active duty.

OPP say McKillop is on active duty with the force, while Doering is carrying out administrative duties with the London police.

The officers are ordered to appear in Ontario Court on July 31.

The SIU is an arm’s length agency that investigates reports involving police where there has been death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault.

’60s Scoop Ruling: Canada Failed To Protect Indigenous Children, Judge Rules

Lead plaintiff Marcia Brown Martel (left) is seen outside court in Toronto on Dec. 1, 2016. (Photo: Colin Perkel/CP)

Lead plaintiff Marcia Brown Martel (left) is seen outside court in Toronto on Dec. 1, 2016. (Photo: Colin Perkel/CP)

The Canadian Press | Feb 14, 2017

Canada failed to take reasonable steps to prevent thousands of on-reserve children who were placed with non-native families from losing their indigenous heritage during the ’60s Scoop, an Ontario judge ruled Tuesday.

The ruling in the long-running and bitterly fought class action paves the way for an assessment of damages the government will now have to pay.

In siding with the plaintiffs, Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba found Canada had breached its “duty of care” to the children.

The lawsuit launched eight years ago sought $1.3 billion on behalf of about 16,000 indigenous children in Ontario who claimed they were harmed by being placed in non-aboriginal homes from 1965 to 1984 under terms of a federal-provincial agreement.

The plaintiffs argued — and Belobaba agreed — that Ottawa breached part of the agreement that required consultation with Indian bands about the child welfare program.

Belobaba was scathing in commenting on the government’s contention that consultation with the bands wouldn’t have made any difference to the children.

“This is an odd and, frankly, insulting submission,” Belobaba wrote. “Canada appears to be saying that even if the extension of child welfare services to their reserves had been fully explained to the Indian bands and, if each band had been genuinely consulted about their concerns in this regard, that no meaningful advice or ideas would have been forthcoming.”

Belobaba also took issue with the government’s argument that the 1960s were different times and that it acted with good intentions in line with prevailing standards. As a result, the government had tried to argue, it could not have known the harm that might have been done to the children.

“I feel like a great weight has been lifted from my heart.” — Marcia Brown Martel, lead plaintiff

“Canada’s submission misses the point,” Belobaba said. “The issue is not what was known in the 1960s about the harm of trans-racial adoption or the risk of abuse in the foster home.”

The lawsuit sought $1.3 billion on behalf of about 16,000 indigenous children in Ontario who claimed they were harmed by being placed in non-aboriginal homes from 1965 to 1984. (Photo: CP)

The lawsuit sought $1.3 billion on behalf of about 16,000 indigenous children in Ontario who claimed they were harmed by being placed in non-aboriginal homes from 1965 to 1984. (Photo: CP)

Instead, the justice said, there can be “no doubt” that what was well known even then was the importance to First Nations peoples of protecting and preserving their distinctive cultures and traditions, including their concept of the extended family.

The lead plaintiff in the Ontario action, Marcia Brown Martel, 53, is a member of the Temagami First Nation near Kirkland Lake, Ont. She was adopted by a non-aboriginal couple in 1972 at age nine and later discovered the Canadian government had declared her original identity dead.

“I feel like a great weight has been lifted from my heart,” Brown Martel said in a statement. “Our voices were finally heard and listened to. Our pain was acknowledged.”

The government did not immediately comment on the decision.

Belobaba said that while the 1965 agreement, strictly speaking, applied to the Indian bands and not the children, he hoped the government would not now try to make such a “formalistic argument” given the First Nations context.

The Liberal government indicated last week it was going to try to block Belobaba from releasing his ruling after Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett announced an intention to negotiate with ’60s Scoop survivors across the country. The government relented amid outrage by the plaintiffs and critics, who called the attempt to stop the ruling an unprecedented political interference.

Similar legal actions in several provinces other than Ontario are pending but none has been certified.

