Shoal Lake band member says ‘Canada needs to smarten up’ following visit to UN


Linda Redsky, 55, with her nephew Adam. AUSTIN GRABISH / FOR METRO

The UN’s heard their story, but for now band members living on Shoal Lake 40 First Nation must wait.

My follow to Linda Redsky’s trip to Geneva for Metro is below.

By Austin Grabish For Metro
She’s shared her community’s story with the world, but for now, Linda Redsky and other Shoal Lake 40 band members must wait.

Redsky was to return to Shoal Lake yesterday following a weeklong trip to Geneva, Switzerland with Human Rights Watch and Samantha Redsky, another band member.

Linda, 55, told a UN committee on economic, social, and cultural rights that “Canada needs to leap and not shuffle” when it comes to First Nations water rights.

She explained to the committee how she must travel off reserve just to bathe her 14-year-old nephew Adam who otherwise breaks out with eczema from the First Nation’s water, which is tainted with parasites.

He just breaks out, she said while shaking her head showing Metro the boy’s eczema Sunday.

Shoal Lake 40 provides the City of Winnipeg with clean water, but lies in isolation on an island cradling the Manitoba-Ontario border and has been under a boil-water advisory itself for almost two decades.

The grandmother said while her community’s fought for years for change, she didn’t realize her human rights were being violated “on so many levels,” until she arrived at the UN.

She said Human Rights Watch didn’t mince words when presenting about Shoal Lake 40, and neither did she in an interview Sunday.

“Canada needs to smarten up and start dealing with these issues,” Redsky said.

“All these years they’ve been kind of dragging their feet whenever we bring up our issues nothing really gets done about it.”

She said she was disappointed to hear Canadian representatives tell the UN they would need five years to correct issues brought forward by Shoal Lake and other First Nations last week.

“We need to be treated with dignity and not be put on the back shelve,” she said.

Manitoba’s largest high school lacking handi-bus

‘Discrimination,’ says mother

By Austin Grabish

Sharon Machinski has one wish she’d like to see come true before her daughter finishes high school.

The Winnipeg mother wants a mobility vehicle to be purchased for students in wheelchairs at Sisler High School.

“I would love to see that van pull up at school I really would,” Machinski said.

Machinski says the absence of a handi-van is leaving students like her daughter Laura, 19, behind.

Machinski said her daughter, who lives with cerebral palsy, has been unable to attend a school work placement that provides social and pre-employment skills due to the absence of a mobility vehicle.

She asked the Winnipeg School Division’s board of trustees Monday night to consider putting $65,000 aside for a three-person mobility van that her daughter and other students at St. John’s High School could use.

Machinski said the division has mobility buses that transport students to and from school, but during the day they are unavailable so a special vehicle must be called, and the service is often unreliable.

Trustee Dean Koshelanyk said he was ‘deeply concerned’ to hear students are missing programming off-campus that’s part of their curriculum.

“That’s absolutely ridiculous,” Koshelanyk said.

Machinski said she’s gotten used to seeing her daughter miss out on opportunities other students have, but that still angers her.

“I would call it discrimination,” she said.

Machinski said she sometimes picks Laura directly up from school, so she can attend her work placement, but then “I feel guilty because I know I’m leaving four other students behind.”

Trustee Chris Broughton asked Machinski if she’d support a pilot project addressing the issue, and Machinski nodded and said she absolutely would.

She told a reporter she’s hopeful the board will do something before her daughter ages out of the school system.

“They seem to be very supportive.”

But trustee Mike Babinsky warned board matters take time and a van may not be purchased before September.

“The wheels around here sometimes don’t move as quickly as we’d want them to,” he said.

The board has until March 15 to complete its 2016 / 2017 operating budget.

The $396.5-million budget is calling for a five per cent tax increase from property owners, which is equivalent to roughly $62 for a home valued at $203,900.

Twitter: @AustinGrabish

UN committee to hear plight of waterless Shoal Lake First Nation Monday

Canada is ‘struggling’ to meet human rights obligations, according to a report obtained by Metro

The world is about to hear from Shoal Lake 40 band members.

Below is a copy of my story that ran nationally today for Metro Canada.

