Onkwehonwe Week In Review: Week of October 28, 2015

Kahnawake Mohawks Block Train Tracks

On October 22, 2015, a group known as Kahtihon’tia:kweniyo or Protectors of the St. Lawrence River, blocked CN Rail traffic for over an hour holding to their promise to escalate actions if Montreal’s mayor did not cancel the 8 billion litre raw sewage dump into the St. Lawrence River.  On September 29, Montreal publicly announced their plan and were immediately met with opposition.

The Mayor, the Quebec Environment Minister and Environment Canada was given the deadline of Friday Oct 16, 2015 to respond reasonably to the ‘Notice of Objection’ mailed on Oct 7, 2015 or that further actions would be taken.  CN traffic was halted for over an hour.  Police rented a bus to bring protesters back to their cars but protesters held fast to their plan.  According to the Fisheries Act (1985), it is illegal to dump polluted substances in natural fish habitats.  Federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq issued a project ban until November 3 so that independent scientists may seek viable solutions.


Emails related to Highway of Tears purposely deleted

Transportation Ministry staffer George Gretes is under investigation after Tim Duncan, a former executive assistant to BC’s Minister of Transportation and Highways, wrote a letter exposing the actions of his former boss.  After receiving a Freedom of Information request regarding information related to the Highway of Tears, Duncan said he was told to “triple delete” the emails.  Triple deletion is a systematic way of erasing the data from all computer systems.

According to Duncan, when he hesitated to delete the emails, Gretes grabbed the keyboard and mouse and deleted them himself.  Gretes denied the accusations until presented with forensic evidence.  Mavis Erickson, Sekani Carrier Tribal Councillor insists that there is a cover up going on.  “The government wants the whole story to go away.” 18 women have gone missing or have been murdered on the infamous Highway 16, also known as the Highway of Tears, which is the route that connects Prince George and Prince Rupert in northern British Columbia.  The Information and Privacy Commissioner is conducting an investigation.


Indigenous women in Val d’Or allege sexual violence by police

Over the past two decades, sexual violence at the hands of Quebec’s provincial police has been suffered by Indigenous women from Val d’Or.  Val d’Or is 500 kilometres northwest of Montreal and is located close to several Algonquin communities.  Speaking publicly for the first time, victims shared how officers routinely picked up women who looked intoxicated, drove them out of town and left them to walk home in the cold.

Bianca Moushoun shared how police officers would give her beer, ask for sexual favours, even offering to pay with money and/or cocaine.  Another woman said that when she refused, she was grabbed by the hair, thrown from the car and left on the road.  The women have filed formal complaints and an internal investigation is underway.  50 officers have been questioned but remain on the job.  The investigation is being led by the force’s professional standards directorate.


Anger at Harper fuels high Aboriginal voter turnout

Aboriginal activists who worked to mobilize the First Nations vote say that the turnout was up by 270% in some communities.  They saw it as a direct reaction to the divisive tactics of the Harper government which has implemented Bill C51, a law that criminalizes First Nation activists, cutting funding to aboriginal organizations and weakened environmental protection laws.

Aboriginal voters are a force to be reckoned with.  Chiefs say that this election has awoken a sleeping giant.  A record 10 aboriginal Members of Parliament have been elected in the Liberal cabinet for the next four years.  Trudeau, the next Prime Minister, has promised many things to the aboriginal people of Canada, including an inquiry into the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women epidemic.

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