[SOURCE]

Two First Nations in Ontario Launch Lawsuit and Injunction against TransCanada Pipelines

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Lawsuit and injunction application brought by First Nations in Ontario against TransCanada Pipelines for work on the same line to be converted for the Energy East project

TORONTO, Jan. 9, 2017 /CNW/ – Two First Nations in northwest Ontario – Aroland and Ginoogaming – have just launched a precedent-setting lawsuit and injunction motion against TransCanada Pipelines, Canada and the National Energy Board, for doing and allowing damaging physical work on parts of the Mainline pipeline that runs through those First Nations’ traditional territories. This is the same pipeline that TransCanada, through its affiliate Energy East, is applying to convert from natural gas, to carry dilbit (crude oil) from the Alberta oil sands across Canada and into ships for export.

The injunction hearing is slated to be heard on January 25 at the Ontario Superior Court, in Toronto.

The physical work that the First Nations are seeking to stop – at least until the duty to consult and accommodate them about their constitutionally-protected rights is met – is called “integrity digs”. TransCanada intends to bring in heavy equipment and dig up a lot of land and expose the buried pipeline in a 30 km stretch that runs through those Nations’ traditional territories. TransCanada says it needs to do this to check and possibly repair the pipeline. TransCanada’s notice to the NEB says it intends to start the integrity digs work on January 18, but it has agreed to hold off until January 25. It also says it will continue this work up to July 18 2017.

“TransCanada is trying to push ahead with this intrusive work before the duty to consult and accommodate is met,” says Raymond Ferris, an employee working for the First Nations. “Neither they, nor the NEB, nor Canada, even admit that a duty to consult and accommodate under the Constitution is owed. TransCanada seems to take the position that since the pipeline was approved and first built starting in the late 1950s, before aboriginal peoples’ rights were ever considered, that any physical work on the land about the pipeline can be done without respecting such rights under the law today.”

“The integrity digs work will likely cause impacts on aboriginal and Treaty 9 rights to harvest (hunt, fish, trap, gather plants and medicines etc) and to protect burial grounds and other cultural heritage sites and values. They will cause impacts to the First Nations’ culture, sacred relationship to the land that is at the core of their identity as indigenous communities, and on their ability to continue to survive with the land,” says Kate Kempton, lawyer for the First Nations.

“Canadian law should require the First Nations’ consent before such activity can proceed, in accordance with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Canadian law is lagging behind where it needs to be in that regard. But at the very least, it requires meaningful consultation and accommodation sufficient to address the First Nations’ concerns,” says Kempton. “If Canadian law is not explicit that such requirements exist for new work on old pipelines approved in a bygone era, then it needs to be made explicit. We are pursuing such an explicit remedy here. In the lawsuit, we’re seeking declarations that the NEB Act regime which governs these pipelines, has to prohibit activities that infringe aboriginal and treaty rights. We are seeking an injunction to stop the planned integrity digs in the meantime.”

“Otherwise,” says Ferris, “pipeline companies can do pretty much what they want to First Nation lands, rights and cultures. We can’t let that continue. It defeats reconciliation. It further pushes down First Nations. How much further do we have to be pushed?”

One issue in the injunction motion is whether TransCanada is seeking to do the integrity digs work more to prepare the pipeline to be converted to carry crude oil for the Energy East project — which is far from being approved – as compared to any need to do the work to maintain the physical integrity of the pipe to carry natural gas, which is what is may be carrying now.

“We don’t know if any gas is currently moving through the pipeline right now. We haven’t been able to find that out, despite repeated requests,” says Ferris. “If it is, then since TransCanada first asked to do the integrity digs many months ago, they should have already consulted and accommodated the First Nations. The fact that no one has, is not a burden that the First Nations should bear, and is not an excuse to allow this work in defiance of the First Nations’ rights now. If the line is not carrying any gas, then why would TransCanada need to do any physical work to repair something that is now empty?”

