News Briefs

Compiled by Staff Writers

Chief outraged by near jailhouse birth
Chief Veronica Waboose, of the Long Lake First Nation, voiced her anger over a cruel and potentially dangerous situation that occurred in the women’s dormitory at the Thunder Bay District Jail.

A 24-year-old Long Lake woman, held in custody since last December, complained of labour pains in the early hours of the morning. She was repeatedly denied admittance to the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre until a scheduled appointment later that afternoon.

“I think it’s absolutely cruel to leave a woman to face her labour pain alone for several hours,” said Chief Waboose. “This young woman was in labour before 9 a.m. and they chose to make her wait to go to the hospital until her scheduled appointment later that afternoon. How is it that the birth of a child can be treated with such carelessness and apparent contempt?”

The baby was born healthy, without complications, around 1 p.m. on March 13. The new mother involved was not incarcerated for violent crimes, nor was she considered a flight risk, leading the chief to further question the treatment she received. The chief had earlier requested the young woman be allowed to serve her term under house arrest until the baby was born in order to avoid making the birth process any more difficult, but was denied.

“I would like to know why Corrections Services felt it was acceptable to transport a labouring woman in a jail van, instead of calling an ambulance, and I expect the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services to investigate this occurrence fully.”

Residential school students’ abuse lawsuit given green light
Hundreds of former students of an Ontario Indian residential school who say they were abused by teachers out to “Christianize” them have been given the green light to proceed with a class action lawsuit against the federal government and the Anglican Church.

Ottawa’s request to appeal a previous court ruling allowing the class action lawsuit was dismissed by the Supreme Court of Canada.

In December, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that 800 former students of the Mohawk Institute near Branford and their children could sue as a group. Lower courts ruled that they would have to sue individually because their complaints were different.

The lawsuit names the federal government, the Anglican Church of Canada’s General Synod, the incorporated diocese of Huron, and an English charity called the New England Company, as defendants.

The suit, which represents 2,000 complainants and seeks $2.3 billion in damages, alleges that the school atmosphere was one of fear and brutality.

Former students described incidents of extreme intimidation, beatings, forced participation in religious activities and excessive punishment for speaking their language.

The suit covers students who attended the school from 1922 to 1969. Most are now in their sixties and older, some have already died.

Court battles incur “tidal wave” of costs
Secret internal documents obtained by the National Post under the federal Access to Information Act, revealed a “looming tidal wave” of costs associated with 1,200 court cases between First Nations, individuals and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.

Internal reports further urge the federal government to move “beyond managing dependency.”

The documents urge Ottawa to settle the hundreds of long running court battles between First Nations and INAC. That number of cases has grown from 250 in 1993, to more than 1,200, and presents to government “significant financial and policy risks.”

Kenora area on priority list for safe drinking water
Four Kenora area First Nations have been fast-tracked for safer drinking water, out of 21 aboriginal communities nationally.

Shoal Lake 40, North Angle 37, Dalles, and Wabigoon First Nations are all on Ottawa’s highest priority list for safe drinking water.

A spokesperson for INAC said the project at Northwest Angle 37 was entering the design and construction phase.

At Wabigoon, engineers were assessing the existing system, and the next phase would be a feasibility study. Dalles is scheduled to have its facility open this summer.

The federal government has established a plan of action that includes mandatory training for all treatment plant operators, and a regime to ensure that all water systems have the oversight of certified operators.

National Chief Phil Fontaine said he was encouraged by the first steps taken by Ottawa in an effort to close the gap in the quality of life between First Nations and non-aboriginal Canadians.

Six Nations protestors remain after deadline
A court-imposed deadline has passed without arrests as protestors from the Six Nations of Grand River continue to occupy a construction site near Caledonia, Ontario.

Ontario Provincial Police told the First Nations’ officials they didn’t plan any arrests, despite a deadline set by an Ontario Superior Court judge for the protestors to leave.

The Six Nations protestors have occupied the site since February 28.

They say a new subdivision is being built on land that belongs to them. They argue that a 380,000-hectare tract of land on the region’s Grand River was granted to the Six Nations in 1784, and was never relinquished, or transferred, to the government or private interests.