New Year’s Eve On Parliament Hill 2016-2017

A special moment occurred for me New Year’s Eve on Parliament Hill. I held a torch, along with The Right Honourable Melanie Joly, Canada’s Heritage Minister. His Excellency, The Right Honourable David Johnston and his darling wife held a second pole with a flame burning at its end. We extended the torches slowly and carefully towards the bubbling oil of the Hill’s Centennial Cauldron and as one, reignited it to honour Canada’s 150th birthday. I look at this event as a grand statement of proof that Canada is serious about establishing a new relationship with this land’s original inhabitants. A proud moment for me to be sure. (Check out the CBC video, below, to see this moment.)

My oldest granddaughter is 16 years old now, the age I was when Canada celebrated her 100th birthday. Times were sure different in 1967. Many politicians, the hate mongers, and, it seemed to me, the community at large, had succeeded, through the promotion of hate literature and outright lies, into making some of the First Nations Peoples feel shame. Shame about the special blood flowing like a mighty river through the vessels of their hearts. Children were still being horribly abused in Residential Schools. The 60’s Scoop was in high gear. Our identity as a unique people was being crushed. Our very souls were being grotesquely violated.

But it wasn’t all bad. The big grandfather drum was back in the Ottawa Valley. Brought here by our young people who had gone south and joined the American Indian Movement (AIM). The pulse of pride began to pound in the hearts of those of us who weren’t afraid to renounce religion in favour of our own ancient spirituality. The “Return of the Red Man is at hand” some magazine articles stated!

So Canada is 150 years old. Do I celebrate it? Not me! I’ll celebrate Canada when I begin to see evidence of promises being kept. Are you listening, Prime Minister Trudeau? It was good to be on the Hill. It’s a start.

I hope I represented my family with the dignity and pride deserving of them while I was on the Hill. A new year has begun (according to the calendar). The year for me begins with the Sugar Moon, the first moon of spring climbing the sky. “Wake up, wake up,” she sings to the earth. “Welcome back,” she cries to the song birds. “Let the sap flow,” she urges the maples on. Life stirs, my heart swells, I hold my grandchildren close and promise them that I will do all I can to be their great guide and confidant. I walk barefoot on the earth. I feel the medicines of the land being absorbed into the pores of my feet. I sing my honour song in acknowledgement of Creator giving me the heart of a human being.

Let us together, stand as one nation and do all possible to bring about peace and harmony to all people, wherever they are and whatever their roots of origin might be. The dead fish on the Nova Scotia shoreline call to us to do it.

Keep the Circle Strong,
South Wind

 

 

CBC video of New Year’s Eve On Parliament Hill 2016-2017
I took part at around one hour and eight minutes in.

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My Feelings on Joseph Boyden

Twenty-five summers ago at Lebreton Flats, I stood in circle with 70 good people at 5:15 a.m. to welcome the rising sun with offerings of heartberries and tobacco. At least 35 of the sunrise ceremony’s participants were white folk. This impressed me immensely. I thought, the white people are coming on board, they’re turning on to our spirituality. How nice is that! When I mentioned the ceremony a few days later to an elder I have great respect for, he said, “The white man will never be happy to just take his place in our circle. He won’t be happy until he is running them. Mark my words.” I look around today and I think, yeah, there was something to what the old man said. Pirates, liars and cons are ruthlessly pillaging programs put in place to assist those of us whose lives were knocked off balance by the great wrongs of the past i.e. Residential Schools, 60’s Scoop, destructive propaganda geared to promote hatred against us, etc., etc.

I worked in the Ontario prison system for 3 years (2010-2013), all of them in a maximum-security jail notorious for its many violent outbreaks. After being there for 1 1/2 years, Quebec Corrections contacted me and asked that I check out a low-medium security prison in the Laurentians to see if they might be able to convince me to transfer there from Ontario. The Quebec prison had a Pathways program which often means early parole for any inmates fortunate enough to be selected for one of the ten positions made available to them in the program. The Pathways was put in place for Indigenous offenders. A great initiative to be sure. Such programs exist so that our people serving time will not have to be incarcerated any longer than necessary. What I saw at the Quebec prison, however, was that all the ten Pathways spots were made up of men who had self-identified as “Indian”. All of them appeared to me to be white men. The status (full-bloods) of the prison were on the outside looking in at a program meant for them. The Status Indians were bitter about it and complained to me also about the disrespect the “white guys” had for the drum and the healing songs. “If we express any anger, however slight, at the white guys for mocking the drum the way they do, we can expect a week in the hole for it,” is what they told me. I wrote letters to Quebec Corrections but didn’t receive any response to the demand I made for an explanation. I worked only 8 days in the Laurentians and left extremely frustrated at what I witnessed there. The maximum-security prison, though brutal, at least kept the lines of communication open.

