First Nations Activists from Winnipeg to Blockade TransCanada Highway on Friday

Blockade at Ontario and Manitoba border. Photo: Red Power Media

Red Power Media | June 29, 2017

For immediate release

On, June 30th, 2017, First Nations activists from Winnipeg will be shutting down a portion of the TransCanada Highway to protest the Canadian government and bring awareness to the youth suicide crisis in First Nations communities as well to the deaths of several indigenous youth in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Members of the American Indian Movement, Urban Warrior Alliance and Idle No More will be taking part in a pipe ceremony for youth, followed by a blockade of the highway.

Representatives from groups taking part are demanding the Liberal government increase the availability of mental health services on reserves and provide culturally appropriate resources for youth including in Manitoba. Inadequate health-care services, the loss of cultural identity and lack of proper housing are key factors contributing to the high rates of suicide and mental illness among indigenous peoples. Recently in Ontario, three 12 year old girls died by suicide at Wapekeka First Nation, located about 600 kilometres north of Thunder Bay. The latest one happened June 13th when a pre-teen girl hung herself.

The deaths of several Indigenous youth in Thunder Bay have also raised concerns about racism against Indigenous people and inadequate police investigations. First Nations leaders have expressed their lack of faith in Thunder Bay police. The York Regional Police service have been requested to investigate the deaths of Josiah Begg, 14, and Tammy Keeash, 17, found dead in McIntyre River in May. Ten indigenous people have been found dead in Thunder Bay, since 2000. Seven were First Nations students who died between 2000 and 2011 while attending high school in the Thunder Bay, hundreds of kilometres away from their remote communities where access to education is limited. Organizers of Fridays protest would like to see improvement in First Nations education and increase in funding for schooling on reserves.

Activists are requesting the RCMP respect their right to protest. They plan to start their demonstration around 12 pm just east of Winnipeg near Deacon’s corner. A press conference will also take place at that time. Activists are planning to hand out information to motorists and collect signatures on a petition calling for immediate action from the minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, Carolyn Bennet, as well as the Minister of Health Jane Philpott.

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

[SOURCE]

Family, Friends of Azraya Ackabee-Kokopenace Continue Push For Inquest A Year After Her Death

Family, friends and community members walked through Kenora in memory of Azraya Ackabee-Kokopenace on Monday, April 17, which marked a year since the 14-year-old Grassy Narrows First Nation teenager’s body was found across the street from the Lake of the Woods District Hospital after a two-day search. The Winnipeg-based community group Urban Warrior Alliance and members of the Winnipeg Bear Clan Patrol marched in support. Kathleen Charlebois/Daily Miner and News

By Kathleen Charlebois | Miner and News, April 18, 2017

Braeden Kokopenace held up a picture of his twin sister emblazoned with the words “We will not forget” and “#Justice4Azraya” for all to see during a march in her memory.

He and Azraya Ackabee-Kokopenace’s family, friends and community members from Grassy Narrows First Nation walked from Knox United Church to the wooded site across from the Lake of the Woods District Hospital where Azraya’s body was found after a two-day search a year ago on April 17. She disappeared from the hospital after police brought her there.  Friends, family and provincial representatives continue to press for inquest into her death.

Braeden said Azraya was “a sweet girl” who he loved and cared for. “I want justice for my sister,” he said during a press conference at the vigil. “She didn’t deserve to be treated like that by police.”

He referred to a video that showed a Kenora OPP officer in an altercation with Azraya a few weeks before her death, and he said he believes the incident impacted her badly. “I think it put fear into our community,” he said.

Braeden also said both youth and elders have been mourning for her in the year since her death. “Justice for my sister would mean answers about what happened to her and improving the system so less suicides take place,” he said.

Azraya’s aunt Lorenda Kokopenace said her niece’s death has been difficult to bear and the system “really failed all of them.”

She said she feels like the Anishinaabe Abinoojii Family Services, who had Azraya in their custody, is another kind of residential school system.

