Justice (25-42): Current Problems

Systemic Racism


November 24, 2022


SK

‘We’re survivors’: Quewezance sisters reunite at Saskatchewan court

Odelia and Nerissa Quewezance hug outside a Yorkton courthouse. The sisters haven’t met in person since 2004. Photo: Brent McGillvray/APTN. 

APTN News: Despite the shackles on her wrists and ankles, Nerissa Quewezance leaned into her older sister’s arms Thursday.

It was their first hug in 18 years.

“My sister,” Odelia Quewezance said soothingly as she embraced Nerissa in front of the Yorkton, Sask., courthouse.

The lone RCMP officer who transported Nerissa, 48, to Yorkton from custody in Saskatoon looked on with a smile. Nerissa arrived in Saskatchewan from her women’s prison in B.C. on Wednesday.

The Saulteaux sisters, who were convicted of killing a white Saskatchewan farmer in the same courthouse 30 years ago, hadn’t met in person since their father’s funeral in 2004.

They were reunited to attend a court hearing related to a possible miscarriage of justice in their case.

“I’m feeling a little nervous and emotional,” said Odelia, 50, who is on day parole. “But I’m ready today.”

publication ban
Nerissa, left, and Odelia Quewezance outside the Yorkton courthouse. Photo: Holly Moore/APTN.

The two walked into the King’s Bench courtroom wearing traditional First Nations ribbon skirts. They were seated side by side in the jury box next to the female Mountie.

Justice Donald Layh was originally scheduled to hear their application for bail pending a federal review of their second-degree murder convictions of 1994. Instead, he heard arguments about what the media should be allowed to report after the Crown attorney requested a discretionary publication ban on the evidence to be presented at the new bail hearing on Jan. 17-18.

Listening from the front row of the courtroom was the granddaughter of murder victim Anthony Joseph Dolff, who was brutally beaten and stabbed to death in his Kamsack-area home in 1993.

The Quewezance sisters were at Dolff’s farmhouse the night of the murder with their cousin, Jason Keshane, who said he was the one who killed Dolff.

Keshane confessed to the crime at the sisters’ 1994 trial but the members of Keeseekoose First Nation were still convicted by a jury and sentenced to life in prison with parole a possibility after 10 years. They weren’t automatically released from prison after Keshane was convicted and sentenced to five years.

Fast-forward to November 2020 and the television documentary A Life Sentence airs on APTN Investigates. The episode shows Keshane confessing to Dolff’s killing again – this time on camera.

The report raises questions about a possible wrongful conviction and the participation of Innocence Canada.

“Their case is an important part of truth and reconciliation relevant to our country,” the sisters’ lawyer, James Lockyer, told Layh Thursday.

“That’s a human story that the media should be able to report.”

Lockyer, who co-founded the non-profit organization Innocence Canada, said his clients opposed the publication ban.

The federal Justice Department’s Criminal Conviction Review Board (CCRB) has already said – following a preliminary review – that there may be grounds for a possible miscarriage of justice in the Quewezance case.

But Crown attorney Kelly Kaip asked to keep the evidence she presents at the bail hearing under wraps.

Layh heard this was an unusual request from the Crown. Typically, it is the defence that seeks a publication ban.

He reserved his decision until next week.

publication ban
The Quewezance sisters walked into court wearing ribbon skirts. Nerissa was still shackled at the wrists and ankles. Photo: Kathleen Martens/APTN.

In the meantime, the judge imposed “a temporary interim publication ban” on written materials submitted for the bail hearing. The documents, which are usually public, were denied to APTN News when requested in October.

As Nerissa stroked Odelia’s long, dark hair in the jury box, Lockyer said the Crown’s request seemed “patronizing.”

The lawyer, who has overturned numerous wrongful convictions, suggested Kaip didn’t like the media coverage so far and how it seemed “slanted in favour of” the Quewezance sisters.

“The media is an important tool in many cases of wrongful conviction,” Lockyer said.

He noted the Crown was opposed to his clients being released on bail and the federal review of their case.

But Kaip explained she was trying to protect the integrity of a new trial if the review called for one.

The CCRB can order a new trial, refer the case to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal or quash the convictions.

The “publicity juggernaut so far has focused on the claims of Nerissa and Odelia,” said Kaip, who had to prove to the court that a publication ban and sealing order were necessary.

“But publicizing the evidence now could taint a potential jury pool and the possibility of a fair trial.”

Media lawyers for APTN News and CBC News told court the Crown’s position was confusing. They said her argument didn’t warrant banning the media from reporting on a case it had been following closely since 2020.