“The NEB regime has to grow up to meet the requirements of aboriginal and treaty rights. If we don’t actually honour these rights, then they are rendered meaningless. Surely this is not what the federal government intends when it speaks of the need to bring about true reconciliation with the First Peoples through whose trust and through treaties the rest of the Canadian population came to live here,” says Kempton. “We’ll see what the court will do about this.”

SOURCE Aroland First Nation

For further information: Raymond Ferris: 807-627-8590 (Alternate: 807-329-5970); Kate Kempton (lawyer): 416-571-6775; Corey Shefman (lawyer): 204-230-3590

http://bit.ly/2ibt088

First Nations Man Spends 4 years In Solitary Confinement In Northern Ontario Awaiting Trial

Adam Capay has been held in solitary confinement, awaiting trial on a first-degree murder charge, for about 1,500 days. (Alison Jane Capay/askfm)

Adam Capay has been held in solitary confinement, awaiting trial on a first-degree murder charge, for about 1,500 days. (Alison Jane Capay/askfm)

Adam Capay, 23, has been held in segregation since 2012

By Jody Porter, CBC News Posted: Oct 26, 2016

The use of segregation must end in Ontario, a criminal defence lawyer says, after it was revealed that an inmate in the Thunder Bay District Jail has spent four years in solitary confinement.

Ontario’s Human Rights Commissioner Renu Mandhane raised alarm about Adam Capay after she visited the 23-year-old earlier this month during a tour of the jail.

Capay, a member of Lac Seul First Nation, spends 23 hours alone in his cell each day, where the light is never turned off. He is permitted out for an hour each day to shower and perhaps make a phone call.

“We know the harm it can cause, we know how devastating it can be and we simply cannot allow it to happen,” said lawyer Breese Davies, who was counsel at the Ashley Smith inquest.

Smith was 19 when she died of self-inflicted choking in 2007 after being held in solitary confinement — also called segregation — for 28 months. The inquest ruled her death a homicide and made dozens of recommendations on how mentally ill inmates should be handled.

'With the proper resources, segregation is not necessary,' says Breese Davies, who was counsel for the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies at the Ashley Smith inquest. (Breese Davies Law)

‘With the proper resources, segregation is not necessary,’ says Breese Davies, who was counsel for the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies at the Ashley Smith inquest. (Breese Davies Law)

Mandhane told CBC News that Capay’s speech seemed delayed, he was having difficulty distinguishing day from night and he showed evidence of self-harm. She said his situation reminded her of Smith and of Edward Snowshoe, who spent 162 days in segregation before his suicide in 2010.

‘It should not happen’ 

Capay was sent to jail at 19 on minor charges. After an altercation resulted in the death of another inmate in 2012, Capay was charged with first-degree murder. He has been held in solitary confinement ever since and has not faced trial.

“We need significant, ongoing pressure on both levels of government to put an end to segregation once and for all,” said Davies. “It should not happen. With the proper resources, it is not necessary.”

Correctional officers at the Thunder Bay District Jail say they have few options for dealing with people like Capay, who exhibits symptoms of mental illness.

“Staff and management have only done what we can do with the resources we have,” said Mike Lundy, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union Local 737, which represents the jail’s correctional officers.

According to the union, correctional officers at the Thunder Bay District Jail say they don't have the resources to address the needs of inmates with mental health concerns at the century-old facility. (Jody Porter/CBC)

According to the union, correctional officers at the Thunder Bay District Jail say they don’t have the resources to address the needs of inmates with mental health concerns at the century-old facility. (Jody Porter/CBC)

All seven segregation cells at the century-old Thunder Bay District Jail are constantly full, Lundy said.

“Ideally we’d use segregation to maintain order,” he said. “But we can’t do that because we’re using it for more volatile inmates.”

Isolating people with mental health issues can make them worse, Davies said.

“That’s not acceptable,” she said. “Services need to be made available. They need to provide services to this person so there is no need to keep him in segregation.”

Ontario’s Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services launched an external independent review of the use of segregation in the province earlier this month.

As part of the announcement, Minister David Orazietti said changes were being made immediately, including a 15-day limit on the use of disciplinary segregation.