“That stuff needs to stop, and we need to all work together and quit sending our kids away,” Lorenda said. “She wanted to come home and they ignored that.”
Irwin Elman, the provincial advocate for children and youth in Ontario, said he has written in the past to the regional supervising coroner, Dr. Michael Wilson, to ask for an inquest.

Wilson said last October that the involvement of Child Protective Services adds “additional elements” to his investigation and requires more time, although Kenora Rainy-River MPP Sarah Campbell and Azraya’s family say an inquest is legally required as Azraya was in police custody when she died.

“A coroner’s inquest will investigate and explain circumstances around Azraya’s death and will provide us with the first step that we need to go forward so we can prevent the further loss of Indigenous youth,” Campbell said.

After walking through Kenora, marchers visited the memorial site across from the hospital, where they lit candles and put down tobacco.

Azraya’s friend Kyra Fobister shared that she often visits her friend’s grave in her home community and talks and plays songs they both like.

“We as a whole deserve to know the truth,” she said. “It may not bring her back but it’s our only way to cope with everyday life without her.”

http://www.kenoradailyminerandnews.com/2017/04/18/family-friends-of-azraya-ackabee-kokopenace-continue-push-for-inquest-a-year-after-her-death

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Indigenous Groups Take Stand Against Drug Dealing and Violence at Portage Place Mall

Police presence as Indigenous activists gathered at the back of Portage Place Mall. Photo: Red Power Media

Indigenous activists want to deter drug dealing at downtown mall

A group of Indigenous activists are making their presence known around Winnipeg’s Portage Place Mall to deter drug activity.

Members of the Urban Warrior Alliance and Crazy Indians Brotherhood have been congregating near the back entrance of the shopping Centre since mid-week.

The area in back of the mall is a well-known drug dealing site for pills and other narcotics.

Both groups have been occupying space where the drug dealers hang out and peacefully confronting those involved with the drug activity.

Activists say there is too much violence happening in and around the mall because of the drugs.

According to Vin Clarke, a member of the Urban Warrior Alliance “The women and the children don’t feel safe. The elders don’t feel safe walking through the back [of the mall] so we decided we’re going to shut all this down.”

Red Power Media was there when the groups first gathered on Thursday and spoke with organizers who said they planned to remain at the mall for the weekend. They are also planning a prayer walk on Sunday starting noon at the back of the shopping centre.

More than a dozen people rallied behind the mall on Saturday afternoon, some with drums, while warriors in camo waved Unity flags.

Denny Wood, an activist with the Alliance, said they are trying to send a message to drug dealers.

Wood told CBC News they have talked to dealers who try to sell pills like Tylenol 3 and Xanax. He said once activists have the pills in their hands they confiscate them. “We dump it right in front of them.”

Vivian Ketchum, a frequent shopper of the mall, found a drug baggie, a needle and a pill on the ground just steps outside of the back steps of the mall while a CBC camera was rolling.

The action by the groups started after an elder from the indigenous community had her cell phone stolen. The woman told Red Power Media she was recording an incident at the back entrance involving drug dealers with a gun when someone else took her phone to get rid of the evidence.

Tatty, who is with the Crazy Indians Brotherhood, said people have been robbed at gunpoint behind the Portage mall, including his aunt. She was robbed at gunpoint last week and had her purse taken.

“They wanted money to get more drugs,” he said.

Security for the Portage Place Shopping Centre refused to make a comment to Red Power Media about the allegations. The Winnipeg Police have so far also refused to make a statement about the activists presence at the mall.

In a video recorded by Red Power Media, members of the urban warrior alliance dump pills in a puddle and then crush them.

By Black Powder, RPM Staff

‘We Want The Violence to Stop’: Dozens Gather at Vigil for Jeanenne Fontaine

Lana Fontaine sat on a stool outside her largely burned-down home on Saturday evening at a vigil for her daughter, Jeanenne Fontaine, who died on Wednesday after being taken off life-support. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

Fontaine, 29, and Shania Chartrand, 21, were both shot, killed in Winnipeg this week

CBC News Posted: Mar 18, 2017

When Kimberley Kostiuk thinks about the two young Indigenous women who were shot in Winnipeg within 48 hours of each other, she is afraid for her own daughters.

