Workshop, rally held in response to 16-year-old girl’s arrest
Tim Brody - Editor
A small group of youth attended a workshop in Sioux Lookout on May 1 to learn more about their rights when interacting with police and took part in a peaceful rally on the site where a 16-year-old Indigenous girl was forcefully arrested on the street by the OPP on the evening of April 23.
Candace Kitchkeesick, who divides her time between Sioux Lookout and Thunder Bay, coordinated the event.
“We want to make sure the youth know what questions to ask and what process they have to go through to make sure they’re safe or that their friends are safe and to make sure they know that it’s okay to record stuff,” she said. The April 23 arrest was captured on video, which has since gone viral.
“They asked a lot of questions, especially pertaining to that video or pertaining to anything that they’ve experienced while they’ve been in Sioux Lookout when it comes to police officers,” she said.
“I’m pretty sure since the video came out that a lot of the youth have concerns and they did express concerns,” she said, adding, “They don’t feel safe anymore in the community and we want to make sure that they feel safe so we need to fix that broken bridge with the police and with the youth in town.”
Lakehead University student Ivory Tuesday spoke to the approximately 10 youth in attendance about, “Strategies to take care of each other and also knowledge to know your rights so that they can protect themselves in various situations.”
“I think they really appreciated it. We connected really well with them. They had a lot of questions,” she said.
“I’m just glad we were able to respond with some answers and help them feel a little more comfortable.
“She’s their friend and they’re pretty upset and they wanted to know how the situation played out and basically what their rights are around those types of situations,” Tuesday stated.
“We had the same situation play out in Thunder Bay with the police, a video with a minor. So we went through this situation before, so we’re just here providing support for the youth and the community,” she said.
Fellow Lakehead University student Kevin Leatherdale shared, “I came to speak specifically about the Office of the Independent Police Review Director because there are a lot of parallels between what happened here in Sioux Lookout to what’s been happening in Thunder Bay.”
On May 3, Lac Seul First Nation Chief Derek Maud issued the following statement, “It has come to the attention of Lac Seul First Nation leadership that a video captured in Sioux Lookout on April 23, 2019, involving a young member of our community and the Sioux Lookout OPP is being circulated widely on social media. This video and story have also been picked up by various news outlets.
“On behalf of our community, I am very troubled about the contents of the video. It should go without saying that no one deserves to be treated like the young woman on the video.”
He further informed, “I confirm that Lac Seul First Nation and the family have retained legal counsel in respect of this incident.”
In a media release issued on the morning of May 6, the Municipality of Sioux Lookout called on all governments – Federal, Provincial, Municipal and First Nations to, “Cooperatively join forces to work with all the people of Sioux Lookout to meaningfully address the crisis of mental health, addictions and homelessness so visible on the streets of Sioux Lookout.”
“As a community, we are faced with complex and varied challenges as a direct and consequential result of colonialism and historic trauma. Many Indigenous Peoples of the area and region have been impacted by failed government policies and the colonial mindset: dislocation from traditional territory, encroachment on traditional lands; and the failure of assimilation policies such as Indian Residential Schools and Sixties Scoop,” explained Mayor Doug Lawrance.
“There are lingering and intergenerational effects that continue to reverberate on individuals, families and communities. When it comes to the impacts of intergenerational and historic trauma on the Indigenous population, Sioux Lookout is undeniably impacted. We see and acknowledge the tragic realities of the social and health conditions of those adversely impacted on a daily basis: in the shelter, at the hospital, at various places of refuge, on the streets, and in policing and land ambulance statistics.
“The impacts and effects of the ongoing historic trauma is an ongoing and growing crisis for both those impacted and the overall community. Municipal Council continues to be committed in a proactive manner to address the ongoing crisis. The Municipality has been advocating for assistance and for change for many years: for a fully resourced emergency shelter, for detox, for addictions treatment, for safe houses for youth and women, for transitional and supportive housing, for alternative justice methodologies, and simply for recognition of the unique challenges faced by the community and all the people of Sioux Lookout,” Lawrance said.
“We are proposing that a Task Force be formed through a process similar to the Four Party Agreement,” Lawrance said. “The parties could include: Municipality of Sioux Lookout, First Nations (as represented by Nishnawbe Aski Nation and Grand Council Treaty 3), Federal and Provincial governments. The initial purpose of the Task Force will be to collaboratively set up a working group, a process, to address the impacts of social, mental health and addictions, and homelessness issues facing Sioux Lookout.”