Toronto Star

Jail Conditions

I have been reading some news articles about the jail conditions during the G20 summit in June 2010.

I know that the issue with the G20 police efforts is/was that it is/was too much. More recently, TO Police Chief Bill Blair said that the police were “overwhelmed” and “not properly trained.” To read the TO Star news article, click HERE.

I also know that some of the people complained that they were arrested because they were just “there.” Wrong place. Wrong time. When I first watched it on television, I could see some peaceful protests going on and remember saying to my friends, “I wish I was there.” Not to be there but to support my friends who I knew were there that were peaceful protesters. I don’t wish that anymore.

Among those people that were arrested, they said that the jail conditions were horrible. Jail isn’t supposed to be a 4-star hotel stay. Or even a 1-star hotel stay.

From the various articles that I have read, I can remember reading that girls had to go to the bathroom in front of male officers. Male/females stripped searched. Physically abused. No food. No water. For hours at a time. No lawyer. No phone call.

Sorry, but it’s jail. Jail cells don’t have a separate room for a bathroom with a door. Jail cells don’t have down filled duvets waiting for you to be wrapped in. Oh and if you are just being held for a certain period of time (usually less than 12 hours), food doesn’t have to be provided for. Just a light snack. A glass of water. Isn’t it that a person can survive 3 hours without shelter, 3 days without water, 3 weeks without food… Just a rule of thumb.

Judging how the police reacted during the G20. That’s all they reacted on. A rule of thumb.

But this post isn’t about jail conditions during G20. Where some people were held for a little as a few hours. To maybe a few days.

This post is about the fact that incarcerated Aboriginals face more dire jail conditions than what those people would have experienced. At alarming rates.

I found this article, again searching for something completely unrelated to G20, titled Jail Conditions For Canadian Aboriginals a “Disgrace”: Ombudsman. I like how at the end of the article it says,

“If this was the case for non-aboriginal people, I’m almost certain that Canadians would react and demand that something be done,” said Beverly Jacobs.

If the people who are fighting for their “Jail Rights” during the G20, then they should fight against the conditions that not just Aboriginal but also non-Aboriginal incarcerated people face every day in jail. Like, lack of bedding. Or no doors on their bathroom stalls.

Ps. My vent for the day. And, end scene 😉

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Immoral Discrimination

I read this article when it was first published, but did not have a chance to comment on it until now.

Please read the Toronto Star article titled Lack of Proper Schools For Natives is Immoral Discrimination Martin Says.

This article reminds me of an earlier post I had written three months ago after I read about relative depravation theory and was reminded of an incident at an old place of employment.

I wrote a short-short story titled “My Hometown.” You can read the original post HERE. I have also copied and pasted the piece I wrote below for easier reference…

After reading this article, I remember when I said to my mom something similar to what former PM Paul Martin had said, “Immoral discrimination.” I had said to my mom commenting on the situation of school/education relating to access/attainment for Aboriginals in Canada and I told her:

This is not a Canadian issue. This isn’t even an Aboriginal issue. This is a morality issue.

Don’t you just love those moments when someone more important or more distinguished says something similar to you! It makes you feel like you are on the right track, heading in the right direction. Writing this post and remembering what I said to my mom is one of those moments: on the right track, heading in the right direction. I just hope the rest of Canada gets on it too!

Here is the original short-short story titled “My Hometown.”

My hometown

You say, my hometown is just like your hometown… except that it is not.

My hometown is a reserve. It is a First Nation. I was lucky though. My hometown was on the edges of a tiny city. I was able to go to an elementary school and high school, off my reserve yet still close to my home.

My elementary school wasn’t a part of my hometown though. It was your hometown. It was in “town” and it was “off the reserve.” My teachers called my friends “bad,” but she didn’t call your friends anything…but good. My teachers called my friends “stupid,” but she called your friends “smart.”

My high school was the same as yours. It was in the same town, and off the reserve. Except now, my teachers were better than the last. The only difference was your friends called me “stupid” and a “slut,” and your friends made fun of my friends.

My hometown is a reserve. It is not like your hometown. I was lucky though. My hometown had clean running water, not like some of the other reserves my friends were from. My friends were flown in and out of their hometown, so they could earn their education. Your friends were flown down south for family vacation. My friends didn’t try to kill themselves….but I did. My hometown is not like yours. I live on a reserve. You live in a town, a city…My hometown is not like yours.

Residential School Children

This past weekend I was able to attend my university’s First Nations Student Association’s powwow. This powwow had a great turn out and I was very impressed. I was also able to meet a few people that I am interested in working with or at least volunteering with. At the powwow, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission had a booth set up and I was able to meet the person who works with the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association. I was very interested in talking with this individual because I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Shingwauk Residential School Reunion. When I volunteered at this event, I had some amazing conversations with Residential school survivors and I also learned a few things from this group of people.

The one thing I learned was this: Keep smiling! When I remember this experience, and even though this group of people were brought together under not-so-great circumstances, they still smiled. I remember seeing them sitting together, eating together, laughing together, and most important still smiling together.

Another thing I learned about this experience is that many of the children who did attend the school and who did die at the school, never received proper burial. This kind of made me upset. As a volunteer, I had a tour of the old residential school which is now a university, Algoma University College. On this tour, we were brought to a secluded area behind the university. There was a trail that led up to this area and specifically into the area which we were going to. We were going to the graves of the priests and nuns. In other words, the graves that did not include the children who died at the school. These graves had big tombstones, fencing around the grave site… clear markers that graves existed there. We were told that many of the children who died at the school either died in the river trying to escape the school or died and were only buried in the front of the school. The front of the school was just a big green yard, with obviously no grave markings.

I talk about this experience because when I visited the Truth and Reconciliation Commission website, I saw an article that spoke about an Aboriginal youth, whose name is Charlie Hunter, that died while at a different residential school and his parents were not notified of their child’s burial. Additionally, Charlie’s burial happened outside Charlie’s home community–his parents could not give a proper burial and could not visit his burial site. As the article says,

For years, their family has unsuccessfully pressed the federal government to have Charlie’s body brought home so that they can visit his grave and talk with his spirit.

The burial of a body is a very sacred ceremony for Aboriginal people and it can be agreed upon for any group of people that funerals help with the grieving process. This process is an important part of healing for anyone, whether Aboriginal or not. If you would like to read the entire Toronto Star article, you can read the complete article HERE.

When reading this article, it made me upset with how the Indian Affairs Minister responded to this situation. Mr. John Duncan simply said in a letter,

He feels badly for them but cannot help…

Fortunately, another part of this story is that there is another couple, the Wilsons, amongst others. The Wilsons helped out Charlie’s parents by donating $5,000 to help bring Charlie Hunter home. A trust fund was also set up. The estimated cost to bring Charlie home is estimated to be at $21,500. Throughout the story, there are individuals who are touched by this story and who are willing to help bring Charlie home. This literally brought tears to my eyes. I thought, if only we could bring all children home to their parents.