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‘History in the making’ as women who made racist posts face Indigenous mediation circle





A mediation circle involving two non-Indigenous women who were charged after posting racist comments on Facebook is being called a precedent-setting and groundbreaking example of restorative justice.

The circle was held Wednesday at Opaskwayak Cree Nation, near The Pas, and included elders, politicians, youth and mothers from the northern Manitoba community, along with two women charged with uttering threats and public incitement of hatred.

“It’s history in the making … it’s history in dealing with non-Indigenous perpetrators,” OCN Onekanew (Chief) Christian Sinclair said Thursday.

“To be able to deal with them in this manner, I think, provides an opportunity for government and for the Indigenous community and the justice system to come together and say, ‘Is there a better way doing justice in Canada?’ And I truly think there is.”

A total of three women — two from Flin Flon, Man., and one from Denare Beach, Sask. — were charged in connection with a series of social media posts that police say incited hatred in northern Manitoba last summer.

The two women from Manitoba participated in the restorative justice circle on Wednesday. The Saskatchewan woman is going through the criminal justice system.

In July, Facebook user Destine Spiller posted comments about her car being vandalized in the northern Manitoba city of Flin Flon. In subsequent comments, Spiller posted on Facebook she would “kill some Indians when I get home.” She also proposed a “shoot a Indian day,” and described First Nations people as “animals” who should be “locked up.”

Another Facebook user, Raycine Chaisson, suggested a “24 hour purge.”

Graffiti is seen scrawled on the car belonging to Destine Spiller in a Facebook post. The incident led the woman to rant on Facebook that she would ‘kill some Indians when I get home’ and suggest a ‘shoot a Indian day.’ (Destine Spiller/Facebook)

When the comments went viral, the response online was swift.

Spiller lost her job as a hair stylist in Flin Flon, with her employer saying it does not tolerate racism.

In late July, RCMP said two women — one from Flin Flon and one from nearby Denare Beach — were arrested and charged with uttering threats after the “hateful and threatening language” online. They said a third person was arrested in August.

While RCMP did not release the names of the women, the circumstances appeared to match Spiller and Chaisson’s online remarks. 

‘It brings victims and perpetrators together’

On Wednesday, the two Manitoba women were part of a reconcilation circle with about 20 Indigenous people from The Pas and Flin Flon, described in a news release from OCN as “welcoming the restorative justice system process into the community in the spirit of reconciliation.”

The circle was led by OCN elder Irene Young, a knowledge keeper who also works within the justice system for Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak and has experience in sentencing circles within Manitoba’s justice system.

Onekanew Sinclair said it was an emotional and powerful coming together of community members, elders and the two women to talk about the impact of the posts.

“It wasn’t an impact on an individual — it was an impact on all Indigenous people throughout Canada and really around the world, for that matter,” Sinclair said.

The women showed shame and remorse for their actions, he said, and offered an apology.

“Elder Stan Wilson from Opaskwayak asked them to read out, word-for-word, what they said. Now you really see the emotion on the faces of these people who would normally be hiding behind a computer, typing their feelings, their racist thoughts.”

If they went through the traditional system and went to jail, they could get caught up in the wrong crowd, or [come] out hating more.– OCN Onekanew Christian Sinclair

Restorative justice is a system that has been working for the Cree nation for centuries, Sinclair said, and he believes the circle will do more to heal than pursuing the charges in the court system would.

“If they went through the traditional system and went to jail, they could get caught up in the wrong crowd, or [come] out hating more.”

Sinclair’s sentiments weren’t echoed by everyone in the group. He said some spoke in favour of sending the accused back into the court system to face the charges, while others said restorative justice should be used to find a balance, ensuring justice is served, while helping the perpetrators learn from their mistakes.

He said the group will meet next week without the women to discuss conditions the pair must follow. That could include requiring a formal written apology to the community, education in culture awareness, or perhaps volunteering with an Indigenous organization.

“The victims feel they have gotten justice,” Sinclair said. “And for the perpetrators, we are not using the word punishment, per se, but … ‘enlightened,’ if you will.”

The group will meet again with the two women on Feb. 13 to outline the conditions.

Sinclair said the mediation circle was unique, not only because it involves non-Indigenous people, but because it centred around a crime perpetrated online.

“When you look each other in the eye and talk it out, we are all growing together. It brings victims and perpetrators together to grow in a way that benefits everyone.”

A mediation circle involving two non-Indigenous women who were charged after posting racist comments on Facebook is being called a precedent-setting and groundbreaking example of restorative justice. 1:46


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List of Tourist Attractions Open Now in Ottawa





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





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





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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