Joseph BoydenAll of us know that jobs specifically posted at worksites for our people are being stolen all the time by applicants who self-ID. They (the job thieves) check off the “Are you Aboriginal” box and rob an individual, family, a community from benefitting. Their selfish, greedy act is often responsible for some of our people being on the welfare rolls. In the arts, our voices, those of the “Status Indians” are often pushed aside so that the voice of a self-ID artist can be heard. It has reached epidemic proportions. Believe it or not, there is a growing number of people (self-ID) who are promoting themselves as our “elders”. When will it all end? How will this nonsense impact the emotional and spiritual health of our young people? I shudder to think about it!

My grandfather was Samson Commonda. He took the name Dumont long before I was born. Samson and my grandmother Therese were Algonquin Anishinabe. Their marriage resulted in my Dad being born. My Mother’s mom was a non-status full-blood Algonquin, her husband a Métis who could have easily passed for a full-blood. The blood of my heart is mostly that of the red people. I do not claim to be better or more important than anyone having less blood quorum than I but I honour and respect the full-bloods far more than I do myself or the other mixed bloods around me. Do they not deserve it? Are they not the ones who suffered more outrages by far than any of the rest of us? Are they not the ones that the hate-mongers zero in on? If I have European blood in my veins, does it mean I can self-ID as a white man? The white man of my time would never have accepted me as one of them. This I know with all certainty.

The people with that sweet and gentle bloodline, still untouched by that which arrived here from afar, are special to me. My eyes delight in the art they produce with beads, hide and porcupine quills. The way they fill a canvas with scenes only the minds, hearts and spirits of they of special blood can possibly produce. What mixed-blood or self-ID Indian could have created what Norval Morrisseau did? Our full-blood Indigenous writers and playwrights are in a league of their own. They are the best of the best so far as I’m concerned! Buffy Sainte-Marie is beautiful, unique and a graceful earth shaker, not because she is a First Nations singer and songwriter, she is what she is because the blood of her heart is 100% of the land. Only a full-blood has any chance of replacing her someday! If ever she can be.

The spiritual DNA of the land is more profound in those of us fortunate enough to carry blood, pure and sweet and here since our creation story began. I for one want to hear them. Their voices are more important to me than those of the people who self-ID. Am I wrong to feel this way? Should we not do all we can to promote the artist with that ancient blood so that the world can hear, see and benefit from an authentic voice coming from the land?

If Joseph Boyden really does have Indigenous blood in his veins, then I stand with him and will protect him from those who would work to destroy him. If Joseph Boyden does NOT have the blood of the land in his heart and only said so to spell success for himself, then I would regard him as being nothing more than a pirate, a liar and a con. A wise woman said recently in regards to those people who self-ID as being Indigenous: “It’s not who you claim to be which is important. It is whether or not a community claims you.”

Keep the Circle Strong,
South Wind

Note: Click here for the APTN article on this subject.

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Asinabka: A Compromise

At the beginning of the night, through the loft window of my cabin I saw them, three women dancing, illuminated by Kokomis’ lantern. How gently their skirts swayed, as if pushed forward by the swelling and deflating lungs of a hibernating four-legged. Such was the softness of the caress they gave to the earth with their moccasined feet. I watched the dancers until my eyes gave in to peaceful sleep. In the morning I awakened before dawn. The women were there yet, near the old yellow birch tree, dancing, paying homage to the generosity of the forest and to the healing ways of the land. Soon, light came from the eastern sky and with it came a signal that the dance, the beautiful prayer, was complete. The women ceased to move. They had danced ‘till dawn and now they could rest. With the light of day filling the forest, they disappeared.

I was gifted that hot sultry night years ago to see, through a window of modern making and with physical eyes, the spirits of women who lived long ago. The dancers too, have a window out of which they can peer at us in the physical realm, to observe our noble actions and deeds and yes, even the wrongs we do. My fear is that the window our ancestors look through to see us is fogging over. Technology and the great force of money rises like the debris of a violent storm from our world to obstruct their view of us. Colour is no longer seen by them, song no longer heard. As we step into the future, the pollution we leave behind stains the window from which all our relations strain to see us. Are we lost? I feel we are close to it.

Lebreton Flats too, is sacred land to us.

The Anishinabe, each and all, once looked to Asinabka with as equal respect and spiritual reverence as Pope Francis of the Catholic church today looks upon the altar of the Vatican’s greatest house of worship. The Falls of our grand river (Ottawa River) were truly seen by the People as an altar touched by the goodness of Kichi Manido, the Great Spirit.

