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HIV conference addresses obstacles to seeking treatment for Indigenous people PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dean Bear   
Tuesday, 21 March 2017 15:17

Guest speaker Sylvia McAdam addresses delegates as keynote speaker. Photo by Dean Bear.

A two-day conference that started on Tuesday in Saskatoon is providing HIV-positive people with the coping tools and support mechanisms to deal with HIV on a daily basis.

Margaret Poitras is the CEO of All Nations Heath Network (ANHN) and said the virus is being driven in Saskatchewan by people who are living with addictions and the trauma of in residential schools and colonization.

She said those root causes for Indigenous people with HIV must be addressed.

“As Indigenous people, we feel we have the solution for what we are faced with, so as we move forward we to ensure we are incorporating native teachings, traditions, ceremonies and language.”

Poitra said there are counselors on hand at the conference, which provides a safe place for HIV-positive attendees to receive added support while facing their challenges.

“It’s one of laws as Indigenous people to take care of one another as we move forward,” she said.

She said all government-funded agencies need to ‘Indigenize’ their services so Aboriginal people feel comfortable walking through their doors, and NAHN is willing to work with health districts and agencies to make that possible.

Statistics from the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network show http://caan.ca/ Indigenous people in Canada are three times more likely to contract HIV than non-Indigenous people. The Network says drug use is an important risk factor for HIV transmission among Aboriginal people.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 March 2017 16:45
 
Leslie Black addresses court after evidence closes at his Prince Albert dangerous offender hearing PDF Print E-mail
Written by Chelsea Laskowski   
Tuesday, 21 March 2017 12:32

Crown prosecutor Jeff Lubyk leaves court after the hearing on March 21, 2017. Photo by Chelsea Laskowski.

Leslie Black addressed court soon after evidence closed in his Prince Albert dangerous offender hearing on Tuesday.

His attempted murder victim, Marlene Bird, was not present when Black, 31, addressed court, reading from a statement he prepared with his lawyer earlier in the morning in an effort to limit his pronounced stutter.

Black spoke fairly clearly and with an even tone, saying if he could relive the day he tried to kill Bird, he would do it differently. He said he should have listened to his dad, who asked him to stay home that night.

"I understand if the other person cannot forgive me," he said, because he cannot forgive himself.

He described himself as a normally "happy go lucky" kind of guy, and said he's ready to accept whatever sentence he gets and put in the work so that he can eventually reintegrate into society.

Closing arguments in the hearing are expected to be heard in June, and a sentence delivered after that.

Black’s comment came after four full days of testimony from a psychiatrist, correctional workers, and psychologist who spoke about treatment options and about Black's risk to reoffend after attempting to murder Marlene Bird.

Last week, court started hearing about the injuries Bird suffered when Black beat her, set her on fire, and doused her in accelerant in downtown Prince Albert in June of 2014. The two of them had met that night, drank together, and had sex. The attack started after Bird threatened to report Black for rape, which angered him.

People in court have also seen how Bird’s injuries affect her today. She attended court off and on throughout the proceedings, sitting in a wheelchair that she needs to use after both her legs were amputated. She wears sunglasses because she lost sight in an eye after she was "boot stomped" by Black.

It's an exceptional hearing: Crown prosecutor Jeff Lubyk said this is likely the first case in Saskatchewan where his office has considered a single act so brutal in nature that it’s sought to have someone labeled a dangerous offender.

These hearings most often come after a series of violent offences, but Black’s criminal history contains little to no violence prior to the attack.

On Monday, Lubyk cross-examined defence’s expert psychologist Terry Nicholaichuk, who said Black’s ability to manage his substance abuse disorder – addictions to alcohol, marijuana, and opioids - is one of the most important parts of managing his risk to public safety and in treating his "significant mental health problems."

He repeatedly referenced Black’s awareness that he self-medicates for childhood trauma, quoting Black as having said "I try to drink my memories away," despite knowing that when he’s drinking "I know what I’m doing but I can’t stop myself."

Nicholaichuk said if Black can support himself in an environment that promotes abstinence from substances, he can be easily managed in the community.

"I think if we sent him out of here with a bottle of whiskey, and left to his own devices something bad would happen," he said.

Lubyk also questioned Nicholaichuk for more in-depth comment on his determination that Black currently fits into a moderate risk to reoffend.

Nicholaichuk said this classification as quite broad: there’s an 80 per cent chance that Black will not commit a violent offence, and a 20 per cent chance that he will.

He recommended that Black is transferred to a British Columbia Correctional Services Canada facility once sentenced, because they have Aboriginal programming and a centre for people with learning disabilities.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 March 2017 14:46
 
Fraser Institute advises slow approach to First Nations custom elections PDF Print E-mail
Written by Manfred Joehnck   
Tuesday, 21 March 2017 10:34

Photo courtesy of Manfred Joehnck

The majority of First Nations in Canada are now holding their elections under custom election rules rather than the Indian Act.

The Fraser Institute took a look at the trend to determine if it was better or worse for First Nations and determined that it all depends on how the election rules are set up.

Custom election terms are generally four years, compared to two under the Indian Act. Election disputes can be settled internally or through the courts under the custom elections, while Indigenous Affairs gets involved under the Indian Act.

The Fraser Institute report finds there is a rush to get away from the Indian act, but sometimes not enough thought is put into how to replace it.

Report co-author, Joseph Quesnel, says that can create more problems.

"We are saying decisions should be made at the band level, but it’s just in the race to get away from it just make sure you don’t get caught in something worse." he said.

In Saskatchewan, only about 20 First Nations still hold elections under the Indian Act. Most others are using the custom election rules.

Quesnel says once a First Nation signs off on custom election rules, the federal government steps back. That means disputes often end up in lengthy expensive legal battles.

"And almost invariably, it ends up in court," he said. "Which is generally more divisive and costly for the community involved."

The institute does not say if one system is better than the other, but it does recommend proper consideration for human rights and electoral input be part of the process.

A third option is the relatively new, First Nations Elections Act, passed in 2014. It is kind of a hybrid between the two systems, with more First Nations control and less involvement from the Indigenous Affairs Department.

The Gordon First Nation is currently under the act. Its last election, held a year ago, is still before the courts after being disputed.

A Queen’s Bench judge threw the results out because of some missing ballots. That decision has been appealed to the Court of Appeal, but its decision has still not been rendered.

In the meantime, the disputed chief and council have already held office for about a year.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 March 2017 10:41
 
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