“I have two young daughters that are that age. I worry for them all the time. You just don’t know … what’s going to be next. Two young women shot and killed in one week,” she said.

Shania Chartrand, 21, was shot late last Sunday night on the 200 block of Spence Street.

On Tuesday, Jeanenne Fontaine, 29, was found in her home after she was shot in the back of the head, according to her family, and the house was set on fire. She was rushed to hospital but died on Wednesday morning, after being taken off life-support.

A vigil for Fontaine took place on Saturday at 7 p.m. outside her home on the 400 block of Aberdeen Avenue.

“The whole community is sad. We are all sad. We are very scared,” Kostiuk said.

“We want the violence to stop. It’s enough, we are losing too many of our young women too soon. This shouldn’t be happening.”

Mourners came forward to offer Lana Fontaine condolences throughout the evening. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

Fontaine was the cousin of Tina Fontaine, the 15-year-old girl whose death sparked public outrage and calls for a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

Sandy Banman was one of around 50 people who attended the Saturday evening vigil. Banman hadn’t known Fontaine or Chartrand, but came to support the families and community.

“It just seems like something has shifted in the last few years, where the crime [in the North End] seems to be getting extremely … violent,” she said. “It’s just absolutely shocking what’s going on here this week in the city, with Shania’s loss as well as Jen’s loss.”

A member of Winnipeg’s Urban Warrior Alliance, Banman said she’s been to too many vigils in the past. She wants to see change.

Sandy Banman

Sandy Banman, a member of the Urban Warrior Alliance, said she wants to see more accessible detox programs for men, women and families in Winnipeg. (CBC)

“We just keep saying over and over, ‘This has got to stop,’ every vigil I do,” she said. “We do these vigils because the community needs to heal as well as families. This violence has to end. It has to stop.”

Banman said she wanted to see more accessible detox programs for men, women and families.

“We need to be healing families so this kind of crime and violence will end,” she said.

‘They are human beings’

Kostiuk is a member of Drag the Red, an organization that started searching the Red River for bodies after Tina Fontaine was found there.

Kostiuk joined the group in order to heal and to help others after her 16-year-old daughter’s death in 2000.

While Fontaine struggled with drug use and had a criminal record, Kostiuk said she was also a mother and sister.

“You hear a lot of negativity also about these people but people don’t know them,” she said.

“They are human beings. They are women. They are our women. They are mothers. They are sisters. They are grandmas. They don’t deserve this. Nobody does.”

Kimberley Kostiuk says the violence needs to stop after two young Indigenous women were shot in Winnipeg within 48 hours of each other. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

The vigil was intended to give the community an opportunity to mourn Fontaine and Chartrand and “remember the good that they had in them,” Kostiuk said. But they are becoming too frequent for the Fontaine family, she added.

“That poor family, I can’t imagine what her mother is going through right now,” Kostiuk said, adding the little cousins have lost too many family members.

“They’ve been to so many vigils already. They shouldn’t even have to think of this at a young age.”

[SOURCE]

Warriors Bring Message Of Hope To Bloodvein Youth After Truck Rollover Kills Teens

The urban warrior alliance pose for a photo with community members from Bloodvein.

The urban warrior alliance pose for a photo with kids and youth from Bloodvein.

By Red Power Media, Staff  | Posted: Aug 8/16, Updated Aug 9/16

After a vehicle rollover outside a Manitoba reserve took the lives of two teenage girls and left three other teens seriously injured, a group of indigenous men and youth from the urban warrior alliance in Winnipeg traveled to the community to pay their respects.

The warriors arrived at Bloodvein First Nation on Thursday with drums and flags in hand to show their support and met with members of the community including relatives and youth affected by the tragedy.

Photo: Red Power Media

Members of the urban warrior alliance speak with youth from Bloodvein. Photo: Red Power Media

During their visit to the reserve, —flooded by addiction problems and poverty— the men spoke with youth; some about their own personal experiences with addiction and to let them know there is hope.