Prayer Ribbons on Victoria Island (Asinabka)The Falls are sacred but so, too, is the area known today as Lebreton Flats. The Flats were a place where visitors from far away nations encamped themselves when visiting Asinabka and where many rituals and ceremonies of high spiritual significance occurred. We, the Peoples of great Turtle Island, must stand together to oppose development of Lebreton Flats and do whatever is necessary to stop the raping of yet another sacred site. Let us call in whoever it is who will inspire us and guide us on the next course of action we will take to assure development of Lebreton Flats will not happen. It is our hope to remain peaceful in our protests but where do we draw the line?

As always, I only speak for myself, but I say here and now that I will only accept the development of Lebreton Flats if Asinabka is left alone! Let the Algonquin contractors who hoped to prosper from work at Asinabka be awarded opportunities to succeed in business at Lebreton Flats. The Algonquin construction companies must be given jobs and training at the ‘Flats’ site. I would respect this compromise and stand with them in their demands for jobs and training. It is a simple solution. Develop Lebreton Flats and grant contracts to our people while doing so but leave Asinabka alone.

Remember June 17! If you cannot make it to the ‘It Is Sacred’ walk, then please send someone, a friend or family member in your place. Be there! We need you to be there!

Keep the Circle Strong,
South Wind
What you can do to help protect our sacred Asinabka site:
-> Read, act upon, and share this call for support from Four Algonquin Communities: http://bit.ly/1RJB5d2
-> Be there for the Ceremony and Sacred Walk lead by Grandmothers on 17 June: http://www.itissacred.ca/

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Asinabka – Privately Owned? Ridiculous!

It sickens my heart to hear people say, “The islands around the Chaudière Falls (Asinabka) are privately owned.”

I am in total agreement that many things of our dysfunctional world can be bought and sold. There was even a time on this continent when human beings were paraded naked, like livestock, to be sold to buyers who placed the men, women and children they purchased into a life of slavery. In those shameful times money could buy everything from summer berries to the scalps of our Anishinabe ancestors. Though it might be difficult to emotionally and spiritually process today the atrocities I mention above were not only condoned but actually praised by most of the colonizers living back then. The horrors which took place on the back of our gentle Turtle Island in the past are truly shameful!

In more recent times, injustices which occurred in other parts of the planet are coming to light. I draw your attention to a conflict I have been tracking, taking place today in Europe and New York City. First of all, a question! To whom do the priceless art collections belonging to Jews seized by the Nazis during the Second World War now belong? Can descendants of the people who lost the art collections justifiably lay claim to what was violently stolen two or three generations ago and demand that the property be returned to them by whoever claims ‘ownership’ of the artwork today? Who will decide what is fair? To me, it is an open and shut case! What was acquired through thievery must be returned to the rightful owners. Wait and see, the courts will decide likewise, I’m sure.

Artwork is what it is! Whatever humankind creates will at some point have a price tag hanging from it! We live in a world where money talks! A sacred site, though, is something created by Great Spirit. It cannot be bought like a bushel of carrots or like one of Picasso’s originals. There is no amount of money existing in the world today, nor will there ever be, that could purchase it. Asinabka cannot be ‘privately owned,’ not even by the People on whose traditional territory it sits upon. Asinabka was stolen away from the Algonquin Anishinabeg at a time when our numbers were few and after our ancestors had been forced away from the sacred site by the ruthless and viscous businessmen of those times.

Painting of Asinabka, wild and free, before the dam.

Painting of Asinabka, wild and free, before the dam.

Asinabka is a place where healing medicine, solitude and culture flow in unison, like the waters of the Great River do. Kichi Zibi carries within it the waters of springs, creeks and of the rain. We need Asinabka to exist so our next generations will have a chance at understanding something about the purity of spirituality and also about the necessity of it in our lives.

Let us look into our own homes. What evidence do we see signalling to us that the spiritual wellbeing of our children and grandchildren is being properly tended to? I ask you to look into the heart of your community. Do you see respect and honour being heaped onto our women and girls? Do you see youngsters who do not know where to draw the line with things of the party world? If we see dysfunction and despair, even a tiny bit of it, and think “money will fix it for money fixes all things,” then we need to be made aware that another piece of what defines us as human beings has fallen away from the light and has been swallowed up by the monster of greed.

Asinabka behind bars. Photo by Julie Comber.

Asinabka behind bars. Photo by Julie Comber.

If we lose Asinabka, we remove from the grasp of our children an enormous chunk of our already shredded culture and identity. Like us, our children and grandchildren will die some day. Our prayer is that their souls will climb the sky to soar like ravens to the place our ancestors dwell. This is the hope I have for my descendants at least. And I will do all in my power to save Asinabka from being defiled to make their journey better. I will do so for the spiritual betterment of my family. They call on me to do so. I answer the call and will fight with all the strength of my heart to protect the healing place of our ancestors.

I hope it’s not the case, but most likely there are people around us to whom it makes sense that an individual could be bought and sold, or that the placing of a bounty on the scalp of a human being assured the creation of a nation. What is worse by far is that there are people walking the Earth today who believe they can actually ‘own’ a sacred site. It’s enough to make me vomit.