By Austin Grabish For Metro

Linda Redsky is packing her bags, leaving her isolated community, and preparing to share the plight of Shoal Lake 40 on the world stage.

Redsky and possibly a second band member will join Human Rights Watch at the United Nations in Geneva on Monday as the rights watchdog presents a report detailing its preliminary findings on Shoal Lake 40 and three other Ontario reserves.

The presentation will be made to the UN committee on economic, social and cultural rights, which is reviewing Canada’s track record on human rights.

The group started investigating living conditions on Shoal Lake, Neskantaga, Batchewana, and Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, last year after Shoal Lake started making headlines.

The reserve, which lies on the Ontario-Manitoba border, provides the City of Winnipeg with clean drinking water, but has been under a boil-water advisory itself for nearly two decades and is cut off from the mainland.

Redsky, 55, has fallen through an ice road while trying to cross into the community during the winter, and recently had to temporarily relocate off-reserve to Kenora, Ont. so her foster son could attend high school.

She said she’s seen the plight of her community get worse over the years “as I’ve watched the people continue to go across.”

“I’ve seen vehicles going through. The loss of life,” she said.

Redsky said the boil-water advisory has made it almost impossible to bathe on the island.

“My boy, for instance, he’s got eczema and I have to take him off the community just to go bathe him in clean water,” she said.

A copy of the Human Rights Watch report, obtained by Metro, says Canada is struggling to fulfill its obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The 17-page report details how the Shoal Lake water treatment system was never equipped to filter out Cryptosporidium, a parasite that causes diarrhea and is active in the community’s water.

Human Rights Watch senior researcher Amanda Klasing said the boil-water advisory on Shoal Lake is an example of how aboriginal people living on reserve lack the same protections other Canadians enjoy.

“Let it be known that they are struggling in Canada to vindicate their basic human rights including access to clean water and sanitation,” Klasing wrote in an email.

Klasing said Human Rights Watch will release a full report on its findings later this year.

The Guantanamo child

To some he’s a terrorist, to others he’s a child soldier tortured by his own government.

What is clear is that Omar Khadr’s story is no simple one. Killer or not, there’s no denying that Khadr’s human rights were violated under both Canadian and international law.

If you want to learn more about Khadr and his case, I’d encourage you to watch Guantanamo’s Child: Omar Khadr

The documentary played at Cinematheque on Saturday and gives a disturbing glimpse into the treatment Khadr was forced to endure and includes recounts from former officials with Canada’s spy agency and American soldiers close to the case.

Khadr’s soft-spoken narration while describing the years of torture he endured while at Guantanamo Bay will make you wonder where he finds his strength. The film has several disturbing scenes and at one point will explain the ‘human mop’ torture technique. Hearing about it will be enough to make your stomach turn.

It works like this: a naked prisoner is given water until his or her bladder is close to bursting, then the prisoner is told to urinate on the ground, and clean the mess dry using only the body –clothes aren’t allowed in the clean up.

But Khadr was sent to Guantanamo after allegedly killing an American soldier during a firefight when he was 15. So does that waive his human rights? I’d argue not.

But there is no presumption of innocence here, and that is a crime.


Death threats sent to gay University Of Winnipeg student in hate mail blitz

Hazim Ismail, 27, is an international student at the University of Winnipeg. He’s received hate mail from Malaysians after being outed as gay to his family.
Hazim Ismail, 27, is an international student at the University of Winnipeg. He’s received hate mail from Malaysians after being outed as gay to his family.


Hazim Ismail just wants the messages to stop.

The gay international student studying at the University of Winnipeg has been inundated with hundreds of messages decrying him for being gay, with death threats topping the list.

The hate mail started a couple of weeks ago after Malaysian media outlets picked up on the 27-year-old’s fight to stay in Canada after he was outed as gay.

Ismail’s family was paying for his tuition and living costs, but cut him off completely after seeing a photo of him taken at a local gay bar.

After local media in the city reported the story, Malaysian outlets got a hold of the story, and that’s when the hate mail started pouring in.