Capay’s solitary confinement, however, is considered administrative segregation — used when an inmate may be a threat to himself or others. Four years adds up to about 1,500 days.

When asked about Capay, a spokesperson said the ministry does not speak publicly about the specifics of any individual case.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/thunder-bay/four-years-solitary-1.3821245

Quebec First Nations May Try To Block Algonquin Land Claim

An eagle feather, an Indigenous symbol, is held up on Parliament Hill. The Algonquins of Ontario are one step closer to assuming tens of thousands of acres of their ancestral territory in a historic treaty. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

An eagle feather, an Indigenous symbol, is held up on Parliament Hill. The Algonquins of Ontario are one step closer to assuming tens of thousands of acres of their ancestral territory in a historic treaty. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Division in Algonquin nation over who should benefit from $300M treaty and who qualifies as Algonquin

By John Paul Tasker, CBC News Posted: Oct 19, 2016

The Algonquins of Ontario are one step closer to assuming tens of thousands of acres of their ancestral territory in a historic treaty, but their counterparts in Quebec are vowing legal action to stymie the agreement and delay a deal decades in the making.

The agreement-in-principle, signed Tuesday in Ottawa, encompasses roughly 36,000 square kilometres of land stretching from Parliament Hill to parts of Algonquin Park and up to North Bay, an area that Algonquins in Quebec also say is their territory.

“If it’s Algonquin territory, then every registered Algonquin should become a beneficiary to any treaty that’s happening on our territory,” Lance Haymond, the chief of Kebaowek First Nation, said in an interview with CBC News.

“We didn’t divide up the Algonquin territory. That was governments many, many years ago, that physically created separation.”

Preliminary estimates pegged the number of Algonquin beneficiaries at roughly 8,000, a figure he said should be much higher given their numbers in Quebec.

The cash payment associated with the treaty is currently set at $300 million, although Indigenous leaders are pushing for more.

‘Ten thousand legitimate Algonquins are going to be excluded from ever benefiting from a final treaty.’– Lance Haymond

Haymond said about one million hectares of the land that will be surrendered — when the treaty is finally ratified — actually belongs to the Kebaowek, Timiskaming and Wolf Lake First Nations over the provincial border, and the Algonquins of Ontario alone cannot extinguish that title.

He said he is meeting with his legal team to discuss whether they will file an injunction to try and stop the process altogether or file an Aboriginal title case for the same lands.

The Quebec chief also wants a sit-down with Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett, something he says he was promised in February but so far to no avail. He wants to impress upon her his serious concerns about the territorial overlap, and who her department considers “Algonquin” for the purposes of this treaty process.

“I can’t just legitimately sit back and watch that 6,000 non-Aboriginal peoples have voted yes for a land claim, but 10,000 legitimate Algonquins are going to be excluded from ever benefiting from a final treaty.”

The agreement-in-principle, signed Tuesday in Ottawa, stretches from Parliament Hill to parts of Algonquin Park and up to North Bay, an area that Algonquins in Quebec say is also their territory. (Algonquins of Ontario)

The agreement-in-principle, signed Tuesday in Ottawa, stretches from Parliament Hill to parts of Algonquin Park and up to North Bay, an area that Algonquins in Quebec say is also their territory. (Algonquins of Ontario)

Algonquin claimants questioned

Haymond’s community commissioned a study of the list of eligible voters who voted to ratify the agreement-in-principle with the federal government in March, and found that some had tenuous ancestral connections to the Algonquin nation.

Even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would qualify under these rules, the chief said.

“At least 60 to 70 per cent of these individuals cannot qualify as being Algonquin,” Haymond said. “In fact most of those families have been removed from our nation for 200, 300 years.”

The figures are based on genealogical studies by researchers at the Algonquin Nation Secretariat.

The chief said the federal government has created two different standards: first, the rigid process a person has to follow to obtain Indian status — which requires you to show at least three generations of your family have had continual intermarriage with the Algonquin nation — and second, the one set-up for this land claim.

