Justice (25-42): Current Problems

Targeted Indigenous Groups

January 6, 2021

Fed. Govt.

Federal Prisoners

The Tyee – Erin O’Toole, leader of the Conservative Party, disagrees with Canada’s vaccination effort that includes a plan to immunize high-risk prisoners in federal prisons — people who are old or sick. The initial wave of vaccinations will reach 600 inmates, about four per cent of the prison population. His comment: “Not one criminal should be vaccinated ahead of any vulnerable Canadian or frontline health worker.” Given that 30%+ of the prison population are Indigenous (42% for Indigenous women), O’Toole’s comments gloss over the fact that a disproportionate number of Indigenous people who only represent 5% of the population in Canada are vastly overrepresented in Canadian prisons.

This comes less than three weeks after O’Toole backed away from — but didn’t apologize for — bizarre comments on the good intentions behind residential schools. But the people behind the plan to take generations of Indigenous children from their families, hold them in horrible conditions and erase their culture had good intentions, O’Toole said. “It was meant to try and provide education,” he told the campus club.

Only after his comments were publicized and calls for his resignation started trending on social media did O’Toole retract his statement.

September 9, 2020

AB, BC, Fed. Govt., MB, NB, NL, NS, NT, NU, ON, PE, QC, SK, YT

Indigenous Journalists

Toronto Star – Increasing arrests of Indigenous journalists including:

  • Karl Dockstader at 1492 Land Back Lane Haudenosaunee occupation regarding a housing development near Caledonia
  • Courtney Skye, Yellowhead Institute researcher and Ryerson Fellow arrested as well
  • Award-winning journalist Justin Brake was arrested and charged with criminal and civil contempt and criminal mischief while covering a protest at Muskrat Falls in Newfoundland, Four years later all charges were dismissed
  • At the Wet’suwet’en protests in BC
    • Jerome Turner, an award winning Gixstan journalist had shotguns and sniper guns aimed at him
    • Amber Bracken, an award-winning photo-journalist was pushed back and warned to stay away
    • Jesse Winter, an award-winning photojournalist was detained by police
  • Melissa Cox, American documentary filmmaker, was arrested documenting the conflict nearby on unceded Gitxsan territory

Indigenous voices have been stifled in the media and Canadian society for generations. It’s only been in the last decade or two that our stories have gained any substantive traction with the mainstream. Our people are most often portrayed inaccurately in the media via way of stereotypical nuances and negativity that perpetuates the racism that runs rampant in this country. These portrayals aid in the oppression against Indigenous communities that already deal with appalling statistics and human rights violations.

Sept. 4th marked the 25th anniversary of the Ipperwash tragedy where Dudley George, an unarmed Indigenous man was killed by an OPP sniper. While occupying land promised by the federal government to the Kettle and Stony Point First Nation. There were no journalists present when George was killed.

Brent Jolly, the President of the Canadian Association of Journalists, condemned the arrest of Karl Dockstader stating: “The OPP are well aware that journalists have an established constitutional right to be present and cover matters of public interest.,” he said, “Attempting to prevent a properly credentialed journalist from documenting a moment of contentious action is impermissible in a country like Canada. Journalism should never be silenced.”

September 27, 2020

Fed. Govt.

Indigenous Police Forces

Toronto Star – Indigenous Police Forces only police force in Canada not classified as an essential service. The federal government has promised four times “to speed up the development of a legal framework to recognize First Nations policing as an essential service”:

  • after the 2019 election,
  • after the Coastal GasLInk protests in BC
  • in the 2020 Speech from the Throne
  • In June after multiple incidents of police violence against Indigenous people across Canada

“The funding that we receive from them is inadequate to provide the necessary services that our communities require,” said Rama police Chief Jerel Swamp said….Swamp said none of the First Nations policing services or their police boards have been consulted on what legislation need to include, which he argues is essential….The government also hasn’t approached the leaders of the Indigenous communities on the issue yet, he said.”

April 20, 2020

Fed. Govt.

