Love for Orlando

Love for Orlando from Winnipeg last night at the Manitoba legislature.

‘We want to have a place that we can call home’

Little Saskatchewan flood evacuee Bertha Travers provided these photos of cherished family members. It’s been five years since she and over 400 others were flooded out of their Interlake First Nation.

Little Sask. First Nation flood evacuee not convinced new homes will be flood-proof

By Austin Grabish

Bertha Travers cherishes the memories she has of her grandchildren.

The 67-year-old smiles as she pulls out aged photos of her grandkids from a large white envelope.

Her grandkids are sitting on a slide next to a swing set in the first photo, Travers’ granddaughter is swimming in clear water in the second, and a deer is walking on crisp green grass in the third.

But the photos she’s holding in her hands are all Travers has left of these memories.

“This is my son’s yard,” Travers said. “It’s just swamp now.”

The 2011 flood evacuee from Little Saskatchewan First Nation is one of more than 400 from the reserve who have yet to return home.

“Those were the days when you were happy, when you were at home and enjoying family. The togetherness,” Travers said. “And all that is gone now.”

Travers’ home was completely destroyed in the flood and she spent five years living in hotels before finally settling in a Winnipeg home last year. 

She says her people face racism and discrimination on a regular basis in Winnipeg and culture shock has been a problem for many who had never left the reserve before.

“It’s completely alien,” she said referring to the City of Winnipeg. “They don’t have the supports that they had in terms of camaraderie with their fellow band members and that was important.”

Travers has settled in Winnipeg and found work as a mental health resource worker but even she isn’t sure if she wants to return to her First Nation.

Last year, Little Saskatchewan First Nation signed its support for a new road and 60 houses that are to be built through a cost-sharing partnership between the federal and provincial governments.

But Travers isn’t convinced the homes will be flood-proof and doesn’t want to live in a town site on swampland.

“A town site setting is only going to promote more crime,” she said. “The water is not clear. The water is contaminated and you can’t even bathe in that water.

“We want to have a place that we can call home.”

Little Saskatchewan First Nation is located nearly 300 kilometres north of Winnipeg.

 — First published in the Express Weekly News print edition April 27, 2015, p.5

Exclusive: Insert dramatic buzzword **here**

This is an an assignment for my ad class this morning


What I’ve learned about blogging and social media this year

It’s scary.

Unverified information is spreading like wildfire online, people are getting lazy not to mention meaner, and all while hiding behind their screen of choice.

Social media’s changing how we (and especially my generation) interact, but you already knew that.

Newspapers are dying but (sense a bit of sarcasm) the good news is social media is alive and healthier than ever.

It’s here to stay and it’s time we (I’m probably mainly speaking for folks older than me) start to embrace it.

I’d be naïve if I didn’t say there’s still a big problem, though. We (journalists) need to figure out how to make money with social media and create a model that will sustain quality journalism that seems to be disappearing as broadsheets shutter.

Social media doesn’t have to be the big bad wolf it’s often looked at as.

I often hear non-communications people ranting about social media. They usually start with a line that goes like this, “It’s crazy now we have like Facebook, Twitter, Myspace…” and then they stop.

I hate to break it to you but no one I know uses Myspace (formerly MySpace) and hasn’t in like eight years.

As Manitoba Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari recently quipped (don’t mind the paywall on that link) during a leaders’ debate on CJOB ‘It’s Snapchat.”

It’s all about traffic

There’s also Instagram and this once-popular thing called a blog, which my analytics tell me at least a few of you are still reading.

But how do you get more readers?

Well, I could insert a buzzword here or in the headline of this post to improve search engine optimization.

Or I could promote my blog on Facebook or Twitter or I could think of an out-of-the-box way to promote it and use guerrilla marketing to drive more traffic here.

But personally, I’d prefer to just focus on writing well.

What do you think?


Winnipeg Liberal candidate wants to create a homeless village


Liberal candidate Althea Guiboche, better known as Winnipeg’s Bannock Lady wants to create a homeless village in Point Douglas (AUSTIN GRABISH / FOR CHRISD.CA)


WINNIPEG — A Liberal candidate better known as Winnipeg’s ‘Bannock Lady’ has vowed to create a homeless village.

Althea Guiboche said during a poverty debate this week she wants to create a homeless village at the site of a flour mill in Point Douglas, an area where homeless people frequent.

Guiboche said the village would have individual rooms, a community kitchen, and laundry.

“It’s a vision I’ve had now for a while,” Guiboche said in an interview after the Make Poverty History Manitoba debate at Gordon Bell High School on Wednesday.

“I call it the homeless transitional village, so we take them off the street, put them in their own unit, give them the resources they need to transition into a normal lifestyle.”

Guiboche said the village would house up to 100 homeless people, but she would eventually like to see as many three villages created in Winnipeg.

“We would have to make at least a few villages.”

Guiboche said a homeless village is a better idea than social housing because the transition from the street to a house is often hard for homeless individuals.

“Even just sleeping in a home they find hard transitioning from being outside to actually sleeping inside of a house.”

Wednesday night’s debate was also attended by Manitoba Health Minister and NDP candidate Sharon Blady, Conservative Ian Wishart, and Green Party candidate James Beddome.

A similar village to the one Guiboche envisions already exists in Oregon.

Guiboche said she has yet to talk about the villages with Liberal leader Rana Bokhari.

The Liberals have just one seat in the Manitoba legislature, but opinion polls suggest the party’s popularity has recently grown.

Voters go to the polls on April 19.

