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‘Valuable life lesson:’ Woman arrested for anti-Indigenous comments apologizes

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THE PAS, Man. — A woman arrested in northern Manitoba for online comments threatening violence against Indigenous people has asked for forgiveness and says she has learned valuable lessons.

Destine Spiller wrote an apology at her final mediation circle Thursday in The Pas before reading it to elders and First Nations leaders. The group held hands, cried and prayed together.

“I uttered the statements out of anger and realized too late that these comments were hurtful,” said Spiller. “I have over and over wished I could take the statements back.”

Spiller and another woman were arrested on suspicion of uttering threats and on public incitement of hatred after the Facebook comments apeared in the summer of 2018.

A Facebook account under Spiller’s name posted photos of a vandalized car in Flin Flon, Man., and proposed a “shoot a Indian day” in retaliation.

Comments under the other woman’s name suggested a “24-hour purge” and “Let’s grab Budweiser and some shot guns.”

The two women were not formally charged. Instead, the province’s Justice Department said the case was referred to the Restorative Justice Centre, which organized mediation circles over the last year between Spiller and Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, a group that represents northern First Nations.

Christian Sinclair, the “onekanew” or leader of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation, said it’s believed to be the first time in Canada that a mediation circle has been used for a non-Indigenous offender.

“We can deal with this business in a way that people come out of it feeling better about themselves, about justice being served in that context,” Sinclair said. “We are all learning and are all human beings at the end of this day and we have to live in this world together.”

It was clear that Spiller had no knowledge of Indigenous people, he added, and the restorative justice was about education rather than retribution.

“(It was) through a First Nations lens as opposed to the European justice system that’s about punitive approaches,” he explained.

“It becomes an opportunity of doing justice in a new way where it truly is restorative. Nobody came out of there feeling punished or ashamed. It was about making everybody a better person going forward.”

The first mediation circle a year ago began with Spiller reading out the Facebook posts to community members.

She also had a year to meet seven conditions based on Cree laws, values and traditions, including writing the apology and an essay on Indigenous issues.

She performed 80 hours of community service at a friendship centre and took an anger management program. She was also required to learn about the history of First Nations in Canada, residential schools, the ’60s Scoop and ongoing issues faced by Indigenous people.

Irene Young, the elder who facilitated the mediation circles, said it was challenging at times but turned out to be successful for everyone.

“With our way of dealing with things, it’s a healing process, right. It’s a personal development,” she said.

The woman arrested with Spiller stopped attending the mediation circles last February. Manitoba Justice officials recently contacted Young about allowing the woman to start over. A decision has not been made.

The department said there were no updates, but prosecutors have two years from the time of the Facebook comments to lay criminal charges.

Spiller, who flew from Alberta to attend the final mediation circle, said she lost her ability to work in her home province of Manitoba. A hair salon in Flin Flon said she couldn’t keep her job there after extensive condemnation of the comments online.

“You can be assured that I have learned a very valuable life lesson and will remember it for the rest of my life,” Spiller said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 14, 2020

— By Kelly Geraldine Malone in Winnipeg

The Canadian Press

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Trudeau caught in middle of clash over energy, environment, Indigenous demands

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OTTAWA — The competing demands of natural resource development, environmental protection and Indigenous reconciliation appear poised for a head-on crash — with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s minority government caught in the middle as Parliament resumes Tuesday.

The NDP is asking House of Commons Speaker Anthony Rota for an emergency debate on anti-pipeline blockades that have shut down swaths of the country’s train system and interrupted traffic on highways and bridges for more than a week.

The blockades are in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose a natural-gas pipeline project that crosses the First Nation’s territory in northern British Columbia.

Trudeau faces a blockade of a different sort — from his own Liberal backbenchers — over another energy project.

Many Liberal MPs are openly campaigning against approval of Teck Resources’ proposed Frontier oilsands mine in Alberta, which they see as antithetical to Trudeau’s pledge to combat climate change.

Cabinet must decide by the end of this month whether to approve the project and risk the wrath of Liberal MPs and voters concerned about climate change, or nix it and risk raising “roiling western alienation to a boiling point,” as Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has warned.

Either issue is politically explosive but the combination makes for something of a perfect storm for Trudeau’s fragile minority.

NDP House leader Peter Julian wrote to Rota on Monday to request that emergency debate on anti-pipeline blockades.

“The prime minister’s refusal to take more substantive and timely action has allowed tensions to rise, put significant pressure on the Canadian economy and threatened jobs across the country,” Julian wrote.

“He has said that no relationship is as important to him as Canada’s relationship with Indigenous Peoples but those words must be backed up by actions,” he added, calling for a “swift and just resolution.”