Indigenous prisoners in federal prisons

BC First Nations Justice Council – First Nations leadership across BC is united in calling for immediate action to protect incarcerated peoples amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 outbreak at the Mission Institution is now the third largest outbreak in the Province of BC, with the first inmate tragically passing away on April 15, 2020. Senior health and corrections officials have verified that almost 40% of the confirmed cases of COVID-19 at Mission Institution are among Indigenous inmates despite Indigenous people making up just 5% of the population in BC.

Doug White, Chairperson of the BC First Nations Justice Council calls the situation an urgent crisis and a ‘ticking time bomb.’ “Indigenous people are vastly over-represented in prisons and carry more than our share of the burden of health issues and chronic disease. These men were sentenced to a term of years, not to death. The duty of care that is upon the Institution in the midst of this crisis requires immediate and comprehensive action to avoid further tragedy. This situation requires extra-ordinary efforts and collaboration.”

The BC First Nations Justice Council, BC Assembly of First Nations (BCAFN), the Union of BC Indian Chief (UBCIC), and the First Nations Summit (FNS) call on the Government of Canada and the Province of BC to urgently implement the following safety measures:

  • Immediately test all inmates and staff at the Mission Institution;
  • Increase safety and screening measures for workers entering and exiting the facility;
  • Enhance medical surge capacity onsite via mobile medical units to effectively treat emerging cases;
  • Enact isolation protocols which ensure that inmates who test positive are isolated in health facilities with regular monitoring and as much comfort as any other individual, along with meaningful human contact compliant with social distancing;
  • Increase access to counselling and mental health resources in every federal facility in order to mitigate the psychological and emotional consequences of isolation measures and reduced social contact;
  • Develop release plans for as many people as possible, prioritizing those with pre-existing health conditions who are at increased risk due to COVID-19, and immediately release anyone classified low risk with a home in community where they will be able to self- isolation;
  • Include among release criteria a plan for secure housing, financial aid, and community safety, and provide support in meeting these criteria; and
  • Test and isolate all individuals for 14 days before re-entering community.

May 24, 2021


Restricted Access Zone

Xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh)/Vancouver, B.C. – May 21, 2021: The BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) has written to the provincial government and RCMP Commissioner condemning the arbitrary and unlawful RCMP Exclusion Zone in unceded Ditidaht territory. The RCMP have established two checkpoints and roadblocks along the McClure Main and Caycuse Main roads near the Fairy Creek blockade against old-growth logging.

In an open letter to Solicitor General Mike Farnworth, RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki and Deputy Commissioner Jennifer Strachan, the BCCLA notes that the RCMP’s actions are overbroad in scope and constitute an inconsistent, arbitrary, and illegal exercise of police discretion to block members of the public, including legal observers and the media, from accessing the area. The roadblocks also cut off an important emergency route to the Ditidaht First Nation reserve near Nitinat Lake.

According to BCCLA Staff Counsel Veronica Martisius, “The BCCLA is deeply disturbed by the RCMP exclusion zone near the Fairy Creek blockades on unceded Ditidaht territory. There is nothing in the injunction that prohibits movement in the area or peaceful protest. The RCMP, by their actions, are showing blatant disregard for Indigenous rights and the Canadian Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. This situation is alarmingly reminiscent of what occurred in Wet’suwet’en territories last year.”

May 11, 2021


Restricted Access Zone

Vancouver Island News – Mounties have established a restricted-access zone as they begin enforcing an injunction against protesters who are blockading logging activity in the Fairy Creek watershed on southwest Vancouver Island. The B.C. Supreme Court granted the injunction to forestry company Teal-Jones on April 1. Protesters have been blocking logging roads in the watershed near Port Renfrew since last summer in an effort to protect old-growth forests. The police say all vehicles attempting to enter the area will be stopped and occupants will need to provide identification and state the purpose for their travel, subject to RCMP approval.

All hereditary and elected chiefs of the Pacheedaht and Ditidaht First Nations will be allowed to enter the area, according to the RCMP. So too will government officials, journalists, practising lawyers with the Law Society of British Columbia and medical doctors. All visitors will be accompanied through the site by an RCMP officer.

The Mounties say a designated space for protesters and observers will be established outside the restricted area.