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

Posted in Community, Idle No More, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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.

Posted in Community, Idle No More, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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.

Posted in Community, Idle No More | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Community, Idle No More | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Open Letter to the Community: Cards for Marlene

Dear Friends and Fellow Activists,

I say ‘Kichi Migwech’ to all of you who took that little bit of time out of your life to write a letter registering your disgust at how a mentally-ill Cree woman, far from home, is being treated at the Brockville Mental Health Centre, Forensic Treatment Unit. Marlene Carter’s human rights are non-existent. It is heartening to know somebody cares. Anyone who doesn’t should be ashamed of themselves. We are her voice and her only hope!

postcards-1174179_1920Two of Marlene’s supporters, one of them Missy Beavers, and the other, my granddaughter Kyrstin, are bringing greeting cards to the rally addressed to Marlene. What a fabulous gesture of support this is for Marlene! Let us all do this. You can write a short note inside of your greeting card letting Marlene know how much you care for her. Marlene will feel loved, cared for and encouraged. OK? Let’s do it!

If you know people who would like Marlene to know they care about her wellbeing but cannot attend the rally themselves, then please bring their card for them to the protest. Do not send gifts, place your card to Marlene in an unsealed envelope as she does not have a letter opener (!). I will bring them to her on my next visit.

All the Best,
South Wind

Posted in Community, Idle No More, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Marlene Carter – How You Can Help

birdcage-454467_1920Marlene Carter still remains in seclusion at the Brockville Mental Health Centre Forensic Treatment Unit after close to 4 months. Where in the future will there be light for her? When she is finally freed from her torture chamber, it will have to be done with care and in great consideration of the damage/trauma the months in seclusion have done to Marlene’s mind.

I hope she will be treated with gentleness and patience by staff as she slowly reintegrates into the routine of the hospital.

How can you help? Two ways. First, for those in or near Ottawa, there will be a march and rally on Friday, February 26. We will gather at Westgate Mall at 9:15 a.m. At precisely 9:30 a.m. we will march to the Royal Ottawa Hospital, where George Weber works, the man who calls all the shots on how and where Marlene Carter is treated while she is in Ontario. Weber is President and CEO of the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group (the Brockville Mental Health Centre where Marlene is being held in seclusion is part of this Group). At 10 a.m. the rally will begin. Click here for the FB Event. We call on all supporters who can make it to join us for drumming, songs, speeches, flag and placard waving, and all around support for an Anishinabe Kwe (Onion Lake Cree Nation, SK) who has suffered for too long in our homeland. Make a commitment to be there. Keep it! Spread the word!

Second, everyone and anyone can write a letter. I am suggesting a letter-writing campaign beginning February 19. Write your letters now (samples to follow soon). Then flood Weber with volley after volley starting February 19. Please document your outrage! If you care about Marlene Carter, then please take the time to condemn what is happening to her.

Write to George Weber and cc his boss, Ralph Goodale. The Honourable Ralph Goodale is the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness in Trudeau’s Liberal government. Correctional Services Canada falls under this Ministry. And part of Minister Goodale’s Mandate is: “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 Marlene, a mentally ill Indigenous woman, is experiencing is certainly a gap in service within the criminal justice system! Goodale and the Minister of Justice (Jody Wilson-Raybould) and the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs (Carolyn Bennett) must address this situation! Therefore, please cc Wilson-Raybould and Bennett, too.

Write to:
George Weber, President and CEO of the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group: george.weber@theroyal.ca

And cc:
The Honourable Ralph Goodale: ralph.goodale@parl.gc.ca
The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould: jody.wilson-raybould@parl.gc.ca
The Honourable Carolyn Bennett: carolyn.bennett@parl.gc.ca

Let them have it with both the emotional and spiritual barrels. Enough is enough!

Keep the Circle Strong,
South Wind

NOTE: Click here for background information on Marlene’s case. Sample letters will be posted soon. Have your letter ready to send by 19 Feb!

Posted in Community, Idle No More | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Follow-Up On Rally For Marlene Carter

The Brockville Mental Health Centre experienced its first protest in its entire history on February 11, something long overdue, so far as a growing number of human rights advocates are concerned. A small group of these dedicated activists gathered at the Centre and partook of a smudging ceremony, prayed together, then marched a short distance to the steps leading into the building where Marlene Carter continues to be tortured.