Keep the Circle Strong,
South Wind
What you can do to help protect our sacred Asinabka site:
-> Read, act upon, and share this call for support from Four Algonquin Communities: http://bit.ly/1RJB5d2
-> Be there for the Ceremony and Sacred Walk lead by Grandmothers on 17 June: http://www.itissacred.ca/

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Items Of Great Concern To Our Community

I Vow to Protect Asinabka

The Flower Moon has arrived! Once again it is at that special time of the spring season when the rooster partridge drums while clinging to the moss of a long fallen pine and Mother Earth sends forth pretty flowers to surround the trees growing over the rocky landscapes of our forests. It is a good time for a human being to make a vow. Making a vow is something only human beings possess the physical ability to do. The birds, fish and animals and plant life of our territories have spiritually done so long before they even appeared here to help us, the people, live out our lives.

I say to Creator, hear my vow. I promise, with all the strength of my heart to stand in defence of Asinabka. I will do this so our sacred site will never be defiled by development or by the touch of any person who believes that the power of money is greater than the power of Creator. I will stand with the Grandmothers. They will lead and I will follow. Please join me in this vow. On June 17th (note the change from May 30th), let us walk in solidarity with the Grandmothers. For more information, please see http://www.itissacred.ca, and you can request to join the Facebook group by clicking here.

Albert_postcard_30May2016

Note the new date for the Walk is 17 June!

The Eagle Feather

To me, the editorial cartoon (Ottawa Citizen, Wednesday, April 13, 2016) was clear in its negative message to the newspaper’s readers. The illustration portrayed an eagle feather, apparently decaying, its power slowly slipping away and falling into oblivion. The word ‘Legacy’ was scribbled above what remained of the once highly regarded plume. The commentary just to the left of the artwork told of the misery and despair occurring in Attawapiskat.

The artist who created the cartoon would have us believe that the eagle feather is responsible for what is happening in many of the First Nations communities in the North. The cold hard truth is, what is happening in Attawapiskat is not the legacy of the eagle feather but is that of the Residential Schools. It is the legacy of Prime Minister Sir John A. MacDonald and of whoever else it was who stole away our languages and traditional spiritual beliefs. The blood of any child, dead now because of an act of suicide is on the hands of the politicians who acted to oppress the First Nations of this land in the past and even to this very day. The eagle feather and its power must return to our communities. When it is again held up as a symbol of our spirituality, the misery and despair will cease to occur.

My eagle feather has repaired what was broken in me both emotionally and spiritually. The eagle feather symbolizes truth, peace and healing. I will hold it close to me now and forevermore.

Of Further Concern

A few months ago a young woman living in an apartment with her three children lost all of her belongings due to the misfortune of a fire engulfing her home. Since then she has lived in a motel room with her children. She is trying to rebuild her life as best she can. She is a proud young Anishinabe Kwe who would not ask for help. When the Wabano Centre was made aware of this young woman’s plight, they suggested the idea of an Indian Taco lunch as a fundraiser. It will be held at the Wabano Centre on Friday, April 29th, 12pm to 5:30pm, and see below or click here for the poster you can share on Facebook. If you can make it, please do! If you cannot, send a card or drop it off, with a donation to help the young woman and her children to rebuild. Even a $5 donation would be greatly appreciated. Send your card with your good wishes to Wabano care of Cindy Peltier (staff worker) at 299 Montreal Rd. Ottawa, ON K1L 6B8. For more information, call Cindy at 613-748-0657 ext. 214.

fundraiser_FINAL

Migwech for your generosity,
South Wind.

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Good Luck Marlene Carter

This visit (March 30) with Marlene, likely the last one I will have with her at the Brockville Mental Health Centre, was the best of all the numerous and wonderful times I’ve spent with her. There is so much to reflect on.

Trust is necessary in any relationship where healing is expected to occur. She and I have both discovered new definitions of what life is through our shared circles and counsels. Trust was ever-present. Marlene has taught me much about what it is to be a human being. I am so very fortunate to have been privileged to make her acquaintance.

Marlene experienced an ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) session earlier in the morning on this last visit and said she felt her senses were ‘foggy’ because of it. I noticed, though, that she had an immediate explosion of energy when she saw the rabbit stew and wild blueberry pie I brought for her, not to mention a large cup of hot coffee and a fresh baked lemon poppy seed muffin. Marlene was hungry. The feasting foods didn’t have a chance!

As was a custom of ours, Marlene, me and the chaplain (who works at the Brockville Mental Health Centre), sat in circle and prayed as one for Marlene and for others, too, of the Indigenous communities who suffer/suffered as she does. Jokes and stories were told and much laughter ensued. I watched Marlene gleefully eat the foods of her feast. I saw again the profound gentleness in her eyes as I had seen in them over a year ago. I will miss her terribly.