“I think the youth have turned to alcohol and drugs because they’re missing something in their lives, it’s our culture that’s missing, the ceremonies and their connection to the land. It would give the children purpose and hope again” said Vin Clarke, a peacekeeper for the warrior alliance and former addictions worker.

While inadequate policing may be a contributing factor, Bloodvein is a dry reserve where youth can easily obtain alcohol from bootleggers.

The urban warrior alliance and youth from Bloodvein First Nation

The urban warrior alliance and youth from Bloodvein First Nation

The group also took time to put smiles on the faces of kids from the community as they gathered at the arena to play games and sports with them.

Members of the urban warrior alliance play floor hockey with kids from Bloodvein First Nation.

Members of the urban warrior alliance play floor hockey with kids from Bloodvein.

Many of the kids experienced their own culture for the first time, through traditional teachings, drums and singing with members of the warrior alliance.

Video: Warriors and Kids, Eagle song in Bloodvein

Media reports indicated that on July 30th, nine youth —eight girls and one boy— were riding in both the cab and the box of a truck that lost control and rolled three times. Alcohol and speed are considered factors in the accident.

Blossom Scott, 13, and Abwii Kennedy, 14, died in the crash.

Photo: Red Power Media

Members of the urban warrior alliance at the RCMP detachment take a look at the truck involved in rollover outside of Bloodvein. Photo: Red Power Media.

Truck involved in rollover at the RCMP detachment in Bloodvein. Photo: Red Power Media.

Truck involved in rollover at the RCMP detachment in Bloodvein. Photo: Red Power Media.

Bloodvein, a community of about 1,000 people, was reportedly in shock following the deaths.

Local RCMP are reporting that the vehicle had been taken without the consent of its owner and an investigation into the accident is ongoing.

Community members and relatives told Red Power Media that there’s a lot of anger and questions about why teens riding around in a stolen vehicle couldn’t have been stopped earlier by the RCMP?

All nine kids involved in the rollover were under the age of 16.

IMG_4496

Members of the urban warrior alliance on walk around the Bloodvein reserve. Photo: Red Power Media.

Bloodvein First Nation is located about 210 kilometres north of Winnipeg.

Activists Call For Inquest Into Death Of Winnipeg Remand Centre Inmate

Errol Green with his son Darien. Green was the father of three and his wife, Rochelle Pranteau, is expecting their fourth in the fall. (Courtesy of Rochelle Pranteau)

Errol Green with his son Darien. Green was the father of three and his wife, Rochelle Pranteau, is expecting their fourth in the fall. (Courtesy of Rochelle Pranteau)

Urban Warrior Alliance wants WRC to review protocols around access to medication for people in custody

May 12, 2016

Community activists in Winnipeg are calling for an inquest into the death of Errol Green, a 26-year-old father of three, after he was detained in the Winnipeg Remand Centre (WRC) for three days without his epilepsy medication.

“I can just envision what he was going through. I was sick in jail myself, years ago, and it was the same. Neglect in jail,” said Harrison Friesen-Powder, a member of Urban Warrior Alliance, a grassroots activist group in Winnipeg.

Friesen-Powder said he saw first hand the difficulty in accessing medical help while in custody at the WRC. A family member who is currently incarcerated was also denied prescription medicine for a diagnosed mental illness, he said.

Guys will wait for days to see a doctor– Harrison Friesen-Powder

“Normally you go into the jail, you go to intake, they ask you medical questions. Then you have to request forms to ask to see a doctor, to get your medication and then that takes time whether it’s 24, 48, 72 hours longer. Guys will wait for days to see a doctor,” said Friesen-Powder.

Stories of mistreatment and neglect are common within correctional systems, according to Friesen-Powder, who said he hears those types of stories all the time. While some of the mistreatment is related to race, the denial of medication is a systemic problem, he said.

