APTN National News
Ontario’s chief human rights commissioner was in Sioux Lookout and Kenora this week to meet with friendship centers, mayors and police.
Renu Mandhane recognizes the unique challenges faced by northern communities.
“We are really trying to focus on some of the issues in this area. There’s been a lot of media attention around Thunder Bay, of course, but also Grassy Narrows, missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, the suicide crisis and so we felt it was important to be here,” said Mandhane.
One local residential school survivor said the town of approximately 6,000 is a service hub for remote northern communities, which means economic benefits for the town, but also presents challenges for
First Nations people.
“Here in Sioux Lookout people are saying that they are discriminated against in different areas like housing or in the stores or with the police,” said Darlene Angeconeb. “The rough handling they maybe get from the police. For women it’s a concern.”
The discrimination and racial profiling of First Nations people by police is nothing new, said Mandhane.
“Racial discrimination has to be understood in the context of colonialism. And if you don’t understand the historical legacy, you don’t understand why over policing and racial profiling is so damaging and we’re hoping to write a policy, guidance on racial discrimination and racial profiling faced by particularly First Nations communities,” said Mandhane.
She said it’s easier to get leadership in smaller communities to work together as opposed to bigger urban areas. That is a strength that may help in the endeavour.
This year was declared a year of reconciliation in Sioux Lookout and Angeconeb said the community is coming together.
“We brought the Secret Path here in January. Pearl Wenjack came from Ogoki to talk about her brother Chanie who died as a result of running away. So we want to educate about these things here in Sioux Lookout,” said Angeconeb.