I want to thank the staff members who treated Marlene with compassion and professionalism while she was in Brockville. God bless them for their integrity and for the dedication they have for their chosen profession. Helping the unfortunate mentally ill citizens around them to heal truly gives purpose to their lives. The chaplain deserves special mention as I believe she went above and beyond what was expected of her while interacting with Marlene. I’m sure Marlene will never forget the chaplain for the kindness and respect she showed her. Kim Pate of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies (CAEFS) and her colleague Bryonie Baxter also lifted up Marlene’s spirits on many occasions. Thank you both!

Marlene Carter (“Stone Mountain Woman”) is from the West (Onion Lake Cree Nation, Saskatchewan). The medicines of her territory, found in the songs of birds unique to the West and even in the winds and rainwater of her homeland call out to her to enter into them to surround herself with their healing energies. Let her return to her ancestral home to be among them once more.

birdcage-454467_1920Marlene will be heading for Saskatchewan at some time between now and April 14th. I wish her all the best after she arrives back to her home province. Her return to Saskatchewan was something I have been advocating for her for several months now. I would rather not have lead protests denouncing Marlene’s treatment in Brockville, but could see no other options. Marlene’s return to Saskatchewan was central to why the protests took place. Anyone who says different is a liar. Anyone who believes what liars have said to make it appear that I was acting against Marlene’s best interest are allowing themselves to be fooled.

I have been a human rights activist in Ontario since 1993. When I see human rights abuses occurring before my very eyes, I act. The weeks on end Marlene spent in seclusion were brutal and unacceptable. Something had to be done! My heart motivates my actions. After all, I am a human being.

Keep the Circle Strong,
South Wind.

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Asinabka: Impossible To Buy!

Waterfowl and fish know where the most sacred places are on a river. The breath of the river rises at such a place. The healing song it sends forth through its rising mist is heard spiritually by all things residing in and around the river’s waters. The songs of the waterfowl and fish join in sacred harmony with that of the river. Such are the instructions of our Creator.

Painting of Asinabka, wild and free, before the dam.

Painting of Asinabka, wild and free, before the dam.

As human beings we need to understand clearly that it is no more possible for a developer to purchase Asinabka (Chaudière Falls and the islands around them) than it is for you or I to purchase it from the birds and fish who honour it with every beat of their hearts. Yet there are people with untold wealth who would have us believe that they are the true stewards of Asinabka. “It is private land,” they tell the courts, “we are the rightful owners of it.” How did it all come to this? What greed and treachery occurred in the past to make it so a colonizer could utter such nonsense today?

The waters of the Falls spilling over the glare rock in the centre of the circle of the ancestral lands of the Algonquin Anishinabe carry the memories of the sturgeon and eels who lived in them since even before the creation of human beings. If we want to see who truly has stewardship of Asinabka, let us look to them. Only when the sturgeon and eels are ready to bargain away Asinabka to a developer, will I finally concede that all is lost and take my place in line with my hand extended, palm turned upwards, waiting for cash to be slapped onto it.

If the dishonourable settlers of the past who stole Asinabka away from the Algonquins were still alive today, I would demand that they be thrown in jail for what they did. What does Creator think of a man who believes money can buy a place of sacredness? A place acquired at the hands of thieves! What do we call a settler society that would allow it to happen?

Since when can a stranger enter your home and defile your sacred bundle as he sees fit, while claiming all along that he has every legal right to do so? As the original inhabitants of this land, are we not entitled to some form of protection of our most sacred place of healing? When the settler community denies us our sacred place, then I must wonder if they even regard us as human beings.

If a tyrannical leader of a faraway land were to oppress a minority of his country in such a way, the settler community here would condemn him even to the point of taking up arms to force his ouster. The Christians of the world call what ISIL fighters are doing to believers of Jesus as a saviour in the Middle East genocide. But here in Canada’s national capital, most Christians remain silent while a developer readies his machinery to destroy a most precious and sacred site of the First Peoples. What does it say about Christianity when Christians pick and choose whose spirituality is worth protecting? After all, it is wrong to do nothing about it in the eyes of God, as well as in the eyes of humankind.

Asinabka behind bars. Phot by Julie Comber.

Asinabka today, behind bars. Photo by Julie Comber.

The storms of life in which money swirls thick and heavy, blind many people from seeing the goodness of their own hearts. The trail leading to the knowledge of what it is to be a human being becomes evermore obscure to them and makes finding it difficult even when a tragedy occurs within the circle of their own families. The development of the Chaudière Falls will prove only that the people of the settler community are at peace with continuing the abuse of Peoples who have suffered far too much already. Let us stand in solidarity as human beings at Asinabka to stop development. With the spirits of the Falls and those of the land by our side, we will not fail.

Keep the Circle Strong,
South Wind.