“The issue is there’s a gap or something not working in their system as far as how they’re handling inmates. Whether it’s physical illness or mental illness, it all goes back down to the medication and the treatment of inmates in general,” said Friesen-Powder.

The Winnipeg Remand Centre has not provided a spokesperson on its protocols surrounding inmate access to medication despite requests from CBC.

Errol Green with his daughters, Precious (5) and Saige (7). (Courtesy of Rochelle Pranteau)

Errol Green with his daughters, Precious (5) and Saige (7). (Courtesy of Rochelle Pranteau)

A rally for Errol Green in front of the Winnipeg Remand Centre is planned for Friday at 1 p.m. Through the rally, Urban Warrior Alliance wants to bring awareness to the mistreatment of inmates and show support for Green’s family, said Friesen-Powder.

[SOURCE]

Indigenous Activists Confront Unicity Taxi Supervisors

Urban Warrior Alliance members enter the Unicity Taxi offices on Hargrave Street. Calvin Clarke (right) says supervisors addressed their concerns, but workers in the office were yelling racist comments at them. (Courtesy Red Power Media)

Urban Warrior Alliance members enter the Unicity Taxi offices on Hargrave Street. Calvin Clarke (right) says supervisors addressed their concerns, but workers in the office were yelling racist comments at them. (Courtesy Red Power Media)

Cab companies taking complaints from indigenous community seriously, said Unicity Taxi’s general manager

Some indigenous activists in Winnipeg say the time for peaceful protest is over when it comes to standing up to the city’s taxicab companies.

On Friday, four members of the Urban Warrior Alliance entered the Unicity Taxi office on Hargrave Street in camouflage pants, jackets, bandanas and masks.

“When we showed up that way, I think we threw a scare into them, which is why we wear our masks and our camo sometimes,” said Calvin Clarke, a member of Urban Warrior Alliance. The small community activist group participates in blockades, vigils and marches for missing and murdered indigenous women.

“We need to do that to shake everything up, let people know, you know, ‘wow, these people don’t mess around,'” said Clarke.

Police were called to the scene but no arrests were made.

Urban Warrior Alliance members speak to Winnipeg Police Service officers after entering Unicity Taxi offices in protest. (Courtesy Red Power Media)

Urban Warrior Alliance members speak to Winnipeg Police Service officers after entering Unicity Taxi offices in protest. (Courtesy Red Power Media)

“To be honest, they did nothing violent,” said Unicity’s general manager, Sunny Dhir. “They just came here to talk, but I explained to them, there’s a proper way we can talk because there is a girl working here, too, maybe they’re scared.”

Dhir told them that complaints involving criminal offences should be taken up with the Taxicab Board and the Winnipeg Police Service.

Winnipeg woman files complaint, says cabbie asked her for sex.

In the meantime, the driver in question is still working. Dhir said he would only be suspended if warranted by the police investigation.

Company says complaints against drivers are few

Despite mounting concerns from the indigenous community, including a call to action from the Southern Chiefs’ Organization, Dhir said complaints against drivers are few.

“Maybe there are a few girls that are not complaining yet, but on the other hand…there’s a complaint [from] the drivers, too — drivers getting robbed, not getting paid — we have to consider both the things equally.”

Clarke said the treatment of indigenous people by cab drivers goes far beyond a few complaints, and was evident by the response from some Unicity Taxi workers on Friday night.

They were getting very upset and swearing at us — some of the workers in there were really belligerent,” said Clarke.

Clarke and other members of Urban Warrior Alliance are planning another protest at the next meeting of the Manitoba Taxicab Board.

CBC News, Posted: Mar 01, 2016

[SOURCE]

 

 

Indigenous Activists Blockade Border For Inquiry Into Missing, Murdered Women

Blockade at Ontario and Manitoba border. Photo: Red Power Media

Vehicles were backed up for miles as activists blockaded the Ontario and Manitoba border. Photo: Red Power Media

By Red Power Media, Staff

Indigenous activists from Winnipeg had warned media that they planned to protest at the border with a blockade when the latest RCMP report was released.

