Onkwehonwe Week in Review: Week of October 14

Inquest into 7 First Nations Students Deaths Heard in Thunder Bay

Between 2000 and 2011, seven First Nations students, who were attending school in Thunder Bay, Ontario, have died. Last week, an inquest into the circumstances surrounding the deaths have started, with Maryanne Panacheese, mother of one of the students, taking the stand on Thursday.

The first two days of testimony were taken up with pathology and toxicology reports, accompanied by information about the First Nation education authority that runs the school that 6 of the 7 students attended. Maryanne Panacheese testified to her son’s lived experience in Thunder Bay, re-telling stories of how her son was made fun of and how eggs were thrown at him. Thunder Bay’s Coroner refused to accept racism as a circumstance because doing so would, “presuppose that every instance of egg throwing is an act of racism.”

Latest Indigenous woman killed had Application for Protection Order Dismissed

Selena Rose Keeper, 20, has died after a violent assault on Thursday morning in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She was rushed to the hospital in critical condition but was later pronounced dead. Court records show that Keeper had applied for a protection order from her boyfriend, Ray William Everett, in May 2015.

“I fear for my safety because I’m scared of what he will do if he ever seen me in public,” Keeper wrote in the application for protection order. She said Everett was part of a gang and access to weapons. The application was marked dismissed the day after it was filed. It is not clear why the application was dismissed.

Hamilton All Candidates Meeting Gets Heated Over Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

Last week, Hamilton Regional Indian Centre hosted an All Candidates Meeting to help bolster the Aboriginal vote in the upcoming October 19 election. A debate arose when questions surfaced about an inquiry into the Missing and Murdered Indigenous women epidemic in Canada. The answers inspired a square off between Conservative candidate Yonatan Rozenszjn and candidates from the Liberal and New Democratic Parties.

Hamilton Centre NDP incumbent David Christopherson said his party would launch an inquiry. He continued on to warn the audience that, “re-electing the Conservatives means we don’t get our inquiry.” Rozenazjn maintained the Conservative Party stance that an inquiry is not needed because this issue is one of criminality. He echoed the Prime Minister, re-iterating that this issue is not, “high on their radar.” Conservative MP Bob Zimmer recently suggested that “joblessness” and Indigenous women not staying on the reserve,” as root causes of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.

Federal court grants rights to Metis, Non-Status Indians

On Tuesday, the Federal Court ruled that 200, 000 Metis and 400,000 non-status Indians, in Canada, are indeed, “Indians” under the Constitution Act and fall under federal jurisdiction. Melanie Omeniho, president of the Women of the Metis nation, said the ruling means that, “We will no longer be a part of the political football that has us tossed back and forth between the province and the federal government.”

But Sebastian Grammond, an expert historical witness in the case, says that, “the ruling does nothing to settle the issue of how the federal government will exercise its jurisdiction.” Betty Ann Lavallée, the National Chief for the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, said that, “this case was all about fairness, dignity, and self-worth. Until now, non-status aboriginals were treated as “second-class citizens. Today’s decision will mark a new relationship with the government of Canada,” she said. “Let’s be honest. It’s not going to change it immediately. It’s not going to change it tomorrow.”

National Energy Board Approves Enbridge’s Line 9

On September 30, the National Energy Board (NEB) approved Enbridge’s Line 9 project which involves reversing the flow of oil in a 397 mile pipeline. Line 9 is 40+ years old and runs through 360 waterways, including the Grand River. Despite current appeals underway by the Chippewa of the Thames First Nation, the NEB said that the pipeline, which originates in Chemical Valley (Sarnia, Ontario) will begin to transport “light oil.” The National Energy Board has not released an official date as to when the pipeline will be turned on.

Disastrous effects have been felt in Kalamazoo, Michigan where a pipeline similar in age and construction to Line 9, ruptured and spilled 877, 000 gallons of diluted bitumen (dilbit) into the Talmadge Creek, a tributary of the Kalamazoo River. The spill happened in 2010 but parts of the river are still closed due in part to ongoing clean up and the water being unsafe for recreational use. Approximately, 500 000 gallons of dilbit remain at the bottom of the river.

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