What you can do to help protect our sacred site:
-> Read, act upon, and share this call for support from Four Algonquin Communities: http://bit.ly/1RJB5d2
-> Sign and share this petition: http://chn.ge/1VB6x3w

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Marlene Carter Is Feeling Hopeful

I am happy to report to all of you that I had a pleasant visit with Marlene on Tuesday, March 15th. I want all concerned to know that our objections as to how Marlene was being treated for her mental illness in Brockville have had a positive effect.

But first, this! Our dear friend experienced another incident of self-injury on Sunday, March 13 and was placed in a 6-point striker bed afterwards, but only for a short period of time. This was unlike the past when self-harm occurred, and it would mean many days (or weeks) of her being tied down. I think the publicity generated by our protests had something to do with the change in Marlene’s care. This particular incident of self-harm was not severe (a scratch on her nose) and was something Marlene said she did to assure the ‘protection’ of her young family members.

The electroconvulsive treatments (ECTs) Marlene has been subjected to twice a week for over a month were supposed to stop her from self-harming. It seems clear to me that these barbaric treatments are failing Marlene. What she needs is the outdoors and smudging rituals. She needs a one-on-one counsel daily with an elder or with someone she trusts. She needs medication that works for her. If she had these things, Marlene would not injure herself ever again and could go on to live the normal, happy existence she deserves.

To me an ECT works something similar to this. A human being is tied to a bed, somehow rendered unconscious (injection?) and subsequently the brain of the victim is tasered. The shocked brain reacts to the trauma it has undergone after the victim awakens, by not having the capacity to recall events which took place shortly before the ECT was administered. The person subjected to the ECT might have had a joyful visit with a friend one day and get tasered the next. The result? No memory of the visit with the friend and therefore, no healing benefit whatsoever from the joyful experience the visit brought into the life of a depressed mentally ill human being. Tasering is counter-productive. The old Anishinabe way, the smudging way, works best! For our People it does, anyway.

Marlene will be going back to Saskatchewan soon. It is planned that she’ll be there by April 14th. Marlene has grown to become the ‘sweetheart’ of all of us who care about her. Let us keep her in our prayers.

Marlene and I had a great visit. She walked (was not pushed sitting in a wheelchair) to the room where I was waiting. I told stories and we laughed. We prayed together in a circle. She ate the cookies and scones baked with love for her by students from the Elizabeth Wyn Wood Alternate Site school. I asked how the baked goods tasted. “Really good,” she answered, smiling broadly.

Cards4Marlene-1_29Feb2016_annotatedMarlene was very appreciative of the cards and good wishes she received from her friends in Ottawa. Marlene sends a gigantic hug to all!

Let us be as one with the fact that mental illness is not a crime, that solitary confinement and seclusion is detrimental to the mental well-being of any person forced to endure it, regardless of cultural background. Let us appreciate that the sun, the wind, Mother Earth and the waters of the falls are the strongest of all healers. The poor souls of our communities suffering from mental illness should not be abused in any way. To beat down a human being stricken with mental illness makes no sense. It is the illness itself we need to attack with vigour and perseverance. And if it is possible to kill it with love, then damn it all, let’s start now. Love, compassion, empathy and the sacredness of the earth will join forces with us to rid ourselves of mental illness forevermore. All we need do is bring these things into our circle. Mental illness won’t have a chance. Forward ho! Let’s do it.

I promised Marlene that when I return for a visit I’ll be packing a feast consisting of wild rabbit stew, wild blueberry pie and scones. She laughed loudly and said, “Right on!”

Keep the Circle Strong,
South Wind.

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The Royal – Protest Supporting Marlene Carter – February 26, 2016

Kim Pate speaks at the March & Rally, 26 Feb. Photo: Julie Comber

Kim Pate speaks at the rally, 26 Feb. Photo: Julie Comber

Our day of protest was a freezing one to be sure (-27°C). But I can tell you, the frigidness of the day had a ways to sink in its gauge to find the depth of the cold-heartedness the mental healthcare system has for Canadians suffering severe mental illness. Thank goodness the biting cold, nor anything else for that matter, will ever stop a dedicated activist from expressing his/her contempt at what is happening to our citizens in the country’s mental health institutions from marching to make things right. Over 50 people (wow!) including my daughter Jessica and my granddaughter Kyrstin were present. I am so proud of them and for all of us.

We marched from Westgate Mall to The Royal behind our Anishinabe Kwe (First People’s women) drummers who were assisted by young role model and mentor Brock Lewis. The ‘Strong Woman Song’ rang out as we went along. And I might add, very beautifully! Kichi Migwech to Joyce Bouthiette, Gabrielle Fayant, Hummingbird Woman, Michele Penney and Brock Lewis for leading us.