“Everybody out there is talking about this case,” said APTN lawyer Bob Sokalski, who presented his argument via phone. “APTN opposes all bans.”

The Canadian Association of Journalists, an advocacy group for journalists and their reporting, released a statement Wednesday calling on the province of Saskatchewan and its minister of justice to withdraw the application for a publication ban.

“In Canada, open courts and freedom of the press are foundational values that are embedded in our legal and cultural understanding of how effective systems should work,” said president Brent Jolly.

“Imposing restrictions that institute a ‘proverbial cone of silence’ prevents the public from properly scrutinizing the merits of the case.”

‘If there’s an advantage to have the media present, I think that they should be allowed,’ says Keeseekoose First Nation Chief Lee Kitchemonia. Photo: Brent McGillvray/APTN.

Supporters of the sisters agreed. An open court is important when it comes to recording how Indigenous peoples are treated, said Keeseekoose Chief Lee Kitchemonia.

“A lot of times First Nations people, they tend to get a raw deal when it comes to a lot of the justice in Saskatchewan, and I think that has to change,” he said in an interview outside court.

“If there’s an advantage to have the media present, I think that they should be allowed.”

Even Nerissa, who spoke to reporters during a court break alongside her sister, asked First Nations organizations to support their court fight.

“We’re survivors, Odelia and I. (But) we need help,” she said.

Meanwhile, in Regina, two hours southwest of Yorkton, Saskatchewan’s justice minister was asked in the legislature whether the province would cooperate with federal officials during the review of the Quewezance case.

Bronwyn Eyre didn’t answer the question from NDP-MLA Nicole Sarauer (Regina Douglas Park), the Opposition critic for justice.

“We are aware that there’s a federal review currently underway in this case, Mr. Speaker,” Eyre said during Question Period, “and we must let that take its course.

“Of course, these convictions were upheld at the (Saskatchewan) Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court (of Canada) decided not to hear the case, and it would be inappropriate for me, Mr. Speaker, to comment further.”


December 2, 2022


MB

Alleged Winnipeg serial killer Jeremy Skibicki’s case will go straight to trial, without preliminary hearing

Jeremy Skibicki is now facing four first-degree murder charges in connection with the deaths of four women: Rebecca Contois, Morgan Beatrice Harris, Marcedes Myran and a fourth woman who has not been identified. (Jeremy Skibicki/Facebook)

NationTalk: CBC: Treaty One Territory, Manitoba – The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) and Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Regional Office is saddened by the announcement that accused serial killer Jeremy Skibicki is being charged for the murder of two more First Nations women and one yet unidentified woman.

In May 2022, the body of Rebecca Contois was discovered in Winnipeg’s East End, and police arrested Jeremy Skibicki, a 35-year-old white male, after they investigated his home. Skibicki is suspected of having more victims and described himself as an “official member of ‘Holy Europe,’” which is a small faction of a broader far-right movement group. Earlier this year, a Facebook page linked to Skibicki, which dated before his arrest, stated violent sentiments and shared antisemitic, misogynistic, and white supremacist material.

“On behalf of the AMC, we send our deepest condolence to the families who have lost their loved ones,” said Grand Chief Cathy Merrick. “Canada, the Province of Manitoba, and the Winnipeg Police Services must implement more measures to protect First Nations women from the murderers who target them. We must work together to honour the MMIWG’s 231 Calls to Justice and act immediately.”

As of May 1st, 2022, Morgan Beatrice Harris, 39, of Long Plain First Nation, was last seen in Winnipeg’s North End near Main Street and Henry Avenue. Police suspect Skibicki in her murder along with the murder of 26-year-old Marcedes Myran, who is also from Long Plain First Nation. Police believe the fourth unidentified victim of Skibicki, is a young Indigenous woman in her 20s.

“First Nations women are failed so outrageously. As a partner at N’Dinawemak, we continue to witness the vulnerability of our unsheltered women,” said Cora Morgan, First Nations Family Advocate. “They feel their voices do not matter, or their lives do not matter. Our women deserve more. We all have the right to live on Turtle Island without fear of losing our lives to violence. We will continue to support impacted families and survivors of MMIWG by acting as a resource to curb this crisis. However, Canada continues to drag its feet, allowing more lives to be lost.”

“As life-givers, women are sacred and deserve to be treated with honour and respect. This violence needs to stop, and more than ever, we need to protect our women. First Nations lives matter, and we deserve respect, safety from violence, and justice.” said AFN Manitoba Regional Chief Cindy Woodhouse.

If you need support or someone to talk to regarding this manner, please call the national, independent toll-free, 24/7 support line at 1-844-413-6649 to speak to a counsellor. The service is available in multiple languages, including English, Anishnaabemowin, Cree, Inuktitut, and French.