Trudeau, who was overseas last week trying to drum up support for Canada’s bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council, spent hours Monday holed up with some of his cabinet ministers trying to figure out a way to end the blockades quickly and peacefully. He has said governments in Canada do not order the police to clear out protesters but it was unclear Monday what other action the government might take to end the standoff.

The Conservatives, who’ve called for police enforcement of court injunctions against the protests, have an opposition day on Thursday and may use that opportunity to further pressure the government over its perceived inaction on the blockades, if the issue isn’t resolved by then.

Or they could pressure the government to approve Teck’s Frontier project. Conservative MPs have echoed Kenney’s contention that the project would create thousands of jobs and bolster Alberta’s struggling economy and that rejection would be a blow to national unity.

But many Liberal MPs aren’t buying those arguments.

Toronto MP John McKay says Liberal caucus members are “darn close” to unanimous in their opposition to the Teck mine. 

“My guess is that (Trudeau) will not go against the views of caucus,” he says, adding that he sympathizes with Trudeau’s having to make a “lose-lose” decision.

Some aren’t convinced the project will ever be built, pointing to Teck CEO Don Lindsay’s admission that the mine will only proceed if oil prices substantially increase and the company obtains joint-venture partners.

Nor are they buying Kenney’s portrayal of the project as the sole saviour of Alberta’s economy. They note that there are some 20 other oilsands projects that already have approval and are ready to go but are on ice because they’re not economically viable given low world oil prices.

University of Alberta environmental economist Andrew Leach says some of those other projects could be viable at much lower oil prices than Teck but they are on hold because of production limits imposed by the Alberta government.

“It’s easier for Premier Kenney to be able to say it’s not happening because of the federal regulatory process than for him to say … the provincial government hasn’t given final approval or, in the general case, it’s not happening because of broader economic circumstances that are sort of beyond his control and don’t have an obvious someone else to blame,” Leach says.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 17, 2020.

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press

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Federal government asks court for four more months to amend assisted dying law

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OTTAWA — The federal government is asking for more time to amend the assisted-dying law, acknowledging that it can’t meet a court-imposed deadline to drop a provision that allows only those who are already near death to qualify for medical help to end their lives.

Justice Minister David Lametti filed a motion Monday requesting a four-month extension on the court ruling.

Quebec Superior Court Judge Christine Baudouin ruled last September that it is unconstitutional to limit the right to a medically assisted death to those whose natural death is “reasonably foreseeable.”

She gave the government until March 11 to drop that provision from the law.

The Trudeau government declined to appeal but has not yet introduced the necessary amendments to the law.

It launched public consultations last month, including an online survey that asked whether other hurdles should be added to the law once the foreseeable-death provision is removed,to ensure a balance is maintained between individual rights and protecting vulnerable people from potential abuse.

In a joint statement Monday by Lametti and Health Minister Patty Hajdu, the ministers said the government fully intends to introduce legislation “in the near future” but a four-month extension “would give Parliament time to consider and enact proposed amendments.”

Technically, the court ruling applies only in Quebec.

Without the extension, the ministers noted that the foreseeable death provision would no longer apply in Quebec after March 11 but would remain in force in the rest of the country.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 17, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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february, 2020

sun12jan(jan 12)2:00 pmsun22mar(mar 22)5:00 pmAnne Frank: A History for Today opening at Red Deer MAG(january 12) 2:00 pm - (march 22) 5:00 pm mst Red Deer Museum & Art Gallery Address: 4525 - 47A Avenue, Red Deer

sun02feb(feb 2)7:00 pmsun15mar(mar 15)8:00 pm7:00 pm - (march 15) 8:00 pm Festival Hall, 4214 58 St, Red Deer, AB Event Organized By: Country Pride Dance Club

tue18feb5:30 pm7:30 pmDiabetes Discussion Drop InLearn about Type 2 diabetes5:30 pm - 7:30 pm

thu20feb(feb 20)10:00 amsun23(feb 23)4:00 pmRed Deer RV Show10:00 am - 4:00 pm (23)

tue25feb5:30 pm7:30 pmDiabetes Discussion Drop InLearn about Type 2 diabetes5:30 pm - 7:30 pm

wed26feb7:30 pm11:00 pmCeltic Illusiion7:30 pm - 11:00 pm

thu27feb5:30 pm7:00 pmMonthly Mindfulness Drop-In5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

fri28febsun01mar54th Annual Sport & Outdoor Show4:00 pm - (march 1) 9:00 pm

fri28feb6:00 pm11:00 pmFriday Family DanceFamily Dance6:00 pm - 11:00 pm

fri28feb7:00 pm11:00 pmBattle of the Bands for Crime Prevention7:00 pm - 11:00 pm Burgundy's Food & Stage, 5008 48 ST Event Organized By: The Central Alberta Crime Prevention Centre

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