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First Peoples Law Report: CTV News Winnipeg – Leaders are demanding better accommodations for those travelling from remote First Nations to Winnipeg for medical care.
Cockroaches, bed bugs and mice are just some of the conditions patients face in hotels designated for their stays in the city, according to Fox Lake Cree Nation Chief Morris Beardy. “These are our elders that we’re talking about and kids we’re talking about,” he said. “It’s time to move on beyond these really crappy hotels.”
Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) told CTV News it has billing agreements with 52 hotels across the province, with 31 in Winnipeg and 21 in rural Manitoba.
One of those facilities is The Marlborough Hotel, where dozens of demonstrators gathered Sunday(opens in a new tab) to demand better treatment for Indigenous women and girls. The outcry came after a video taken at the hotel shows a young Indigenous woman with her hands zip tied behind her back.
“I was shocked. I was angry, and I couldn’t believe that people would stand by and let that happen,” said Keewatin Tribal Council Grand Chief Walter Wastesicoot.
Winnipeg police and the hotel say the woman was loitering and threatened staff with a knife before she was detained. An 18-year-old woman was charged with assault with a weapon. The charge has not been tested in court.
“What I saw was a young woman that was traumatized,” Wastesicoot said of the video.
According to the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC), the woman was staying at the hotel as a guest while receiving medical care. AMC cancelled the hotel’s contract, but the incident has prompted a push for more accountability when it comes to medical accommodations.
“We have to get together with Canada and make sure that they raise their standards and ensure that our people get adequate, safe, healthy accommodations, whether they’re here for medical or other reasons,” Wastesicoot said.
In a statement to CTV News, the AMC said it urges the provincial and federal governments to make a definitive commitment and explicitly outline actions that will instigate transformative change.
“This includes dismantling systems that are intrinsically incapable of delivering equitable solutions and envisioning new frameworks that honour the sovereignty and Nationhood of the First Nations,” the statement said.
“We’ve been dealt a bad hand from the start, and this continues and continues on again,” Beardy said.
Winnipeg police tell CTV News it is still investigating the video, as well as a threat made towards the hotel earlier this week.
The Marlborough Hotel’s general manager confirmed the hotel has been closed temporarily, but couldn’t say if or when the hotel will reopen. As for those who were staying in the hotel, the AMC and ISC said alternative accommodations have been found for all patients.
The general manager of The Marlborough Hotel told CTV News the decision to shut down was a mutual one between the hotel and police.
Alexandra Holyk , Videojournalist