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A short lesson about who’s who in Thunder Bay…


In 2012, a member of the Thunder Bay police wrote a press release calling a suspected murderer of an Indigenous man a “Fresh Breath Killer.”  Then Keith Hobbs (who was  former police chief in TB see below) labelled the cop’s racism “dark humour” that was “not about to change. ”

The former police chief, JP Levesques, the former mayor Keith Hobbs and his wife Marisa, have been charged with serious offences.  Levesques was charged with breach of trust and obstruction of justice after he told the mayor he was under investigation for extortion.  The charges against Levesques were dropped in January 2018.  However, former Mayor Hobbs (he was also a former police chief) and his wife were charged with extortion and obstructing police. keith-hobbsKeith & Marisa Hobbs

A friend of theirs, Mary Voss, was also charged with extortion. The former mayor, his wife, and Voss stand accused of using “threats, accusations or menace of disclosing criminal allegations to the police” against former Thunder Bay lawyer Alexander Zaitzeff.  The three were trying to force Zaitzeff  to purchase a house for Voss to live in.sandy-zaitzeff.jpg;w=630  Sandy Zaitzeff

On his part, prominent Thunder Bay defence lawyer, Sandy Zaitzeff,served 119 days in pre-trial custody in the city’s jail Zaitzeff  pleaded guilty to two assaults, one invitation to sexual touching plus unauthorised used of firearms.  Sentenced to 15 months, he received credit for six months in pre-trial custody which he served in “the worst jail in Ontario,” according to his lawyer.

In January 2017, after shouting racial slurs, a man hurled  a trailer hitch from a car window at an Indigenous woman, Barbara Kentner.  She  and her sister had been walking down a city street.  Kentner, a 34-year-old mother, died of severe injuries after nine torturous months in hospital. Only one white man, in a car of four young white men, was charged in her murder.kentnerBarbara Kentner

In March 2018, the Chronicle Journal, Thunder Bay’s only newspaper, called assaults on Indigenous people an “egg toss” that had “police scrambling” to charge the culprits who throw eggs, full food containers, and racial slurs at Indigenous people.   After an outcry by the Assembly of First Nations which called it offensive and insensitive, the newspaper was forced to issue an apology “for the poor choice of words.”

And Thunder Bay’s new mayor, Bill Mauro, a former Liberal member of provincial parliament, is concerned about the “reputation” his city has.

Backstory — 7+

It was only three months ago that author Tanya Talaga went to Halifax to deliver one of the 2018 Massey Lectures.  The Massey series was called All Our Relations: Finding the Path Forward.  In the lectures, she referred to her research and writing of her award-winning 2017 book , Seven Fallen FeathersSeven Fallen Feathers,  as I noted earlier, takes a close  look at seven Indigenous youths’ deaths in what is arguably the most racist city in Canada, Thunder Bay, Ontario. For more, listen to Canadaland’s excellent series of podcasts called Thunder Bay.

Talaga noted the white racism in this northern city of 120,000, which features an incompetent and racist police force plus a mayor and city council that want to focus on boosterism and saving their “reputation” at the cost of sweeping racism under the carpet.

Seven youths died suddenly in or around city’s rivers and waterways over a period of 9 years.  Add another to that  list.  On Dec. 6, 2018 Braiden Jacob, aged 17, went missing.

braidenHe and his family had travelled 540 km south to Thunder Bay from his home on the Webequie First Nation. Ironically, Jacob needed trauma counselling and other health services. His body was found in a park a few days later.  A  22-year-old man has been charged with Jacob’s death.

Of course, Jane Philpott, Canada’s Minister of Indigenous Services, tweeted her condolences. Naturally, the health services were not available in Jacob’s home community of 800—no one seriously expects they would have been.  But the government has made significant improvements to mental health care and “will continue to make those investments.”  What does it mean when a “nice” woman like Jane Philpott tweets sympathy? Clearly it means very little in terms of any change to the status quo. What did medical doctor Carolyn Bennett do? She is the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs with a mandate to do “transformative work to create a new relationship with Indigenous Peoples”– yet she made no comment at all on Jacob’s death in Thunder Bay.

Thunder Bay — a warning and weather

Here is the video about the 14 year old boy, being horribly assaulted by a security guy in a hoodie in the Shoppers Drug Mart at McIntyre Mall.  Courtesy of APTN:

Note the woman shopper with the Lakehead University bag  did not appear to see the beating which occurred about 2 metres behind her, as she automatically “checked out” –in more ways than one. Unfortunately, a typical response from other shoppers, not to intervene.

And the weather reports here look like this:  25 cm of snow coming today.


Thunder Bay Confidential – II

Today’s news is grim.  At Shoppers Drug Mart in the McIntyre Mall just hours, after we were there on Sunday evening, a likely minimum wage contract security guard grabbed an Indigenous youth, and smashed him to the floor-– threatened to put handcuffs on him.    A video is circulating, which I’ll post when I can.  Of course, the public relations spinner  from the Loblaw’s  empire that owns Shoppers was quick to point out that a security guard’s  grabbing and assaulting the youth “does not reflect our company’s values.”  Really. shoppers-drug-mart-memorial-avenue-thunder-bay What isn’t clear from this photo is the fact that right behind it is the infamous Neebing-McIntyre Floodway which resembles a river.  At least three young Indigenous people were found drowned in the floodway.  In Sept., 2017 the body of Dylan Moonias aged 21 was discovered.  In May 2017,  17 year old Tammy Keeash’s drowned body was  also found there. keeash3 Tammy Keeash, aged 17. 

