Onkwehonwe Week in Review: Week of November 18

By Danielle Boissoneau

Kahnawake Survival School stages walkout in protest of Montreal’s raw sewage dump

The third largest waste facility in the world was shut down for repair work last week.  Because of this work, Montreal deemed it necessary to evacuate several interceptors, which carry raw sewage, and dump over 8 billion litres of waste into the St. Lawrence River.  Thousands of people were upset over the decision but it continued.  Chief Clinton Phillips shares how Kahnawake translates to “by the rapids.  So, right to our name, we belong to the river and the river belongs to us.”  Kahnawake Survival School’s Vice Principal Kanentokon Hemlock wonders, “Why are the people’s voices being ignored?”

Protesters blocked an access ramp onto the Mercier Bridge for two nights, carrying a banner marked, “Save Our River!”  Kahnawake Peacekeepers monitored the demonstration that was attended by a few dozen people.  The symbolic action was meant to highlight how sacred the water is and that the water must be respected.  Students from Kahnawake Survival School held a walkout in protest.  “We are asking for parent and community support for the students in their bid to be heard for the future of environmental issues facing our people.”  According to the City of Montreal, work was completed on Saturday evening after 89 hours of straight dumping.  The City advises the people avoid contacting the water until further notice.


Canada aspires to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) is an international agreement that was drafted by Indigenous peoples and dozens of countries alike.  The UN General Assembly adopted the resolution in 2007, however Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States did not.  At the time, Canada’s Conservative government cited Free, Prior and Informed Consent, one of the clauses in the UNDRIP, as a concern because Indigenous peoples could effectively “veto” any decision regarding resource extraction.   Carolyn Bennett, the newly appointed Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, says that the new Liberal government wants to include Indigenous peoples in “every decision that affects them and their land.”

Bennett goes on to say how the Liberal government intends to “keep the goodwill flowing” and in doing so, she’d like to implement some “wins” that demonstrate reconciliation.  She does note that it will take time but intends to have “immediate conversations” so that Indigenous peoples and Canadians can achieve “mutual results.”  Regarding the conversations around Free, Prior and Informed Consent, Bennett envisions discussions that will point to where development can occur and where it cannot.  Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says, “No relationship is more important to me and to Canada than the one with Indigenous peoples.”


Manitoba men who were switched at birth want answers

On June 19, 1975, at a hospital in Norway House First Nation, Norman Barkman and Luke Monias went home with parents who were not biologically theirs.  Interestingly, these two babies grew up as close friends. Soon enough, rumours began to swirl around their home community of Garden Hill First Nation in Manitoba because they resemble each other’s family members “more than their own.”   Barkman and Monias, now 40 years old, recently had DNA testing done because the rumours were bothering them.  They were shocked at the answer.

Manitoba’s Minister of Aboriginal and Northern Affairs, Eric Robinson, has identified this “grievous error” as a case of stolen identity and has asked the federal government to conduct an investigation.  Barkman, while holding back tears, stated that he just wants to know, “what happened?”  The news was received last Tuesday.  The families and the community are still reeling from the shocking news.  Despite what they’ve learned, the men say that their relationships won’t change with their families.  “He’s still my brother, no matter what,” Monias says.


Man recants his guilty plea after setting homeless Native woman on fire.

Leslie Black, 29, was charged with aggravated sexual assault and attempted murder after setting Marlene Bird, 48, on fire outside of a community centre in downtown St. Albert, Saskatchewan on June 1, 2014.  During the attack, Bird was cut and burned to the extent that she’s had both of her legs amputated and has undergone multiple surgeries for skin grafting.  After two different lawyers have withdrawn themselves as Black’s representation, the judge is asking Black how he would like to proceed with the case.

Black has asked for an expungement after recanting some parts of an agreed statement of facts.  An expungement is when the legal record of an arrest is “sealed.”  The process is also referred to as “setting aside a criminal conviction.”  Names of sexual assault victims aren’t usually released but the publication ban was lifted after arguments from Bird’s family who stated that Bird didn’t want to remain “nameless or voiceless” or that she did not want to be “just another statistic.”  A hearing has been scheduled for March, 2016.


Over 1000 inukshuks built on Hamilton’s Bruce Trail to commemorate MMIW

A group of activists in Hamilton have undertaken an artistic installation on Hamilton’s Bruce Trail. Through this endeavour they hope to engage people in conversation and pressure the federal government to move towards a national inquiry.  Over 1000 inukshuks have been built alongside the trail to remember all of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.  Kristen Villebrun, organizer of the group, shared how the idea came to fruition.  “When we were walking the trail and we noticed 3 or 4 [inukshuks] behind us, we turned around and looked back and the shadow that was cascading back onto the trail looked like people and it just came to mind.”

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister, Carolyn Bennett has stated that she would like to announce “something substantial” by December 6, which is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.  The date is also the anniversary of the massacre of 14 women at Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal, Quebec.  Bennett expects to launch pre-inquiry consultations with families, civil society groups and other stakeholders within the next 6 weeks.  First Nations Chiefs in Ontario have also been raising funds to pay for their own inquiry.  “It really is about mobilizing the people, getting the message out there and creating the dialogue,” says Isadore Day, Ontario’s Regional Chief.

Related Posts