Media Coverage

By Ron Zajac of Brockville’s The Recorder & Times: http://bit.ly/1TZ3UWo (and reposted by the Ottawa Sun: http://bit.ly/1TfcnnN)

By Annette Francis at APTN: http://aptn.ca/news/newscasts/

And I was interviewed for CBC Radio’s “As It Happens,” which aired on 11 Feb. My interview is from 3:18 to 10:04 of the third part of the show, take a listen here: http://bit.ly/1RzmzHQ

A Summary Of My Speech At The Rally

I pointed out the fact that Marlene Carter is not a criminal, nor is she a psychopath, nor is she a rabid animal. She is a human being stricken with a mental illness and should be treated with patience, compassion and empathy. This is what works! It worked last summer when Marlene benefitted enormously from being treated kindly. The outdoors and the smudging ceremony helped her to recover and heal.

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

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

Quotes of mine from the rally: “Whenever a human being is treated like Marlene Carter and society doesn’t do anything about it … Where’s the insanity? The insanity of the society itself is greater than anyone being confined here.” – “Marlene’s organs, her heart, her kidneys and other vital organs have deteriorated under the inhumane treatment she is receiving at a hospital, which is supposed to be a healing place but for Marlene it is nothing more than a place where human rights abuses and torture are experienced by her day after day … Her weakened organs will eventually shut down and Marlene will die because of her ordeal in Brockville.”

And on seclusion: “Within the last 4 months, Marlene has spent at least 105 days in seclusion. Whoever is making the decision to keep her there, should be made to spend one hour in the seclusion room for each day Marlene has been there (total 105 continuous hours) so they can get a dose of their own medicine. Maybe then they would finally understand what torture is.”

The day before the rally I visited with Marlene (February 10). She had undergone an electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) treatment at 6 a.m. that morning.

To my dismay, Marlene was still in the seclusion room, tied to a bed, her wrists secured so closely to her body, she could not even hold the bottle of coca cola I brought for her as a treat. The restraints locking her to the metal bed were very tight. I asked Marlene if she was able to lay on her side. “Sort of,” she answered. “Well move from side to side as much as you can,” I told her, “or you’ll get bed sores.”

Even though she was a bit tired from the ordeal of ECT, Marlene was responsive and happy to see me again. She talked to me about the hope she had of soon having a chat with one of her sons, something she has not done in years. “I want my mind to be clear,” she said, “I don’t want to be dizzy or tired when I talk to my son.” Her sister will make arrangements for mom and son to talk when Marlene feels ready for it. We prayed together, shared some ‘Indian Humour.’ (How anyone being treated the way Marlene Carter is being treated and still be able to laugh, is beyond me.) But Marlene is Marlene, one of a kind, that’s for sure! Marlene is not allowed a one-on-one counsel with me. A male nurse sat close by listening to our every word. I must admit, this is an irritant I find hard to take.

When I returned to my home later that day, I lay in my bed with both arms tight by my side in the manner Marlene’s arms are when restrained as she was on Feb. 10. I imagined being in a small bed, my ankles tied to the bed frame. I turned onto my left side as best I could (it wasn’t easy) and understood then, why Marlene answered “sort of” when I’d asked her if it was possible for her to lay on her side. The position I found myself in was not very comfortable. I wondered how she manages to get any sleep when tied down like that. I want you to visualize it so you might understand something of what this Cree woman, far from home, is going through. If this is not a torturous existence, then tell me what is.

Albert speaks to protestors braving the bitter cold in Brockville. Photo Credit: Julie Comber

Albert speaks to protestors braving the bitter cold in Brockville. Photo Credit: Julie Comber

The dedicated activists who took the time out of their busy lives to stand for Marlene Carter on February 11th should be commended for their stamina (it was not a nice day) and for the compassion and dedication they have for her. The cold of the day (-20°C) had a ferocious bite but the protestors withstood it, warmed no doubt by the explosions of fire burning in the hearts of the good people around them. To all who read this, I want you to know how good it was to have had Tasha-Dawn Doucette sing two traditional songs for Marlene. Tasha did so without the assistance of the drum as no drum was present. She began with the song ‘Anishinabe Kwe’. It was a spiritually powerful moment that left some people in attendance teary-eyed. We ended the protest with Tasha-Dawn being joined by Julie Comber, singing the ‘Strong Woman Song.’ I doubt I’ll ever meet anyone again as strong of heart and spirit as Marlene Carter. She tells me upon every visit that she prays for me to enjoy health and healing. What a sweetheart!

As we prepared to leave, one of the protestors pointed to a window of the institution. A person was in one of the rooms, holding a sign. It read, “I want to be free.”