“Someone just has to self-identify, and be able to attach their genealogy to one of the 12 root ancestors part of the process.”

Robert Potts, the senior negotiator for the Algonquin claim, pushed back against such criticism Tuesday saying they have followed a rigorous vetting process of their own to determine eligible claimants. He has strenuously denied Haymond’s claims.

“I can assure you a tremendous amount of effort and thought is going into this,” he said, noting they are consulting with their own genealogical experts and it is being overseen by a judge.

‘Willing to take anything’

Kirby Whiteduck, the chief of the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan, the only First Nations band part of the Ontario treaty, said that simply claiming ancestry will not be enough.

“You can’t just be of descent,” he said in an interview with CBC News.

“If you don’t exercise your Aboriginal rights and belong to a collective, you don’t necessarily have Aboriginal rights, according to the law, but there are cases of extenuating circumstances that we have to consider.”

Kirby Whiteduck Algonquins of Ontario Land Claim

Kirby Whiteduck, chief of the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan, said he hopes to negotiate improvements to the agreement in principle signed this week. (CBC)

His own community, populated by status Indians, voted against the deal 327 to 256, but the negotiators moved ahead with signing the agreement despite his First Nations’ narrow opposition.

“We’ve had our internal agreements, and our spats, and disagreements with the other negotiating teams, and governments, and it’s not as easy at it looks,” Whiteduck said.

Ontario, the federal government and the Algonquins of Ontario have been negotiating for 24 years, but the Algonquins have laid claim to the land for more than 250 years — and they say the Crown never extinguished their title to the land.

“Look, they’ve waited 24 years for a deal, and at this point, you know, they were willing to take anything,” Haymond said.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/quebec-algonquins-legal-action-1.3811602

Aboriginals Rally At ’60s Scoop Courthouse As Class Action Hearing Begins

Sixties Scoop survivors and supporters gather for a demonstration at a Toronto courthouse on Tuesday, August 23, 2016. Scores of aboriginals from across Ontario rallied in Toronto today ahead of a landmark court hearing on the so-called ’60s Scoop. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michelle Siu

Sixties Scoop survivors and supporters gather for a demonstration at a Toronto courthouse on Tuesday, August 23, 2016. Scores of aboriginals from across Ontario rallied in Toronto today ahead of a landmark court hearing on the so-called ’60s Scoop. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michelle Siu

A $1.3-billion class action argues Canada failed to protect children’s cultural heritage, with devastating consequences

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press, August 23, 2016

TORONTO – Scores of aboriginals from across Ontario rallied Tuesday ahead of a landmark court hearing on whether the Canadian government robbed them of their cultural identities during a two-decade period in which native children were taken from their homes and placed with non-native families.

Some, who travelled for as long as two days to attend, listened as speakers denounced the ’60s Scoop and what they called the “cultural genocide” perpetrated by the government against indigenous people. Speakers called the practice a deliberate effort to assimilate aboriginal children.

“I just want to say to Canada: We will not allow the harm of our children. We need to bring our children home, the ones that were lost, the one’s that were stolen,” lead plaintiff Marcia Brown Martel told the crowd.

“(It’s) such a harm and injustice as a human being to have our children taken from us.”

Martel, a member of the Temagami First Nation near Kirkland Lake, Ont., was one of an estimated 16,000 aboriginal children who ended up in non-native homes. She later discovered the Canadian government had declared her original identity dead.

The ’60s Scoop depended on a federal-provincial arrangement that operated from December 1965 to December 1984. The $1.3-billion class action argues that Canada failed to protect the children’s cultural heritage, with devastating consequences to victims.

“Treaties do not give you permission to take our children,” Regional Chief Isadore Day said.

Following the rally, the crowd marched behind traditional drummers to the nearby courthouse, where they filled the courtroom, to listen as their lawyer, Jeffery Wilson, called on Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba to decide the case, which began in early 2009, based on the evidence he already has.