“It went viral and I was really alarmed,” Ismail said, adding some of the mail even came from his own mother via email., a Malaysian social news company, asked people to vote if they thought Hazim would become an LGBT spokesperson, be ostracized, or be given ‘a second chance.’

On the poll one comment read, “Here’s my vote, Hazim go and die,” Ismail said, adding another read, “Repent you ignorant prick.”

The story had over 15,000 shares Thursday morning.

Hazim Ismail.

Ismail said he also received a message from a Malaysian, who offered to pay for his flight home if agreed to convert back to Islam.

But he’s also received messages of support from closeted gay men in Malaysia who were touched by his story.

“I love the positive messages because they fill me with hope like maybe one day Malaysia will change,” he said.

He said because his face is all over the Internet, he’s now more scared to return home than he was in December when he was fundraising for tuition so he could stay in Canada.

Sodomy is a criminal offence in the country that’s punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

“I wouldn’t even want to be in Singapore, the next country over,” he said.

Ismail is seeking refugee status and has a human rights lawyer working on his case. He’s expected to appear before the Refugee Board sometime in April.

Note: Malaysian media may not copy my words about Hazim here. If you do, you’ll forever be held in my utter contempt, which you wouldn’t want.

Manitoba’s aboriginal dropout rate is alarming

The number of aboriginal students that are dropping out of Manitoba high schools is alarming, yet no one seems to be outraged by the latest figures, which were released by Manitoba’s auditor general on Friday.

The new numbers show that since 2010 only 55 per cent of aboriginal students graduated high school while a whopping 96 per cent of non-aboriginal students graduated during the same period.

But Norm Ricard’s 50-page report might just be scratching the surface.

In fact, one aboriginal educator tells me dropout numbers are probably much higher because many students she knows choose not to disclose their aboriginal identity on paper during school registration.

Watch for my full story in the Selkirk Record on Thursday and see what the local high school there is doing there to combat dropout rates and restore traditional teachings.

An infographic I made that shows the latest numbers is below.

The heartbreaking battle over a home for people with disabilities in Stonewall

A bitter battle over a proposed group home for people living with intellectual disabilities in Stonewall may have ended.

But for the three adults who will call nine Rossmere Crescent home, their battle is far from over.

They will continue to face discrimination from opponents who’ve forgotten it’s 2016 and fear the presence of an adult living with an intellectual disability.

The controversy started last December when the Association for Community Living put forward an application to Stonewall council to rent a home in the upscale neighbourhood of Stone Ridge Meadows.

Outdated zoning rules that have failed to keep up with provincial human rights legislation forced the association, which already has several group homes in Stonewall and Selkirk to make the request with council.

Sharon Inman has a son who lives with a disability.

“It’s really quite heartbreaking as a family member to have to go through this and to ask permission,” Inman told the Stonewall Tribune.

 Heartbreaking indeed.

“Most people do not have to ask permission for their family member to live in a home,” Inman said.

The controversy over the ACL group home has been the talk of the town, and likely will continue to be for months, and it’s all because of a handful of residents with a bad case of NIMBY – Not In My Back Yard.

One woman explained her rationale in a letter to the editor, “We are in no way “rejecting” the proposed group home residents. We are parents too. We are trying to protect our investment, maintain the single-family home zoning as it was when we invested in the neighbourhood.”

It was the same story two years ago in Gimli when the town council tried to update its zoning bylaw so organizations like ACL didn’t need to seek permission when opening a new home.

The RM of Gimli’s request was quickly met with opposition from residents living in the upscale community of Pelican Beach, who emailed the town saying they didn’t want ‘sexual deviants’ as neighbours.

But when opponents showed up to a public hearing attended by reporters, they weren’t so blunt.

Instead, they insisted they have nothing against people with intellectual disabilities or any group home for them – just as long as it wasn’t going near them.

“We have no problem with there being any kind of use anywhere else,” said one opponent, who feared his property value would be lowered if a home came to his neighbourhood.

Stonewall council voted unanimously to approve ACL’s request Wednesday night after hundreds of outraged locals threw their support behind the request.

But the opponents were nowhere to be seen.

So what’s the fear?

–With files courtesy of Jennifer McFee, the Stonewall Tribune.