Keep the Circle Strong,
South Wind

Posted in Community, Idle No More | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Update On Marlene Carter

I have just been notified that Marlene Carter has experienced another incident of self-injury. It occurred on Thursday, February 4th of last week. Marlene was in the confines of her seclusion cell when she began striking her head on the floor. It had been a long time since her last episode of self-injury (early January 2015). Am I surprised this has happened? Not in the least! What surprises me is the length of time she lasted in seclusion (over 3 months) before she totally mentally collapsed. I expect I would have been banging my head, screaming and climbing the walls after only a month of being forced to endure the type of solitary confinement poor Marlene was subjected to. Make no mistake, seclusion for long periods of time is torture in every sense of the word. Who the hell can emotionally tolerate it for long periods of time? I guess only heroes in books and movies. The rest of us don’t have a chance!

Example of seclusion room in BC. Full Article on Solitary Confinement:  http://bit.ly/1T3PEen

Example of seclusion room in BC. Full Article on Solitary Confinement: http://bit.ly/1T3PEen

The time has come for new mental health practices to be developed into how our citizens overtaken by mental illness, are treated. Tying them down is not the answer, neither is keeping them in restraints or locking them away in an 8’ x 10’ seclusion room. No one wants to be overcome with a mental illness. No parent wants to see a son or daughter caught in the space of relentless fog and confusion of mental illness. Are we not duty-bound as human beings to treat our citizens suffering in such a way with compassion and understanding? Are we being tested? What will it signal to Creator when no one no longer cares?

I’m not advocating for the coddling and pampering of people whose minds are lost in a whirlwind. I’m only stating a fact: empathy, trust and patience is what will work best in returning victims of mental illness to some kind of existence where a purpose of life for them will be served.

The rally for Marlene begins at 10 a.m. on Thursday, February 11th. Women of the Ottawa community are stepping forward to support a Cree Anishinabe Kwe (Marlene Carter) with drumming and songs. Speeches will be given and our message of “End Seclusion Now” will be heard across this country. We must not let Marlene Carter down. Bring your placard. Make your statement. Make time for this event.

Try to be at the protest site at 1831 Oxford Ave., Brockville by 9:45 a.m. The directions are as follows (from Hwy. 401): Take North Augusta exit, stay on N. Augusta Road until you reach King St. E. Turn left and go straight until Oxford Ave. Turn left and continue to the entrance of the Secure Treatment Unit.

I will be in Brockville early at Winniebee’s Cafe, 23 King St. West at 9 a.m. I’ll see you at the protest site at 9:45 a.m.

Keep the Circle Strong,
South Wind

FB Eventhttp://on.fb.me/1ZXzNOG
Press Releasehttp://bit.ly/1Q74P7x

Posted in Community, Idle No More, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Press Release: Protest Calls For End To Inhumane Treatment Of Mentally-Ill First Nations Woman

For Immediate Release – 9 February 2016, Ottawa, Canada

Protest Calls For End To Inhumane Treatment Of Mentally-Ill First Nations Woman

What: Rally for Marlene Carter: End the Use of Seclusion!
Where: Brockville Mental Health Centre, 1831 Oxford Ave, Brockville, ON
When: 10:00-11:00am on Thursday February 11th, 2016

Marlene Carter, a First Nations woman (Onion Lake Cree Nation, Sask.) has been held in seclusion at the Brockville Mental Health Centre, Forensic Treatment Unit, since autumn of last year. For Ms. Carter, seclusion (solitary confinement) means a tiny 8’ x 10’ room containing a cot and a sink/toilet, no TV or radio or internet, no tea or coffee, no shower privileges, no right to a smudging ceremony (spirituality), no right to private one-on-one counsel with her spiritual advisor, no right to spend even one precious minute outdoors. It also means limited access to the phone.

Kim Pate, executive director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies and professor of law at the University of Ottawa, has known Ms. Carter for nearly two decades and says, “Like so many other women, especially Indigenous women and those with disabling mental health issues, Marlene should be in the community – her community of support – with supportive and therapeutic resources, not in isolated and dehumanizing conditions of confinement. The monies being used to keep Marlene in such isolation should be invested in the community and utilized to provide appropriate therapeutic supports with and for Marlene. Prisons are not and can not be treatment centres!”

Elder Albert Dumont (Kitigan Zibi, QC) has served as Ms. Carter’s spiritual advisor for the past year beginning in January 2015, approximately 6 months after she arrived in Brockville. He is leading a rally outside the Brockville Mental Health Centre at 10am on Thursday, February 11th to demand that Ms. Carter be released from seclusion. The rally will condemn the use of seclusion for long periods of time against any Canadian, regardless of cultural background, anywhere in the nation’s prison system.

The Current Situation at Brockville Mental Health Centre

Marlene 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, Algonquin Elder Albert Dumont began to visit Ms. Carter regularly as her spiritual advisor in January 2015. They were allowed to sit outdoors and smudge, something Marlene had not been permitted to do for a number of years. Mr. Dumont witnessed an amazing transformation, with Ms. Carter going from a mind-frame 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. There are still two outstanding charges for her assaults on staff members, one as recent as Jan. 6.

