The Bear Clan, Thunder Bay

TB-50centsAt The Common restaurant and bar on Cumberland St. every time someone buys a Sleeping Giant beer, 50 cents goes to the Bear Clan.  The Bear Clan had a training session at RIVAL, and now 15 – 20 people go out in cars every Friday and Saturday night to check on Indigenous people.  Since the revelations in Seven Fallen Feathers sevenAeveryone recognises there are people in Thunder Bay (usually white men) who do harm and even kill Indigenous people.  There are also many women go missing  in Thunder Bay due to the sex trafficking of women on ships through Lake Superior .

The Bear Clan even patrols the waterways  in their efforts to save Indigenous youths’ lives.  This flies in the face of the Thunder Bay Police Service which-– due to racism —  does not have any capacity in seriously stopping the deaths.  The police are actively hostile to the Bear Clan, as are other good burghers. bear-clan

More Thunder Bay —

Kangas SaunaKaunga-sauna is renowned and probably the oldest public sauna in Canada. There are nice roomettes with your own private sauna for family groups or friends. We went with Omri. It was great. There’s also a nice small restaurant where they serve the super thin Finnish pancakes. We went today. This painting is above the entry door to Kangas — they do supply everything but the branches.

TB-J&L-bkgroundLarry and I on the waterfront at Lake Superior, grain silos on the side. Below are 8 ft tall snow sculptures in the waterfront park. It was about -28C but sunny. As you can see the theme is “travel”.

We spoke at City Hall at the Chamber of Commerce Lunch & Learn.  We spoke on how racism is NOT good for business. It went over quite well– we now have a great presentation for folks at the Halifax Chamber of Commerce!! If we get invited that is.

We interrupt the politics for a little tourism…

The photo on the top left is the Magnus theatre in the snowstorm the night we went to see Huff.  It’s a brilliant one-man play about growing up on the rez.  Tells whites a lot about Indigenous lives. 75 tough minutes and worth it. Here’s a link to the Ghomeshi Effect which played in Thunder Bay in January.

Eaton’s downtown, is an art deco building, which has been mostly vacant for decades. Now it’s about to be sold to U-Haul.  The problem with that is U-Haul is basically lockers that store condo-dwellers’ stuff.  So lockers don’t add to good  street life, to shops, to restaurants, to good public space.   Up to now, the old Eaton’s was the home of Definitely Superior Art Gallery — an artist-run collective which has been a prominent gallery and cultural centre in the basement for 30 years.  Now it’s being evicted for “renewal”.  Omri and Larry and I drove to Boulevard Lake, not far from downtown for a bit of a walk. It was -25C, but sunny… Here’s a bald headed eagle I spied. The wonderful sculpture of a man doing Tai Chi appears in the waterfront park.  Tai Chi Master Peng You, is also a city councillor, and pushed for this addition to the park.

TB-sketch-rival2TB-sketch-rivalTB-Manuel-bookTB-at-rival RIVAL is Max and Cassie’s activist lab, at Lakehead University.  It’s a wonderful place where people meet up, and have training classes, reading circles, and discussions.  On Tuesday night there is a reading circle and we read the Reconciliation Manifesto by  Arthur Manuel, an Indigenous thinker and writer who died too early. More than 20 of us, law students, community people and readers come once a week to read, each of us take turns to read 2-3 paragraphs and then we discuss what we read when the section or chapter ends. Brilliant.  Here’s a photo of Max and Omri enjoying a joke.  I though it was a bit forward to take photos, so I drew pictures of people in the reading circle.  The top left, shows Cassie with a big scarf on.  The other photo shows Max under the white board sign.  i

With friends we are having breakfast at the well known Hoito, Finnish community restaurant.  Omri is reading in the living room and the house he shares with Max and Cassie.  And here is a better photo of the snow and light that night we went to see Huff, the play.

Independent Police Review Reveals Racism & Worse

In December 2018, after a two-year investigation into Thunder Bay’s police force, Ontario’s independent police watchdog, the OIPRD, revealed evidence of widespread racism that informed shoddy investigations into the deaths and disappearances of Indigenous people in the city.

Gerry McNeilly, Ontario’s Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD), called for the re-opening of at least nine sudden-deaths in Thunder Bay.  Noting that Thunder Bay has “one of the highest rates of hate crimes in Canada,” McNeilly found “significant deficiencies in sudden-death investigations involving Indigenous people that are due, in part, to racial stereotyping.”mcneillyGerry McNeilly

The OIPRD review entitled Broken Trust: Indigenous People and the Thunder Bay Police Service, made 44 recommendations.  Broken Trustnoted that since the early 1990s, Indigenous communities in and around Thunder Bay identified more than 30 suspicious deathsof Indigenous people which the Thunder Bay police refused to seriously investigate.

The review noted that  in the case of the sudden deaths, the Thunder Bay Police Service investigators failed “to treat or protect the deceased and his or her family equally and without discrimination because the deceased was Indigenous.”

To get a true feeling for what’s gone on and continues to go on with the Thunder Bay Police Service, see the report here:   http://oiprd.on.ca/wp-content/uploads/OIPRD-BrokenTrust-Final-Accessible-E.pdf

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:  https://aptnnews.ca/2019/02/05/loblaw-says-incident-at-shoppers-drug-mart-absolutely-unacceptable-after-teen-slammed-and-handcuffed/

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.