Onkwehonwe Week in Review: Week of December 23 2015

First Nations 10 times more likely to die in house fires

According to a report from 2011, First Nations are 10 times more likely to die in a fire on the reserve compared to the rest of Canada.  The Canadian Press accessed the report through an Access to Information request.  Over half of the reserves in Canada have “little to no fire protection” and rely too heavily on “poorly trained volunteers.”  56% of First Nations have “adequate fire protection” and this is because of how close the First Nation is to a neighboring municipality.

Because most First Nations face a housing crisis, with dilapidated homes or homes not being built to code, the risk becomes more prevalent.  Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson, who represents First Nations in the North says that the, “lack of fire protection would never be tolerated in any other Canadian community.”  A spokesperson for the Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs says that the report, “does not provide a complete picture of fire protection in First Nation communities.”


RCMP Constable with history of violence sued by BC man for brain injuries

RCMP Constable Brian Heideman has a questionable history in his position of authority, including “losing” a bag of cocaine, taking steroids, as well as killing 2 teenagers during a high speed chase in British Columbia.  Despite this pattern of behaviour, Heideman was given the authority to cause more physical and psychological damage to three indigenous men in British Columbia.   Robert Wright, 48 years old, was violently taken down in a jail cell in 2012.  A video shows Wright kneeling on bench, handcuffed, and thrown backwards onto the cement floor by Heideman. Heideman is accused of taking steroids around the same time.

Wright suffers brain damage as a result of the incident and is now unable to take care of himself.  Heideman is being sued by Wright for damages in civil court.  New information about Heideman has been uncovered by J. Scott Stanley, Wright’s lawyer.  Two internal police hearings into claims of excessive force against two other indigenous men are also being heard.  The outcomes will be unknown as information about internal discipline is protected under the Privacy Act, according to the RCMP.  None of the cases against Heideman have resulted in criminal charges.  However, he was suspended 8 days pay, not for Wright’s abuse but for consuming steroids illegally. Heideman continues to work and is stationed in Vernon, British Columbia.


Shoal Lake #40 gets their Freedom Road

Over 100 years ago, Shoal Lake First Nation was severed from the mainland, near Winnipeg, Ontario, in order to create a fresh water supply for the city of Winnipeg.  The people of Shoal Lake live on a man-made island and travel to and from the mainland in a rickety boat. During the winter, residents have died trying to cross the water.  The lacking infrastructure has finally caught the attention of the Liberal government, who now promise to work with all levels of government to build the 30 million dollar road.  Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett says that she has been dubbed the Minister of ReconciliAction and that this project is the, “road to a better future.”

Chief Erwin Redsky was visibly overwhelmed at the press conference because he “didn’t think he’d see the day.”  Last year, the Shoal Lake community was devastated when Conservatives announced funds were allocated for a study rather than funding their Freedom Road.  Shoal Lake #40 has been under the longest boil water advisory in Canadian history.  Bennett called the situation urgent and said that building this road was one of the first steps in reconciliation.  Chief Redsky said, “the land was taken without permission and residents have been living with the consequences ever since.”  With tears coming from his eyes, Redsky went on to say how Canadians must honour the ones lost by “just trying to get home.”


Sterilized against her will: Indigenous women talk survival

In 2008, Melika Popp went to Royal University Hospital (RUH) in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan to deliver a baby and came home with a tubal ligation, that she was assured was a “reversible procedure.”  Popp says she felt, “very targeted.  It was under duress.  I was so hormonal at the time,” in regards to her signed consent for the procedure.  She hopes that by coming forward other women will also come forward and be able to heal.  This violation has Popp exploring legal options.

Arthur Schafer, bio-ethicist and Director of Professional and Applied Ethics at the University of Manitoba has identified systemic racism and continued cultural genocide as the roots of the problem.

“Women cannot give consent if the circumstances are such that the woman can’t easily reflect on it because their hormones are raging or they’re about to face surgery or for whatever reason, then it becomes illegitimate,” Schafer says.  There is a huge issue of accountability that must be examined.

Jackie Mann, Vice President of Integrated Health Service at RUH says that the policies on tubal ligation have changed.  Now women must talk over the procedure with their physicians and complete consent forms before they arrive at the hospital.  It is unclear what the policies were before this.  Questions arise as to whether the previous policy was applied in a racialized way, or if it was not followed at all.  Officials at the Saskatoon Health Region said they apologized.  Popp is adamant when she says, “I want to make it very clear, I am not a victim.  I’m a survivor.”

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