She had been missing for less than 24 hours, and the police had taken next to no interest in her disappearance.  At the time, Keeash was in the care of Ontario’s child welfare system.  Her short life and death is noted   in Tanya Talaga’s award winning book,  Seven Fallen Feathers.  Keeash was found naked from the waist down, yet Thunder Bay police did not suspect foul play.    Several weeks later, the body of Josiah Begg — aged 14, was also  found drowned in the floodway.  He had gone missing May 6, the same day as Keeash. He had travelled to Thunder Bay with a family member — from a fly-in community hundreds of kilometres away — for a medical appointment. josiah-begg Josiah Begg, aged 14 yrs. 

Thunder Bay Confidential

When Toronto Star columnist Tanya Talaga arrived in Thunder Bay several years ago to interview Anishinaabe chief Alvin Fiddler fidler-gc-hon-law-degree-sept-23-2016--14-_thumb she had no idea her new book would detail the deaths of 7 Indigenous youth in about 10 years.  In Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City  sevenATalaga painstakingly investigates the deaths of the youth — and shows that they were no accidents. Her prize-winning book opens a look at white colonial violence in the the settler state called Canada.  She shows how the police, the (then) mayor, elected and also court officials routinely conducted racist attacks — whether violent and/or sexual against Indigenous young people.  Her book isn’t simply a wake up call, but a call to action.

I travelled here, on two planes —  2823 km — to visit my sons and daughter in law for a week.  I narrowly escaped the -33C temperatures, and hit a warm spell where today it’s only -16C, and snowing.daybreakTBDaybreak in Thunder Bay. james-st-bridgeAt the James St Bridge to nowhere, read on

dinnerJPGLa famille après le diner



What to read, What to watch — a new year’s list

The film Foxtrot is riveting– here is the trailer. It needs to be, it’s longer than average.  A feature film from Israel which gives a very different slant on the “most moral army in the world” the Israeli Defence Forces.  As most of you know, I’m for Palestinian human rights, and for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel for its brutal colonial control over Palestinians and their land. Some people say this film is about the neurosis of a people (the Israeli Jews) who have been making war with Palestinians since 1948 and before. Others (like me) think it’s more like a “woe is me” tale — but it moves along and shocked me along the way! Worth seeing. foxtrot

Drum Roll please… 

For the best book of 2018cintioyou must read  Marcello di Cintio’s brilliant book Pay No Heed to the Rockets. Di Cintio is from Calgary.  An established and talented writer, Di Cintio made a number of trips to Palestine where interviewed scores of Palestinian authors, playwrights and poets– male, female and queer, of a variety of ages and backgrounds. This is quite simply the best book I’ve ever read on the Occupation and Palestine. The best.  He meets with writers in East Jerusalem, in the West Bank, in Gaza and Israeli Arabs in the Galilee.   They discuss politics, literature, freedom, and culture. For any of us who know nothing of Palestinian culture, heritage, and literature, this book is an amazing resource.  I read this as an e-book from the Halifax Public Library but I had to renew it because I wanted to read it slowly –so it would not end.  The title comes from a prose poem by Palestine’s national poet Mahmoud Darwish.  The poem is called Memory for Forgetfulness and it’s about how to make coffee — but in the middle of the poem he writes: “Turn off the heat, and pay no heed to the rockets.” I cannot speak highly enough about Di Cintio’s book.   Independent Jewish Voices- Canada in Halifax are planning to bring Di Cintio to speak and promote his book in Halifax in mid-Feb. so stay tuned!!

Joan Williams’ White Working Class is a very good read.  A law professor in California, Williams does not take herself too seriously, but she is very serious when she discusses the lives of white working class Americans, who are now often made fun of, are ridiculed and demonized as pro-trump toadies.  This book whitelooks at how the class has fallen from grace — from the post World War II years to today.  Front a left wing perspective she analyses why so many did vote for Trump, and so many refuse to act in their own political and economic interests.  Fascinating read, and you can listen to a fascinating interview with her on NPR’s podcast Hidden Brain –– where I first heard about her and her book.  The book is in the Halifax library.


My Letter: Are there two justice systems in this province?


Is it just my imagination or a usual practice that when someone who is criminally charged does not show up for court, the judge issues a bench warrant? Instead the provincial court judge merely set a new court date (Feb. 11), when Shawn Wade Hynes failed to show up for court. Just for the record, Hynes’ lawyer didn’t show up either.

Hynes of Pictou County is accused of shooting Nhlanhia  Dlamini in the back with a nail gun on a construction site.  The nail partially collapsed Dlamini’s lung and he required surgery and a 4-day hospital stay.  Hynes was charged with criminal negligence, but many argue he should also be charged with a hate crime, since Hynes is white and Dlamini is black.

Are there two justice systems in this province – just asking.


19 year old Nhlanhla Dlamini (right) with his brother at a demonstration in Halifax in the fall 2018.  (photo taken by Yvette D’Entremont from the Halifax Star-Metro)