It’s sad when we feel we have no choice but to rally and protest human rights violations occurring around us but when we don’t, we signal only that we don’t care about them. When the day arrives that people no longer speak up for others who do not have a voice, it will spell the beginning of the end of humanity, so far as I am concerned.

Albert at the March & Rally for Marlene Carter, 26 Feb 2016. Photo: Julie Comber

Albert at the March & Rally for Marlene Carter, 26 Feb 2016. Photo: Julie Comber

I asked recently at the Brockville hospital, “Why are you denying Marlene Carter a TV or radio in the seclusion room?” I was told, “We can’t make it too comfortable for her in there or she’ll never want to leave it!” So for four months she did without these things and was still (according to them) attempting to kick and punch staff around her. (Marlene denies at least one attempt to kick ever happened.) Clearly, their ‘reasoning’ for not allowing her something to help her pass away long countless hours of boredom (if reasoning is what it’s supposed to be), is out of whack with what defines ‘common sense’. They need to be told in plain simple English, “It is not working.” My advice to the doctors, when Plan A sucks, develop Plan B. Add a spoonful of sugar. Be nice! Marlene reacts very well to kindness. I can prove it!

I asked, “Why can’t Marlene go outside or smudge?” I was told, “She might assault staff who attempt to put on or take off her restraints and we can’t risk it.” Why can’t they at least consider the possibility that smudging and the outdoors could be the biggest and most powerful of all medicines for Marlene, to bring calmness and peace to her troubled mind and thus, the use of restraints would no longer be required, period.

But, dear friends, we do have something to celebrate. Marlene is presently OUT of seclusion for two hours each day. I have been assured that she will be allowed now to walk for a period of time for exercise sake each day. She will be allowed now to watch TV or listen to music for a bit of time at least, at some point during the course of her day. I am so pleased to hear it!

When she is allowed to smudge each day is when we will be at peace with how Marlene Carter is being treated at the Brockville Mental Health Centre Forensic Treatment Unit and all objections into how she is being cared for will end. A room should be set aside in hospitals where people like Marlene, regardless of colour or cultural background, can go into to smudge, pray on their knees holy book in hand, meditate, whatever it is they must do to help them calm down and heal. They are human beings after all. Let us never lose sight of it.

Keep the Circle Strong,
South Wind

PS – Click here for the Citizen article on the march and rally.

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Press Release: Protesters will March to Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre to Call For End of Solitary Confinement of Mentally-Ill First Nations Woman

For Immediate Release – 24 February 2016, Ottawa, Ontario

Protesters will March to Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre to Call For End of Solitary Confinement of Mentally-Ill First Nations Woman

What: March & Rally for Marlene Carter at The Royal!
Where: March from Westgate Mall, 1309 Carling Ave to The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre, 1145 Carling Ave.
When: Friday February 26th, 2016.
9:30 am: March begins at south-east corner of Westgate Mall near Monkey Joe’s restaurant
10 to 11:00 am: Outdoor rally near front entrance of Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre

Ottawa, Feb. 24, 2016 – Supporters of Marlene Carter, a First Nations woman who has been held in solitary confinement at the Brockville Mental Health Centre for prolonged periods of time, are rallying on Friday Feb. 26th at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre (The Royal) in support of her human rights. They are demanding she be released from what the Brockville Mental Health Centre calls “seclusion.” Carter is from Onion Lake Cree Nation in Saskatchewan.

For Carter, this current “seclusion” (AKA solitary confinement, isolation, or segregation) means being kept almost 24 hours a day in a tiny 8 x 10 foot room containing a cot and a sink/toilet unit, no TV, radio or internet, limited shower privileges, no right to smudge (an aboriginal ceremony), no right to private counsel with her spiritual advisor, no right to spend even one precious minute outdoors. It also means limited access to the phone.

On Thursday Feb. 11, Carter’s supporters rallied outside the Brockville Mental Health Centre to demand her release from solitary confinement. The rally was led by Elder Albert Dumont (Kitigan Zibi, Quebec), who has been Carter’s spiritual advisor since January 2015. Carter’s supporters also condemned the use of prolonged solitary confinement against anyone in Canada’s prison system.

After the Feb. 11 rally, Elder Dumont announced he would lead the Feb. 26 rally at The Royal to put pressure on George Weber, president and CEO of the institution, by calling on him to immediately release Carter from seclusion. The Brockville Mental Health Centre is part of The Royal’s forensic unit.

The Ontario Review Board determined in January that Carter should be returned to Saskatchewan to be closer to her community and family. Kim Pate, executive director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies and professor of law at the University of Ottawa, has known Carter for nearly two decades and will speak at the rally.

Pate supports Carter being returned to Saskatchewan, but is concerned Carter might wind up back at Saskatoon’s Regional Psychiatric Centre (RPC), which “will only transfer the location, not change her treatment.” RPC is where Carter was first subjected to solitary confinement and restraint, and where she began to hear voices instructing her to self-harm. Pate has suggested to the Onion Lake Cree Nation that it make an application under section 81 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to have Carter transferred to the custody of the community as opposed to an institution like RPC.