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

“Marlene Carter is neither a criminal nor is she a rabid dog,” states Mr. Dumont. “For most of her adult life, especially the past 7 years, she has been treated as one or the other by Canada’s mental health system and by our justice system. She is a woman whose mind has been devastated by a mental illness brought down on her by the unspeakable traumas of her past. She should be treated with kindness, patience, compassion and proper medication until she recovers to find peace of mind and can live a life worth living supported by her family and community.”

Mr. Dumont also wants to draw attention to the fact that numerous reports and studies confirm that no one – in particular those with mental health issues – should be subjected to seclusion (solitary confinement).

The Ontario Review Board determined in January that Ms. Carter should be returned to Saskatchewan to be closer to her community and family. However, she is still being kept in seclusion and the date has not been set for when she will return to Saskatchewan. At the very least, she should not endure seclusion while she waits to go home.

– 30 –

Contacts

Albert Dumont, info.albert.dumont [@] gmail.com

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

Background on Marlene Carter

Ms. Carter was sexually and physically abused as an infant and throughout her childhood. Due to the abuse, Marlene attempted suicide on a number of occasions.

The mental and spiritual downward spiral that lead to much of Ms. Carter’s adult life being spent in institutions began with a conviction in 1999 for non-violent offences. She was sentenced to nine months, but an assault with a weapon while incarcerated extended her sentence until 2003. She was then convicted of several assaults on correctional officers and inmates in 2004. She was in and out of custody on breaches until 2006. In 2009, she was convicted of several assaults on peace officers and a stranger in the community. She received a 30-month sentence, but further assaults while incarcerated extended her sentence 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.

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.

Posted in Community, Idle No More, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Stand Up For Marlene Carter

What a miserable season it must be in the life of a human being to have to sit, through the use of force, hour after hour, day after day, week after week, month after month in the same spot with absolutely nothing to do. Imagine as days and weeks pass, not even being able to look forward to washing your body under the water of a bath or shower. Such has been life for Marlene Carter since last October. Her only crime is having the misfortune to be stricken with a mental illness brought down on her because of the unspeakable traumas of her past. The people inflicting ‘seclusion’ on Marlene would likely tell us that they have ‘sound’ reasons for doing so. But where is the common sense or the humanity in placing her in a small (8’ x 10’) room, without TV or radio, no right to tea or coffee, no smudging or one-on-one counsels with her spiritual advisor, for months on end. Why do they not understand that seclusion for long periods of time is something guaranteed to build rage? Where would their breaking point be if they, themselves, had to endure it?

When will Marlene be free of seclusion?

I worry that if these human rights abuses continue, Marlene will be driven to the point of no return so far as her mental health is concerned. There certainly will arrive a time when her mind will no longer be able to tolerate what is happening to it and crumble under the abuse. We cannot allow this to happen. We need to rally in support of Marlene before it’s too late. She deserves a chance to have a life worth living.

Marlene’s favourite song is ‘Rebel Yell’ by Billy Idol. There is a line in the song that tells it all about Marlene Carter. The words of the song say, “She don’t like slavery, she won’t sit and beg.” Marlene will never under any circumstances ‘beg’ any authority in the physical domain for anything and because she refuses to do so doesn’t mean she is unfit to enjoy the human rights the rest of us take for granted.

I wrote the poem ‘Voices’ for Marlene after she had begun healing because of getting brief access to the outdoors after many years of not being allowed outside.

Voices
Inspired by and dedicated to Marlene Carter
by Albert Dumont ©

The voices
Of birds, rapids and leaves
The songs
Of spirits emitting from the land
The whispers of ancestors
Promising, love for you will never die

These voices
Call to you, to be at peace
And to extend lovingly, a gentle hand
Surround yourself with their healing, wrapped
In a blanket lifted from the earth
Made of your birth season’s medicines

And those voices from the dark
Which call to you
To bring forth rage and mistrust
Banish them forever from your mind

Your prayers are strong, dance spiritually
With them in Creator’s love
Your drumbeat and soul
Now gentle as a baby’s heart
You stand in beauty, with the voices
Of birds, rapids and leaves

The protest on the 11th of February, beginning at 10 a.m., is about stopping ‘seclusion’, not just against Marlene Carter, but stopping it from being used against any Canadian regardless of their cultural background. Take the time to stand with us. Let’s make the world a better place.

Keep the Circle Strong,
Albert ‘South Wind’ Dumont

Posted in Community, Idle No More, Nature, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment