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RCMP video brings home reality in a ‘visceral way’: former TRC chairman

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OTTAWA — A video of a Mountie interrogating a young Indigenous woman disclosing sexual abuse in B.C. foster care drives home in a “visceral way” a reality that Canadians should be shocked by and one that they need to see, former Truth and Reconciliation commissioner Murray Sinclair said Friday.

The 2012 video was released publicly by APTN this week as a result of a court proceeding and has prompted political reaction, including from Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, who called its contents “absolutely abhorrent.”

In the video, the officer can be heard asking her questions, including whether she was “at all turned on … even a little bit” during the abuse she is describing.

The young woman replies that she was not, adding she was “really scared.”

The apparent attitudes and techniques on display in the video were profoundly outdated, offensive and wrong, Goodale added, stressing the RCMP and all police forces must work continuously to conduct themselves appropriately.

In an interview with The Canadian Press in Ottawa, where Manitoba’s first Aboriginal judge is now a senator, Sinclair said Friday that Canadians have been told over many years that this type of treatment continues but he’s not sure they believe it.

Any parent would be very quick to complain to the supervising officers over that interrogation, Sinclair said, noting the young woman was not an accused person and should have been treated more carefully and respectfully.

“I appreciate that there are many out there, perhaps, who say that we could make the point without people seeing the video — but we do make the point without videos like that,” Sinclair said.

“I don’t think people believe us until they see it … That’s what the official RCMP position is, that we don’t mistreat witnesses, particularly sexual-assault victims.”

Canadians want to have faith, confidence and trust in police agencies and officers, Sinclair added.

“When they see that, it should shock them,” he said. “It should cause them to question the integrity of what it is they are being told by those agencies of policing and it should cause them to be more supportive of those who say that police officers need more oversight.”

Policing is expected to be a key theme in the upcoming report by a federal commission on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada. It is scheduled to be released in Gatineau, Que. on June 3.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission heard that the vast majority of Indigenous women who had been sexually victimized in residential schools felt they were not believed if they spoke to police, Sinclair said.

“They were of the view that not only did the officer not believe them but that he — and it was almost always a male — was disrespectful towards them,” he said.

“As a result, I expect that the same kind of evidence would have come out at the hearings of the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls inquiry and so I would not be surprised that they highlight that fact again in their report.”

The video’s release also highlighted the issue of sexual abuse suffered by young people, particularly Indigenous girls, in the foster-care system.

In 2016, B.C.’s then child representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond produced a report documenting that least 109 girls were the victims of sexualized violence while in government foster care and that 74 of them were Indigenous. The case of the teen in the 2012 recording was among them.

On Thursday, she said the video is far from an isolated case, noting that provincial and federal politicians know well there has been “major difficulty” with this issue for some time.

“The heinous way in which this young person was treated, being alone in an interrogation room, being treated as though she was a criminal, not a victim, and also the poor training, the suggestion that somehow a victim of sexualized violence is enjoying the sexualized violence, this is so fundamentally offensive but is a pattern I’ve seen again and again,” she said.

—Follow @kkirkup on Twitter

Kristy Kirkup, The Canadian Press

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Manitoba wants to attract Quebec civil servants worried about clothing law

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Manitoba wants to attract Quebec civil servants

WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government is planning to recruit civil servants from Quebec who are concerned about a new law in the province banning religious symbols at work.

Manitoba has a shortage of bilingual civil servants, Premier Brian Pallister says, and will send letters to Quebec professional organizations, colleges and other entities to invite public-sector workers to move west.

“We think that there may be people in Quebec right now who want to come to a province where we don’t have clothing police, where their freedoms will be respected and their rights will be respected,” Pallister said Thursday.

The Quebec ban on religious symbols in the workplace applies only to some people in the civil service in positions of authority, including judges, police officers, court clerks and public school teachers.

Pallister’s office says the Manitoba recruitment effort will target a range of public workers in areas such as education, health care, social services and agriculture.

Critics say it unfairly targets Muslims, Sikhs and other religious minorities. Quebec Premier Francois Legault has said the law helps ensure secularism in the workplace and is supported by a majority of Quebecers.

Pallister raised his opposition to the law at a meeting of Canada’s premiers in Saskatoon earlier this month, although it was not part of the formal agenda and was not included in the communique issued by the premiers after the meeting.

Pallister said the letter to Quebec organizations will be finalized soon and will be made available publicly.

“I’m not trying to hide the fact that I disagree with Bill 21, and I’m not going to try to hide the fact that we’re going to use the threat of it to serve the needs of the people of Manitoba, and to give opportunity to people who feel at all concerned about that particular bill,” he said.