“Marlene Carter’s basic human right to be treated with some form of dignity is non-existent at the Brockville Mental Health Centre Forensic Treatment Unit,” states Dumont. “Instead of caring for her in a humane and compassionate way, she is being treated as if mental illness was the worst of the worst of all crimes a person could be guilty of. People should be outraged and condemn what is going on in Brockville.”

On his website, Dumont is also encouraging a letter-writing campaign to Weber, with Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Ralph Goodale, Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould, and Minister of Indigenous Affairs Carolyn Bennett CC’ed. This is because part of Minister Goodale’s Mandate is to: “Work with the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs to address gaps in services to Indigenous Peoples and those with mental illness throughout the criminal justice system.” The abuse that Carter, a mentally ill Indigenous woman, is experiencing can only be seen as a gap in service within the criminal justice system.

– 30 –

Contacts

Albert Dumont (for media only), info.albert.dumont@gmail.com

Julie Comber (bilingual), info.albert.dumont@gmail.com

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Who is Marlene Carter?

To understand how Carter became a victim of the Canadian judicial system, it is important to know some of her history. She endured sexual and physical abuse throughout her childhood, which caused her to attempt suicide several times.

The downward spiral that led to much of Carter’s adult life being spent in institutions started with a conviction in 1999 for non-violent offenses. She was initially sentenced to nine months in prison, but the sentence was extended until 2003 due to an assault she committed while incarcerated. In 2009, she was convicted of several assaults and received a 30-month sentence. Assaults committed while incarcerated extended her sentence again, until 2014.

From 2009 to 2014, Ms. Carter was in Saskatoon’s Regional Psychiatric Centre (RPC). She began hearing voices instructing her to bash her head against the floor or other hard surfaces. RPC responded by keeping her in restraints for so long her muscles atrophied, leaving her unable to stand or walk on her own for more than short distances.

In 2014, Saskatchewan tried to have Ms. Carter designated a dangerous offender. The judge did not label her a dangerous offender, and instead stated she should be transferred to a mental health facility that would focus on supporting her mental health.

The Current Situation at Brockville Mental Health Centre

Albert speaking to the crowd and media outside the Brockville Mental Health Centre, 11 Feb 2016. Photo Credit: Julie Comber

Albert Dumont speaking at rally outside the Brockville Mental Health Centre, 11 Feb 2016. Photo Credit: Julie Comber

Carter was transferred from Saskatchewan to the Brockville Mental Health Centre Forensic Treatment Unit in the summer of 2014. At the request of the Brockville therapeutic staff, in January 2015 Algonquin Elder Albert Dumont began to visit Carter regularly as her spiritual advisor. He took her outdoors to sit and smudge, which Carter had not been allowed to do for years. Dumont witnessed an amazing transformation. Carter went from a state of mistrust and inner rage to becoming calm and hopeful. He also observed that she was intelligent and soft spoken. But by the fall of 2015 she deteriorated once more after Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) was imposed on her against her will. A series of assaults followed soon thereafter, leaving staff members shaken and fearful.

Dumont believes that Carter’s traumatic past combined with the way she is currently being treated are responsible for any regression Carter has experienced.

The Ontario Review Board determined in January 2016 that Carter should be returned to Saskatchewan to be closer to her community and family. However, she is still being kept in solitary confinement and no date has been set for her return to Saskatchewan.

In addition to being held in solitary confinement for prolonged periods of time, Carter was recently subjected to six-point restraint on her tiny cot for at least 14 days. Her hands were bound so tightly to her sides that Dumont observed she could not move from lying on her back to resting on her side comfortably.

Solitary Confinement is Unacceptable

The UN’s “Report on Solitary Confinement” denounces the use of prolonged solitary confinement for more than 15 days. Carter has been subjected to solitary confinement for more than 15 days several times at Brockville.

In addition, the Feb.18, 2016 Maclean’s article Canada’s prisons are the ‘new residential schools’ revealed systematic injustice against aboriginal people in the prison system. Chapter 4 of the article deals specifically with segregation (solitary confinement), and highlights that aboriginal people are more likely to be subjected to solitary confinement, and for longer periods than non-aboriginal inmates. This chapter also tells the story of Kinew James, who died on Jan. 20, 2013, just months before the end of a 15-year sentence, while incarcerated at Saskatoon’s Regional Psychiatric Centre (RPC). Carter was also incarcerated at RPC at the time. James was 35, an Anishinaabe Native and member of the Roseau River First Nation in Manitoba. James’ story is eerily similar to Carter’s. Dumont is concerned Carter could also wind up dead in custody if she is not released immediately from solitary confinement.

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