Indigenous women continue to be most frequently killed by men they know, the RCMP said Friday as it released updated findings on missing and murdered indigenous women.

Another 32 Indigenous women have been murdered and 11 more have disappeared since the RCMP last reported on the issue.

Video: Group Blocks Motorists Who Refuse MMIW Flyer

In response activists set up a blockade and put a chokehold on the Trans-Canada Highway at the Ontario and Manitoba border. Then handed out 1,181 informational flyers ― the number of Indigenous women missing or murdered between 1980 and 2012 according to last year’s RCMP report.

They also informed the public of the violence taking place in their communities and the need for a national inquiry.

The Urban Warrior Alliance Blocks Semi Trucks at the Ontario and Manitoba border for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Red Power Media

An activist from the Urban Warrior Alliance blocks a semi truck at the Ontario and Manitoba border. Photo: Red Power Media.

“First Nations do not appreciate the way the RCMP is handling this. Not at all. We have no respect for it at all,” said one organizer.

“We want a national inquiry. We want an inquiry into what’s happening in our communities, what’s happening not just with our women, but all of our community.”

Many have long been calling for an inquiry.

However, the Harper government has refused saying it would rather focus on preventing these cases in the first place.

@Ward1

The protest was predominantly peaceful, minus some racist comments fueling the passion of the protesters.

Each time a driver didn’t accept a flyer, the group rallied in front of the vehicle, then shut down both lanes of the highway for 10 to 15 minutes not allowing anyone through until the flyer was taken.

Both the OPP and RCMP were at the border to manage the slow stream of vehicles.

The OPP reported that the protesters stayed on the highway until they had handed out all of their flyers.

Members from the Urban Warrior Alliance in Winnipeg who organized the protest ended it at about 4 pm.

Winnipeg Protesters #Shutdown Portage

Protestors shut down Portage Avenue westbound at St. Charles Street including Sandy Banman (right) on Friday, Feb. 13, 2015.

Protestors shut down Portage Avenue westbound at St. Charles Street including Sandy Banman (right) on Friday, Feb. 13, 2015.

BY

Sandy Banman understands the frustration of the drivers that she and a small group of protesters inconvenienced Friday with their blockade on Portage Avenue near the Perimeter Highway.

But those drivers need to understand where she’s coming from as well.

“We’re asking them just to stop for a few minutes and think and reflect on how we feel to have all of these issues and (what it’s like to) have a nation that’s broken and suffering,” said Banman, one of 10 protestors who — despite the bitter cold — took part in the protest as part of the nationwide #ShutDownCanada series of First Nations protests and blockades. “How it feels to bury your child and how it feels to bury your friends and family members and have people in jail and have all of these kinds of conditions going on.

“If you just stop for a while and think about that. Your inconvenience of 20 or 30 minutes does not compare to this pain our people are suffering.”

The protest shut down the westbound lane of Portage at St. Charles Street, with protestors holding signs blasting Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s apparent indifference to the plight of First Nations peoples and calling for a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women.

“We want to bring attention to our missing and murdered indigenous women as well as our children and our missing and murdered men,” said Banman, who knows four missing or murdered women and whose 31-year-old son Carl David Banman went missing in May 2011 before his dead body was found near Morden three weeks later.

In addition to the issue of the missing and murdered, Banman said the protest was intended to bring attention to numerous other concerns facing indigenous people such as poverty and the prison and child and family services systems.

“We’re here to raise awareness about (those issues) and to tell Mr. Harper that the system that is in place is not working and we need a national inquiry into missing and murdered women,” said Banman. “We need to find out how these systemic issues are affecting so many people. Things need to change completely so that we can have a positive and happy lifestyle like the rest of Canadians.”

Winnipeg police closed off traffic on Portage all the way up to Buchanan Boulevard from the 11 a.m. start of the protest until about 3:15 p.m.

Similar protests were held in Toronto and Vancouver as well as smaller centres across the country. It was the biggest national First Nations protest since the Idle No More demonstrations of 2012 and 2013.