For more information, please contact:
Communications Team
Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs
Email:  media@manitobachiefs.com


December 5, 2022


Fed. Govt.

Native women’s association calls out Canada for doing little to stop genocide following killing of four women in Winnipeg

A women raises an eagle feather at the closing ceremony of the MMIWG2S ceremony. Three years later NWAC continues to call Canada on its inaction. Photo by Andrew Meade / Canada’s National Observer

Canada’s National Observer: The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) is not mincing words following the killing of four Indigenous women in Winnipeg at the hands of one man. 

“Let’s be clear, these crimes are part of the genocide that was declared in 2019 by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls,” the NWAC press release said.

NWAC, a national organization which represents Indigenous women, girls and two-spirited people, has been highly critical of the federal government. It has published report cards holding the federal government to account for failing on many of the 231 calls to justice in the national action plan on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and two-spirited people (MMIWG2S).

The latest report card was released in June and gave the government a failing grade.

The provinces and municipalities need to start taking their share of responsibility as well, Carol McBride, president of NWAC, said. She called on the provinces and municipalities to create their own action plans to address MMIWG2S.

Indigenous women, girls and two-spirited peoples live all over the country, and “it’s getting pretty scary to just walk the streets or go to a store,” she said.

“This is outrageous.”

The homicide rate for Indigenous Peoples remains seven times higher than that of non-Indigenous peoples, which amounts to a “Canadian human rights failure,” the press release said.

The deaths are a reminder that serious action must be taken to stop the violence against Indigenous women, girls and two-spirited people. The government can’t hold an inquiry and think their job is finished — “the inquiry was just the first step,” NWAC said.

“We have to work together to stop this genocide … enough is enough, we need to pull up our socks and start working together for the protection of our families,” Carol McBride, president of NWAC, said. #MMIWG2s #NWAC 

McBride is a mother and aunt and understands how difficult it is for the families of those who were lost. She wants the families to know that they are in her thoughts and prayers.

“We have to work together to stop this genocide … enough is enough, we need to pull up our socks and start working together for the protection of our families,” she said.


December 6, 2022


Fed. Govt.

Race and Gender Discrimination Fuel Violence against Indigenous Women

NationTalk: Thunder Bay, ON – The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women (White Ribbon Day) is a Canadian movement of men and boys working to end violence against women and girls, promote gender equity, healthy relationships and a new vision of masculinity.

Indigenous women have the right to a future free from gender-based violence. The violent mix of misguided masculine toxicity perpetrated by systemic racism continues to plague the lives of Indigenous women and girls.

  • 63% of Indigenous women have faced physical or sexual assault (Stats Can, April 2022)
  • 56% Indigenous women have experienced physical assault, while 46% of Indigenous women have experienced sexual assault in their lifetime (Stats Can, April 2022)
  • In 2018, the rates of sexual assault against Indigenous women were more than 3 times higher than among non-Indigenous women (Survey of Safety in Public and Private Spaces, Dec 2018)
  • Indigenous women are approximately 3 times more likely to experience spousal violence than non-Indigenous women (Brennan, S., 2011)
  • Indigenous women are 7 times more likely to be homicide victims than the non-Indigenous population. (Health Canada, 2009)

“Indigenous women are targeted with violence because of race and gender. This needs to stop. We must begin building new communities where Indigenous women are safe through action at the individual, family, and community level.” stated Cora McGuire-Cyrette, Executive Director, ONWA

ONWA’s Reconciliation with Indigenous Women: Changing the Story of MMIWG (2020) identifies actions in a detailed report outlining key areas of concern and recommendations for moving forward in ending violence against Indigenous women and girls.

Today, on White Ribbon Day, ONWA honours the men and boys who support Indigenous women and girls. ONWA encourages all men and boys to take the pledge: I pledge never to commit, condone, or remain silent about violence against women. Furthermore, we call on our Indigenous brothers to join us in standing up against violence.

To learn more about how you can help end violence against the women in your life, and for more resources more go to:

For more information and media inquiries, contact:
Andre Morriseau, Communications Manager
Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA)
Email: amorriseau@onwa.ca


November 22, 2022


MB

SCO Launches new survey seeking Citizen Input on Reforming Justice System

NationTalk: ANISHINAABE AND DAKOTA TERRITORY, MB — Today, the Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO) is launching a new online survey with the goal of seeking input that will assist SCO in advocating for the creation of an effective, equitable, and safe justice system from a First Nations perspective.

