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Edmonton activist calls for more research on killers of Indigenous women

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Muriel Stanley Venne was left for dead in the back alley of her home. It was a violent end to a marriage marred by years of abuse.

Looking back, Venne feels she was perilously close to becoming a statistic — just one of hundreds of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada.

“The only reason he didn’t kill me was because he thought I was dead,” Venne recalled.

Nearly 50 years later, Venne —  now an internationally-recognized human rights activist  — is calling for more research on the killers of Indigenous women and girls. She wants federal prisons to interview the convicted murderers. 

To understand why Indigenous women are murdered at disproportionate rates, advocates and policy-makers must hear from the killers themselves, she said. 

This is an excellent opportunity to start dealing with the root causes of this pain.– Muriel Stanley Venne

“If we don’t interview them and find out why did what they did what they did, we will be missing a great part, a factor in the awful tragedies that are happening in the country and have been happening for many years,” said Venne, who pitched her idea to Correctional Service Canada commissioner Anne Kelly last week.

“This is an excellent opportunity to start dealing with the root causes of this pain that is throughout the Indigenous community.”

Venne met with corrections officials in Laval, Que. last week.

She is a member of National Aboriginal Advisory Committee, which provides advice and recommendations to Correctional Service Canada on Indigenous offenders. She’s also the founder of the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women, based in Edmonton.

“The statistics have gotten worse instead of better and that’s of very grave concern to me,” she said. We are not speaking to the perpetrators and valuable information could be gained from this. 

“It’s something that I, as a Canadian woman, find very concerning,” she said in an interview with CBC Radio’s Edmonton AM. The fact that it’s taken so long to get where we are is something that haunts me.” 

A 2017 report from Statistics Canada showed Indigenous women are six times more likely to be victims of homicide than non-Indigenous women.

An RCMP report in 2014 found 1,181 police-recorded incidents of Indigenous female homicides between 1980 and 2012, and missing Indigenous females dating back to 1951.

Of these, there were 164 missing and 1,017 homicide victims, making Indigenous women and girls over-represented among missing and murdered women in Canada.

In September 2016, a national inquiry was launched to examine the disproportionate numbers and investigate how such cases are handled. The inquiry is set to release its final report in April.

But a lack of information around what drives killers to prey on Indigenous women will leave that final document lacking key answers, Venne said.

‘To answer the question why’

Venne said she plans to meet with correctional officials again but no meeting date has been set.

While her idea remains only a proposal, Venne remains confident the model could provide valuable insight on the motivations and psychology behind each killing — and help prevent future violence. 

“To answer the question why,” she said. “Why is it that this happens?

“With these startling statistics, I just agonize over the fact that our women are killed on a routine basis and it’s being left at that. I’m hoping that things will evolve.”

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List of Tourist Attractions Open Now in Ottawa

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With Ontario now in Step 3 of 2021 three-step plan for reopening, museums and other indoor attractions are allowed to reopen with capacity limited to not exceed 50 per cent capacity indoors and 75 per cent capacity outdoors.

Here is a list of Ottawa attractions you can visit starting July 16th.

Do remember to wear masks and buy tickets in advance.

Parliament Hill

Parliament’s Centre Block and Peace Tower are closed for renovation.

You can join for tours of the Senate of Canada Building (2 Rideau Street), House of Commons at West Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill, and East Block at East Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill.

When: Grounds open; guided tours of Parliament are suspended through the summer of 2021.
Where: 111 Wellington Street, Downtown Ottawa

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Ottawa performer leapfrogs from gymnastics to Broadway to TV

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A new AppleTV+ series set in a magical town that’s stuck in a neverending 1940s musical includes a pair of Ottawa siblings in the cast. 

Warren Yang and his sister, Ericka Hunter, play two of the singing, dancing residents of the village portrayed in Schmigadoon!, a small-screen series that takes its cues from classic musicals like Brigadoon, Wizard of Oz and Sound of Music, and skewers them with the offbeat comedic mastery of Saturday Night Live. 

In fact, you’ll recognize many of the names from SNL, starting with executive producer Lorne Michaels, creator of the late-night, live-comedy sketch show. Schmigadoon! also stars SNL cast member Cecily Strong and comedian Keegan-Michael Key, who hosted SNL in May. They play a New York couple who get lost on a hike and stumble into a strange town where everyone sings and dances. 

For Yang, a relative newcomer to show-biz, the series marks his television debut. For Hunter, the younger of his two older sisters, it’s the latest in a career path that began with dance lessons as a child more than 30 years ago. She attended Canterbury High School, Ottawa’s arts-focused secondary school. 

“Her dream was always to perform,” said Yang, 34, in an interview. “But that was never the path I thought was an option for me.” 

While his sister studied dance, Yang did gymnastics. He was an elite gymnast throughout his youth, ultimately leaving Merivale High School at 16 to train in Montreal, finishing high school through correspondence courses. He was a member of the Canadian National Team and received a scholarship to study at Penn State, majoring in marketing. 

A few years after graduation, Yang was working at an advertising agency in Toronto when he got a call from a Manhattan number. To his astonishment, they asked if he would be interested in auditioning for a Broadway revival of Miss Saigon.

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COVID-19: uOttawa to require vaccination for students living in residence

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Vaccination will be mandatory for students who want to live in residence at the University of Ottawa this year, with proof of vaccination and at least one dose required before move-in, or within two weeks of doing so if they can’t secure a shot before arriving.

Those who can’t receive a vaccine for “health-related reasons or other grounds protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code” will be able to submit a request for accommodation through the university’s housing portal, according to information on the university’s website.

Students with one dose living in residence will also have to receive their second dose “within the timeframe recommended by Ottawa Public Health.”

People who haven’t been granted an exemption and don’t get vaccinated or submit proof of having done so by the deadlines set out by the school will have their residence agreements terminated, uOttawa warns.

“Medical and health professionals are clear that vaccination is the most (effective) means of protecting people and those around them,” reads a statement provided to this newspaper by uOttawa’s director of strategic communications, Patrick Charette.

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“It is precisely for this reason that the University of Ottawa is requiring all students living in residence for the 2021-2022 academic year to be fully vaccinated. The University recognizes that some students may require accommodations for a variety of reasons and will be treating exceptions appropriately.”

Faculty, staff and students are also strongly encouraged to get vaccinated, the statement notes.

“Ensuring a high vaccine coverage in all communities is critical to ensuring an ongoing decline in cases and ending the pandemic. This will be especially important with the return of students to post-secondary institutions in our region in the fall of 2021.”

Neither Carleton University nor Algonquin College is currently mandating vaccination for students living in residence, according to the websites for both schools. But uOttawa isn’t alone in its policy – Western University, Trent University, Durham College and Fanshawe College have all implemented similar requirements. Seneca College, in the GTA, is going even further, making vaccination mandatory for students and staff to come to campus, in-person, for the fall term.

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