Onkwehonwe week in review, December 17 2014

Elderly Aboriginal woman is forcefully taken down by RCMP officer
SMITHERS, BC – A 61-year old Irene Joseph, 61, from the Wet’suwet’en nation, was forcefully knocked down by an RCMP officer on the weekend, as she tried reaching for her walker. She is now filing a formal complaint for the use of excessive force.

Joseph told the Smithers Interior News that the officer had demanded to know her name and the name of the person she’d been talking to inside a store. After refusing to give her own name and demanding to know what she had done wrong, Joseph began to walk away, and that’s when the officer jumped on her and tackled her to the ground. Then he went inside her bag and extracted her ID, according to a report on CBC News.

Smithers RCMP has confirmed there was an incident after an officer was dispatched to the area to investigate an alleged theft. In a statement cited by the CBC, the police suggest Joseph tried resisting and, as a result, was taken down.

But Civil Liberties Association Policy Director Micheal Vonn said, “The statement by the RCMP seems to indicate an attempt to resist a kind of arrest. We cannot understand the legal basis for the arrest in the first place,” CBC reported.

Indigenous police trainer racially profiled and roughed up by police
REGINA – A Regina man who sits on the board of directors of Briarpatch Magazine is also filing a formal complaint for having been wrongfully detained by police who he believes racially profiled him.

Simon Ash-Mocassin was detained near Casino Regina last Wednesday, where he had simply been walking after a Christmas party. He says a cruiser approached him and told him he fit the description of someone who had stolen a television set, according to the CBC report.

He also said that he was treated with excessive force and that he suffered injuries to his face and shoulder as he was forcefully thrown in the back of the car.

Ash-Mocassin, who has ironically been hired by the police department in the past to play the bad guy in training scenarios, said the police quickly let him go after running his name and realizing there were no warrants.

Though not many Aboriginal men file formal complaints, according to Kim Beaudin, a spokesperson of the Aboriginal Affairs Council of Saskatchewan, Ash-Mocassin said he is determined to do so.
Beaudin said these kinds of cases are not rare.

“They call it walking while aboriginal, driving while aboriginal, or riding a bike while aboriginal,” he told CBC news.

Supreme Court hears whether Ecuadorian Indigenous plaintiffs can seek justice in Canada
TORONTO – Seven Justices from the Supreme Court of Canada will deliberate over the next few months on whether a group of more than 30,000 Ecuadorian indigenous plaintiffs can enforce a foreign judgment against Chevron in Ontario’s courts.

Lawyer Alan Lenczner, for the plaintiffs, made an impactful argument as to why the so-called ‘corporate veil,’ which seeks to protect subsidiary companies from their parent’s actions, is worth piercing in the name of justice.

Lenczner also pointed out that Chevron is trying to avoid paying the $9.5 billion judgment brought against them in Ecuadorian courts and upheld by the Supreme Court of Ecuador in 2011, even though they had promised to abide by the decision when they filed 14 affidavits earlier in the decade, in New York courts asking for the trial to occur in Ecuador instead of the United States.

The Toronto-based grassroots group Chevron’s Dirty Hand attended the trial to show support for the indigenous plaintiffs.

Assembly of First Nations’ relevance being questioned
WINNIPEG – As the second election for a national Chief of the Assembly of First Nations wrapped up last Wednesday, December 10, both grassroots indigenous groups and Chiefs are questioning whether the organization is relevant to anyone anymore.

This year, not only were there only three candidates as opposed to the eight in 2012’s election, but more than a quarter of Chiefs did not show up.

In a 10-minute CBC report, three young Aboriginal leaders gave their opinions on the matter.

Wab Kinew, one of the panelists, said that the AFN is not only not relevant to indigenous people, but that it doesn’t provide any service except that of a lobbyist, which it hasn’t even done well over the last five years.

“And if I’m a person living off-reserve, then it doesn’t even claim to speak for me at all,” he said.

However, Wanda Nanibush, a second young Aboriginal leader, said that the problem comes from the fact that there are others negotiating on indigenous people’s behalf, chiselling away at their rights “like a slow legislative death.”

She added that according to what she read on Twitter, many of the Chiefs who didn’t show up did so choosing to negotiate on their own “rather than going through a very large organization that may or may not speak about the issues they have.”

Indigenous people in Guatemala will nominate their own senatorial candidates in 2015 presidential elections
GUATEMALA – More than two million Guatemalan indigenous people have participated in a process initiated in 2005, which has culminated in a Consultative Assembly which will produce senatorial candidates in the 2015 presidential elections.

Four ethnic groups including the Maya, Mestizo, Garifuna and Xinca, will participate in the Consultative Assembly, according to upsidedownworld.org, an online magazine covering activism in Latin America.

Though there have been other projects began by traditional political parties to include the Mayan community, this is the first time that the initiative has been born from the indigenous people themselves.

The initiative is an addition to the wave of strong indigenous political movements sweeping Latin-American nations and finally returning power to the Onkwehon:we peoples there.

The CPO-CRD Convergence will produce its own community leaders to gain seats in congress, who will then help promote their own political vision for the country.

Artist who performed at Darlene Necan’s fundraiser makes Manitoba’s Top 100 Fascinating People
WINNIPEG – Leonard Sumner, who earlier this year performed at a fundraiser for the legal defence of Darlene Necan, has made Metro News’ Ace Burpee’s Top 100 Most Fascinating Manitobans for 2014.

Sumner, an Anishinaabe from Little Saskatchewan First Nation, also won the Winnipeg Arts Council RBC On the Rise Award earlier in the year, and “was also named Best New Artist at the Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Awards,” reads Metro’s report.

Sumner is a singer/songwriter, MC and videographer. At Necan’s fundraiser, he pledged to donate 20% of his proceedings to her cause.

Sumner’s music and lyrics have been hailed across the country including at the Vancouver Island Music Fest and Calgary Folk Fest.

Member of Ontario-based Zhiibaahaasing First Nation becomes first Aboriginal Miss Indiana USA
INDIANA, USA – In another bit of entertainment news, Mekayla Diehl, an Ojibwe from the Zhiibaahaasing First Nation, has made headlines after not only becoming the first Aboriginal Miss Indiana USA, but also for having what people on Twitter are calling a “normal body,” referring to the fact that she isn’t super skinny, according to Indian Country Today Media Network.

Though she was born in the United States, her roots reportedly reach above the Canada-U.S. border, and her mother now lives on the Canadian Reserve.

Diehl has overcome a tumultuous life, including sexual assault, and says she has found success by embracing her native culture and being active with her Ottawa tribe, reports Indian Country.

Support program for sexual assault survivors targets Aboriginal women in Winnipeg
WINNIPEG – Last Friday, Family Services Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross announced that the Manitoba government will invest $150,000 in counselling aimed directly at Winnipeg’s Aboriginal women who are sexual assault survivors. The program will be unfolded over the next three years in collaboration with Ka Ni Kanichihk, a resource centre helping indigenous families in the city’s North End, Klinic, the Health Sciences Centre and Police, according to a CBC article.

The program hopes to be a tool that Aboriginal women will feel comfortable using, so a network of elders along with a trained counsellor will be hired to meet their specific needs. Leslie Spillett, the centre’s executive director, says she also hopes the women will go on to use the other services the centre offers, and that they will feel comfortable enough to report their attacks to the police.

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