“One of my principal mandates is to reduce the overrepresentation of First Nation citizens within the Canadian criminal justice system,” said SCO Grand Chief Jerry Daniels. “The goal of this survey is to provide our community members with a voice to help develop alternative measures for care that revolve around accountability and personal growth, rather than the current punitive measures of the colonial state.”

In January 2021, the federal government was mandated with developing—in consultation and cooperation with Indigenous partners, provinces, and territories—an Indigenous Justice Strategy to address systemic discrimination and the overrepresentation of First Nations, Inuit, and Metis peoples in the existing justice system.

In Manitoba, 75 per cent of adults admitted into custody are Indigenous. In the last 10 years, there has been a 60 per cent increase in the rates of incarceration of Indigenous men and a 139 per cent increase in the rates of incarceration of Indigenous women. Manitoba has the highest number of incarcerated Indigenous women in Canada and the highest youth incarceration rates in Canada.

“This new Anishinaabe and Dakota Justice Survey will help clarify the priorities of our First Nations related to the justice system, whether it be through prevention, policing, courts, corrections, or victim’s services,” stated Chief Gordon Bluesky of the Brokenhead Ojibway First Nation. “We are encouraging our citizens to complete this survey to share their visions of how the justice system should operate and to learn more about their personal interactions with the current justice system.”

The survey is the latest tool as part of SCO’s overall First Nation’s Justice Strategy, which includes a focus on restorative justice. SCO’s Restorative Justice Program serves several First Nations and has dedicated Community Justice Workers in six communities—Bloodvein, Long Plain, O-Chi-Chak-Ko-Sipi, Pinaymootang, Sagkeeng, and Sandy Bay First Nations. The program also serves Brokenhead, Dakota Tipi, Dauphin River, Ebb and Flow, Lake Manitoba, Lake St. Martin, Little Saskatchewan, Skownan, and beyond.

“As a leader, I am responsible for working with our Anishinaabe and Dakota Nations, and the more than 81,500 citizens SCO represents, to create a more just Manitoba,” added Grand Chief Daniels. “The results of this survey will provide First Nations leadership in southern Manitoba with guidance on how we can work to restore balance, health and real justice for our people.”

The Anishinaabe and Dakota Justice Survey consists of about 16 questions and will remain open until Sunday, December 18, 2022.

You can find our survey here:https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SCO-IJS

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The Southern Chiefs’ Organization represents 34 First Nations and more than 81,500 citizens in what is now called southern Manitoba. SCO is an independent political organization that protects, preserves, promotes, and enhances First Nations peoples’ inherent rights, languages, customs, and traditions through the application and implementation of the spirit and intent of the Treaty-making process.

For media inquiries:
Email: Media@scoinc.mb.ca


November 13, 2022


MB

Statement from Premier Heather Stefanson and Indigenous Reconciliation and Northern Relations Minister Alan Lagimodiere on the Anniversary of the Death of Helen Betty Osborne

Today marks the anniversary of the tragic death of Helen Betty Osborne. Osborne was a 19-year-old student from Norway House Cree Nation who had dreams of becoming a teacher. A survivor of Guy Hill Residential School, Osborne chose to further her education through attending high school in The Pas.

On the morning of Nov. 13, 1971, Osborne was abducted while walking home and brutally murdered. It was not until 16 years later that one of four men implicated in the crime was convicted. Allegations of racism and indifference suggested that because Osborne was an Indigenous woman, her murder was inconsequential.

Osborne was not the first Indigenous woman to be victimized. Her death and neglect during the investigation revealed the ongoing systemic issues of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ individuals, and the lasting effects on families and communities across the province and throughout Canada. As we reflect on her legacy, it is a stark reminder that there is still substantial work that needs to be completed across our country.

Addressing violence against and incidences of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ individuals is a priority for Manitoba. We will continue to take a whole-of-government approach and work collaboratively and support community based, intergovernmental and interdepartmental efforts to help address these issues.

On behalf of all Manitobans, we offer our deepest condolences to Osborne’s family and community and take this time to remember those who have been taken too soon and to honour the healing journeys of their families.

To learn more on Manitoba’s actions visit www.gov.mb.ca/inr/mmiwg/manitoba-action.html.

For information on available support services and programs, visit Manitoba’s trauma informed resources at www.gov.mb.ca/inr/mmiwg/resources.html.

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For more information:

  • Public information, contact Manitoba Government Inquiry: 1-866-626-4862 or 204-945-3744.
  • Media requests for general information, contact Communications and Engagement: newsroom@gov.mb.ca.
  • Media requests for ministerial comment, contact Communications and Stakeholder Relations: 204-451-7109.