The Quebec law was a campaign promise by Legault and took effect last month. It is being challenged in court by a national Muslim organization and a civil liberties group.

A Quebec Superior Court judge rejected their application Thursday to suspend the law until the court case can be heard.

Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press


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Appeal for calm as tensions mount in Oka over land transfer to Kanesatake

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Tensions mount in OKA over land transfer to Kanasatake

MONTREAL — There were appeals for calm Thursday amid steadily mounting tension in Oka, Que., over a private developer’s plan to return land to the Mohawks of Kanesatake.

Hundreds packed a church Wednesday night in the community, about 90 kilometres northwest of Montreal, to discuss the return of a pine forest central to the 1990 Oka crisis as part of a federal ecological donation to the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake.

The meeting was convened by Oka Mayor Pascal Quevillon, who said he was caught off guard by land developer Gregoire Gollin’s intention to donate the 60 hectares known as The Pines last month, ensuring its preservation.

Gollin said he acted in the spirit of reconciliation when he signed the agreement, and was also prepared to discuss the sale of an additional 150 hectares he owns to the federal government to transfer to the Mohawk community — nearly half of which he said is adjacent to land owned by Kanesatake.

Quevillon said he is concerned about Oka becoming “surrounded” by the Mohawk territory, and worried about property values. He implored the federal government to take the town’s concerns into consideration.

He said the adjacent Mohawk community has illegal dumps and numerous cannabis and cigarette merchants — things the village of Oka doesn’t want to see expanded.

“My comments are the reality — I would like to tell you otherwise but it’s the reality in Kanesatake,” Quevillon said.

Quevillon stressed he doesn’t want another Oka crisis but said he fears one could be triggered — this time led by Oka residents worried about encroachment.

“We don’t wish it, but if there is another one, it won’t come from the residents of Kanesatake because it’s the residents of Oka and their rights that are impacted,” Quevillon said.

Speaking to reporters in Montreal, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he felt the mayor’s comments about being surrounded “lacked the necessary respect and understanding that is key to true reconciliation.”

“Reconciliation is extremely important for Canada and Canadians, that means overcoming difficult challenges, some loaded with historical significance,” Trudeau said.

“We know that the only way forward is through respectful partnership and dialogue and we certainly hope that all parties in Oka will engage in that respectful and constructive dialogue to allow us to move forward for the benefit of all.”

Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Simon said tensions with Oka’s leadership have worsened in recent months and he has sought intermediaries like the provincial government to help.

“There’s always been an underlying tension,” Simon said. “There’s always been the ghost of 1990 and a mistrust of each other.”

But Simon took particular issue with the idea that the repatriation of lands would result in a drop in properly values, calling the mayor’s remarks racist.

He also called the notion of invoking another Oka crisis inflammatory, given the historical precedent.

“It’s irresponsible of him knowing damn well what happened and how it happened (in 1990) and he’s following in the same footsteps,” Simon said. “He’s knowingly fomenting a crisis.”

“(It’s) dangerous, very dangerous,” Simon added. “My community, we don’t want to live through something like that again … people back home aren’t afraid to fight, but it comes at a heavy price.”

The Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador called Thursday for calm, noting the mayor’s comments are reminiscent of how tensions sparked between the Mohawk nation and Quebec some 29 years ago this summer.

Grand Chief Ghislain Picard said the priority is finding a way to talk.

“I certainly feel confident we’ll come to a resolution,” Picard said. “This obviously lies with the capacity of both Oka and Kanesatake to find a common space to engage in a constructive dialogue.”

Also Thursday, Quebec Indigenous Affairs Minister Sylvie D’Amours vowed to work with all sides, even though land claims are federal jurisdiction.

“In order to preserve social peace and ensure the safety of all, Minister D’Amours has been intensifying exchanges with the federal government, the mayor of Oka and the grand chief of Kanesatake for months,” spokeswoman Nadine Gros-Louis said in an email. “It is essential that the dialogue be open and positive.”

The donated land is part of lands central to the Oka crisis which began July 11, 1990.

Gunfire erupted between provincial police and Aboriginals defending a small stand of pine trees from the expansion of a golf course, resulting in the death of officer Marcel Lemay and sparking a 78-day showdown.

At the end of it, a deal was struck to bring down barricades in exchange for cancelling the expansion.

Simon said his own community held a meeting about the ecological gift and raised concerns about a gift of land that belongs to them. But he said it was a way to cut through red tape and keep the lands free from development, noting that part of the forest in question includes a wetland.

As for other future developments, Simon said Oka would be able to invest in projects that would be of use to both communities, like an arena for example, which could promote reconciliation through sport.

“We just need to find a way to work in harmony with our neighbours and promote more co-operation, peace and equality,” Simon said.

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press



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