The unproven claim – it seeks $85,000 for each affected person – alleges the children suffered emotional, psychological and spiritual harm due to the devastating loss of a cultural identity that Canada negligently failed to protect.

The ’60s Scoop, which occurred without any consultation with Indian bands, may have been part of the government’s hidden agenda to “remove the savage Indian from the child,” Wilson told court, but what exactly motivated the “abomination” is not clear.

By robbing the children of their First Nations identities, Wilson said, they were denied the kind of crucial cultural and language experience other Canadians take for granted. The harm is “profoundly ongoing,” he said, even if the events in question are now historical.

“A moral calamity occurred,” Wilson said.

Canada, which has tried on several occasions to have the case thrown out, argues among other things that it was acting in the best interests of the children and within the social norms of the day.

As had been previously agreed, Belobaba adjourned the hearing until Dec. 1, when the federal government will make its case – if it does not decide in the interim to try to negotiate a deal to settle out of court.

Last week, Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said she would like to see that happen, a theme picked up on at the morning rally. Speakers, including New Democrat Charlie Angus, urged the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau to be on the “right side of history” and make good on his promise of a new era in Canadian-aboriginal relations.

Before court ended, Wilson cited a few words in Algonquin which he spelled out.

“Ati kati ci wepik,” he said. “We must never let this happen again.”

In an interview, Glen Hare, deputy grand council chief of the Anishinabek Nation, said he planned on doing his part to ensure it doesn’t happen again. His one regret, he said, is once having signed adoption papers for one of his band’s babies, who he believes was taken abroad.

“I will never sign another adoption, I don’t care who it is. You can lock me up first or shoot me,” Hare said. “Our kids are not for sale, that’s the bottom line.”

http://www.macleans.ca/news/aboriginals-rally-at-60s-scoop-courthouse-as-class-action-hearing-begins/

 

Jurors: Deaths Of Four First Nations Youth Undetermined; Three Accidental

The seven students who have died in Thunder Bay since 2000 are, from top left, Jethro Anderson, 15, Curran Strang, 18, Paul Panacheese, 17, Robyn Harper, 18, Reggie Bushie, 15, Kyle Morriseau, 17, and Jordan Wabasse, 15. (CBC)

The seven students who have died in Thunder Bay since 2000 are, from top left, Jethro Anderson, 15, Curran Strang, 18, Paul Panacheese, 17, Robyn Harper, 18, Reggie Bushie, 15, Kyle Morriseau, 17, and Jordan Wabasse, 15. (CBC)

The Canadian Press, June 29, 2016

The deaths of four First Nations youth who moved from their remote northern Ontario reserves to attend high school in Thunder Bay, Ont., occurred in an undetermined manner, an inquest jury decided Tuesday.

Three other deaths examined at the months-long inquest were deemed accidental, the packed courtroom heard.

Jethro Anderson, 15, Curran Strang, 18, Robyn Harper, 19, Paul Panacheese, 21, Reggie Bushie, 15, Kyle Morrisseau, 17 and Jordan Wabasse, also 15, all died between November 2000 and May 2011.

“All seven were beloved children who died tragically and prematurely and lost the opportunity to lead their own lives, raise their own families and make their own valuable contribution,” said presiding coroner, Dr. David Eden.

The death of Panacheese, who collapsed at his boarding house, was found to be undetermined. Harper was found dead of acute alcohol poisoning at her boarding home the morning after she went out drinking with friends. She had been in the city just two days. Her death was ruled an accident.

The drowned bodies of the other five were all found in or near rivers in the city. In four of the drowning cases, alcohol played a role.

The deaths of Anderson, Morrisseau and Wabasse were deemed undetermined — meaning jurors could not decide how they got into the rivers — while those of Strang and Bushie were ruled accidental.

Julian Falconer, lawyer for the Nishnawbe Aski Nation from whose communities the young people came, called the verdicts related to some of those who drowned significant.