Source: Winnipeg Liberal Candidate Wants to Create a Homeless Village

Reservations on review

I went to a play on Tuesday for school.

Below is my review.

Reservations is a two-part play that attempts to explore colonization and the child welfare system.

The show is an ambitious attempt to educate the public about Canada’s sorry history with First Nations and centres around a conflict between an Alberta farmer, who wants to sell his land and give back portions to local aboriginals to make up for what was stolen in colonization.

The farmer faces conflict with his daughter, who doesn’t understand the point of her dad’s intentions.

The play then turns into a history lesson as the dad tries to explain his reasoning for the land donation – or return I should say.

There’s intriguing graphics projected on three screens that look cool, but at times, it feels like the dad is just rambling on.

The acting from the three-person cast also seemed a bit weak, but that went on to change in part two after a much-needed intermission.

It’s here that a new play is started — putting an end to the history rambling.

This time, the story is about the flawed child welfare system, which wasn’t mentioned in the first half of the play.

White foster parents concerned over a new worker assigned to handle their file are the story here.

The white mother has deep concerns over the new worker, who struggles to pronounce her foster children’s names. But you don’t see these kids once. It’s all adult actors here.

The mother fears her son Justice is going to be taken from her, so he can be returned to his home community and the worker makes matters worse by telling the mom ‘They are not your children.”

Then in an odd twist, the play turns into a lecture theatre. Like literally.

Sitting in the far back of the cramped theatre I was reminded of my time in university lecture theatres…. Something I don’t miss.

If the director wanted to make the crowd feel like they were in a real lecture, he succeeded.

The room packed with college students and a handful of older guests got hot and the lecture went on and on, which wasn’t necessary.

We got the point when the professor took the podium.

Reservations could have been strengthened if more story and less history was added.

History is important, but so are the details in a story that matter.

But at least they tried.

The play runs at the Rachel Browne Theatre until Sunday.

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.

‘She hasn’t been forgotten’

‘She hasn’t been forgotten’

Police seek public’s help in solving 1988 missing person’s case

Cathy Williams.jpg
Cathy Lynn Williams, seen above in this undated police handout, has been missing since 1988. (RCMP handout)

We see their names in the headlines.

Claudette Osborne.

Jennifer Catcheway.

Hillary Angel Wilson.

Osborne and Catcheway have been missing for years. Wilson murdered, then dumped in a field.

The women and their families’ search for answers have received much media attention over the years, but sadly there are others who are missing that we don’t hear about like Cathy Lynn Williams.

The 22-year-old St. Andrews woman vanished in Winnipeg in 1988 and hasn’t been seen since.

In recent months, police have quietly been asking for the public’s help in solving the case, but in a day where headlines of missing indigenous women are commonplace, will anyone care?


My story on Williams is below.

By Austin Grabish

She vanished under mysterious circumstances on a late summer night and hasn’t been seen in almost three decades, but police insist the case of Cathy Lynn Williams hasn’t fallen cold.

The St. Andrews woman was just 22 when she went missing after a day trip to Winnipeg on August 22, 1988, and has never been found.

Police seem poised to solve Williams’ case and highlighted it and others in a hasty ad campaign in the weeks leading up to Christmas last year, but details of it are being kept close to the chest.

Both Winnipeg police and RCMP have been oddly mum when pressed for simple details about the case.

Williams is one of 28 missing or murdered persons being investigated by Project Devote, a provincial task force made up of investigators from Winnipeg police and RCMP.

Project Devote team commander Sgt. Rob Lasson said police are still treating Williams as a missing person and are not ruling out the possibility she’s alive though it’s unlikely.

“It’s not a cold case it’s an active investigation,” he said.

Lasson said Williams was last seen at the Santa Lucia on St. Mary’s Road in Winnipeg, and that information’s different from what police first told media in 1988.

Newspaper archives reviewed last week by the Record say Williams went missing near the 200 block of Furby Street in the city.

Her adoptive mother Thelma Williams, who was 86 when her daughter went missing, told the local paper Cathy was in Winnipeg to apply for a job as a parking attendant on the day she went missing.

She told a reporter a note was found after her daughter’s disappearance that sounded like she was ‘saying goodbye.’

Raymond Johnston, a 31-year-old welder who had proposed to Cathy a year prior, was reported to have found the note.

Four months after Williams vanished, Thelma said she thought her daughter was living in Winnipeg, but couldn’t understand why she didn’t contact her especially since she had been blind for over a year and relied on her daughter’s help.

St. Andrews Mayor George Pike was Williams’ neighbour on Mitchell Bay and remembers seeing her grow up.

“She was going to school and playing sports at the community club,” Pike said.

The former Winnipeg police officer didn’t work on Williams’ case, but remembers the door knocking by police that happened when she went missing.

“They had rumours where she was or where she went, but nothing was ever finalized,” he said.

Pike said he didn’t know if Williams had any family members that are still alive, but he recalled that her home was sold many years ago and has changed hands a few times since.

Lasson declined to say if Williams left behind any other relatives, but said police are searching for answers.

“She hasn’t been forgotten we’re actively working on this case.”

He said anyone with information about Williams is encouraged to come forward even if they think the information may be hearsay.

“People need to understand that even the smallest bit of information can link two huge pieces together, so anything is important,” he said.

“It can even be as simple as somebody phoning in saying they last saw her with a certain person or they last saw her wearing certain clothes.”

Tips can be left with Project Devote by calling 1-888-673-3316.

If you have information about Williams, the Record would also like to speak with you.

Austin Grabish can be reached at

— First published in the Selkirk Record print edition February 11, 2016, p. 2