“‘Undetermined’ in respect of three of five of the drowning deaths sends a clear message that the police investigations were deeply flawed,” Falconer said. “Consequently, tragically, there is no way to rule out that these kids were deliberately killed.”

Jurors called for development of policies on dealing with missing students, including the timely filing of missing-person reports, the use of social media in subsequent searches, and training for Thunder Bay police in investigating such cases.

Lawyer Brian Gover, who represented the police, said it’s easy to be critical in hindsight but noted the service had already made many improvements in its processes.

“The cases took place over 11 years, and in the course of those 11 years, the Thunder Bay Police Service adapted its response to the problem of missing First Nation youths,” Gover said.

In all, jurors made 145 recommendations in 18 broad areas aimed at preventing a recurrence — most directed at the federal and Ontario governments. They include a call for more funding for aboriginal education with the aim of closing the gap between native and non-native students regarding educational outcomes within 10 years.

“To ensure sufficient and stable funding for First Nations education, Canada and First Nations should jointly develop a new and fully transparent funding framework for First Nations education that is based on actual student needs,” jurors recommended.

Other recommendations were aimed at ensuring aboriginal students receive proper supports while at high school in Thunder Bay, including access to substance-abuse treatment and programs. Jurors also called for an end to “runners,” people who buy alcohol for under-age drinkers.

The five jurors also recommended educating students on the UN Declaration of the Rights of a Child and the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. They essentially adopted several of the TRC’s recommendations, among them enhancing aboriginal content in the school curriculum.

Reports on the recommendations should happen annually until all have been implemented or rejected, jurors said.

“The findings are crucial to understanding the underlying issues that our youth are faced with when attending school in urban centres,” said Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day.

Six of the seven youths went to Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School, while the seventh attended the Matawa Learning Centre.

The inquest, which began last October, heard from about 150 witnesses.

“There remains much work for all of us to do to ensure indigenous people are treated fairly and with respect for their culture and traditions,” Eden said.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett welcomed the jury findings.

“This report shines a light on a terrible and preventable tragedy,” Bennett said in a statement.

“We understand and agree that there are large and systemic issues at play which led to these tragic losses of life.”

Ontario’s chief coroner had initially called an inquest into Bushie’s death. Like some of the others, he was found drowned in the McIntyre River in 2007. However, the process ground to a halt in 2008 due in part to a legal challenge related to the lack of aboriginal people on coroner’s juries that went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.

http://thechronicleherald.ca/canada/1376017-jurors-deaths-of-four-aboriginal-youths-undetermined-three-accidental

Ontario Health Minister Announces $2-Million In Aid For Attawapiskat

Attawapiskat-aid-0413

A tattered Canadian flag flies over a building in Attawapiskat, Ont., on November 29, 2011. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The Canadian Press, Apr. 13, 2016

Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins has announced measures to help Attawapiskat cope with a suicide emergency.

Hoskins visited the remote northern Ontario First Nation on Wednesday and met with leaders to discuss the crisis.

The minister says the province will provide up to $2-million for a Youth Regional Co-ordination Unit and will deploy additional health-care workers and support staff in the community.

They include four psychological health workers, up to five nurses, two security staff, one communications officer and one incident manager.

Hoskins says the workers will provide around the clock mental health support, and evening and night nursing clinical support.

On Monday, officials thwarted what they called a suicide pact by 13 young aboriginal people, including a nine-year-old, after they were overheard making plans to kill themselves.

Attawapiskat’s leaders declared a state of emergency on Saturday, citing 11 suicide attempts so far in the month of April and 28 recorded attempts in March “Our government will be working with the community in the coming days to determine other supports and investments that can be made to help address this crisis,” Hoskins said.

“The provincial government, the local Band Council and the community will hold a forum to develop a long-term plan to support the community to ensure the people of Attawapiskat – particularly youth – feel safe, respected and supported.”

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/ontario-health-minister-announces-help-for-attawapiskat/article29626714/