Warriors trial lawyers question toilet situation

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Conspiracy trial digs slammed

By Kathleen Martens (source: WINNIPEG SUN)
June 17, 1999

WINNIPEG – A multi-million dollar courtroom built for the so-called “conspiracy trial” of the Manitoba Warriors gang is being derailed by complaints of a lack of toilets, parking and restaurants.

Defence lawyers say last week’s regular pre-trial meeting on the marathon case was taken up by discussion about the woefully inadequate washroom facilities, no gender-specific changerooms and charges for parking.

“How can you have one toilet for 30 people?” fumed a source. “It’s obviously completely inadequate,” added another.

The Manitoba government converted an old seed plant in Winnipeg for the lengthy trial because no courtroom in the downtown Law Courts Building was deemed large enough for the 35 accused, prosecution and defence teams, jurors and observers. The alleged street gang members face drug, prostitution, weapons and welfare fraud charges.

The building was finished last month at a cost of $3.67 million. But female defence attorneys are wondering where they’re supposed to change since there is one locker room and all 30 defence lawyers are concerned about sharing a single toilet and sink.

Even the six Crown attorneys on the case, with one washroom between them, are unhappy. “I think they forgot something,” said one.

Lawyers are also upset about being charged for parking. There is no public parking on the street and Winnipeg Transit does not service the street outside, making a car a necessity.

Lawyers say there will be more complaints once family members of the accused learn there are seats for only about 20 in the public gallery. There is also no wheelchair access. “There are a lot of people involved in this trial and their families want to see them.” There is also grumbling about the lack of restaurants in the out-of-the-way area.

The dozen jurors are looking at an absence of a year or more from their loved ones, legal sources say. “Jury selection alone could take two months,” added a source. It is expected 90 per cent of potential jurors will try to get out of jury duty.

Toxic legacy decried

By Danielle Knight (source:
N ATI VE_N EWS – Dept, of Energy Watch)
June 14, 1999

LAGUNA, New Mexico – Native Americans in the United States and Canada have inherited a grim legacy of increased rates of cancer and a ruined environment because of uranium mining in their homelands.

Indigenous communities from the two countries met at the Laguna First Nation last week for the 10th annual conference of the Indigenous Environment Network against the backdrop of increased mining activities for uranium used for nuclear reactors – and weapons.

One of the poorest areas in the county, the region surrounding the community in western New Mexico is one of the richest in uranium ore deposits.

One of the largest open-pit uranium mines
in the world, known as Jackpile, operated near here between 1953 and 1982.

“They said the mine would make us rich but I’m still poor and almost everyone around me is dying of cancer and strange diseases,” said Dorothy Purley, a woman dying of lymphoma cancer, who worked at the mine for 10 years.

Kathleen Tsosie, secretary of the Eastern Navajo Dine Against Uranium Mining, an advocacy group based in the northeastern part of the state, told a similar story. “There are a lot of Navajo widows who live alone,” she said.

An estimated 350 to 400 members of the Navajo nations who were underground miners have died from diseases related to exposure to the radioactive uranium.

A few Native leaders defended the mines because they created jobs, but most participants disagreed, saying it was outside multinational companies that benefitted most.

Cindy Gilday of the Dene tribe from Canada’s Northwest Territories said uranium mining on their land in the 1940s devastated her hometown of Deline, located near Great Bear Lake – one of the largest on the continent.

During World War II, the Canadian government hired young Dene men to carry uranium in sacks from the mines onto barges. The men had no knowledge of the toxic qualities of their loads.

“Now Deline is a village of widows with most of the men having died in the 1970s and 1980s from cancer,” said Gilday. ”lt was the first time people at Great Bear Lake started to die of lung, bone, stomach, brain and skin cancer.”

Native women sue Indian Affairs

By Sue Bailey (source: CANADIAN PRESS)
June 16, 1999

OTTAWA – A lawsuit filed against Indian Affairs Minister Jane Stewart and the federal
government contends Ottawa has failed to protect the rights of divorcing Native women and their children.

“Native women (on reserves) are the only women in this country who do not have any protections or family laws,” said Marilyn Buffalo, president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada. Many are made homeless during a divorce because the occupational claim of the husband on reserves is usually honoured, says the association.

The group is taking issue with the First Nations Land Management Act, recently passed in Parliament, and the Indian Act.

Unlike provincial laws, neither of the federal laws has a provision that assists Aboriginal women and children on the breakdown of their conjugal relationships.

The Native women say the land-management act violates equality rights under the Charter of Rights and Aboriginal rights guaranteed by the Constitution. It also forces Native women – “the poorest of the poor” – to fight unfair decisions in court.

Protesters block highway in Toronto

By Peter Small (source: TORONTO STAR)
June 17, 1999

Native protesters blocked yesterday morning’s rush-hour traffic on Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway for 1 1/2 hours in a battle over who controls federal job-training funds for urban Aboriginal people.

At stake is who controls over $3 million a year in federal funding for Native employment services and skills training.

Thousands of commuters heading downtown were caught in the rush-hour chaos as about 75 demonstrators blocked the eastbound lanes, chanting, banging drums and carrying Mohawk flags and protest signs. Police finally forced them to leave the Gardiner at Spadina Ave. about 9:30 a.m.

They initially occupied one lane and then, as cars slowed down to take a look, were gradually able to occupy all three. Police didn’t make any arrests or lay charges.

After occupying the Gardiner, the protesters made their way up Spadina Ave. and over to Nathan Phillips Square for a rally.

Leaders said they had no other way of getting government attention.

It was their second protest in recent weeks. On Victoria Day, protesters blocked the Queen Elizabeth Way near Burlington, delaying holiday traffic for over an hour.

The Miziwe Biik Aboriginal Employment and Training, on Yonge St., administered $3.2 million of federal money last year for native programs in Toronto. This group and the Niagara Peninsula Aboriginal Area Management Board fear that local control of the system will disappear.

Starting Oct. 1, funding for federal job training will be controlled by two other groups, the Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres, a network of 27 centres, and Grand River Employment and Training, on the Six Nations Reserve.

After winning a bidding process, these two groups will run the services across Ontario for the federal government.

The protests may have paid off. A Grand River official said Miziwe Biik has been invited to continue delivering services and administering funds as it does now in Toronto. Protest leaders are studying the offer.

U.S. prisons hit by racism, rape charges
June 11, 1999

Washington State prison officials advised female inmates they would be severely punished if they objected to being sexually abused by corrections officers, a human-rights conference in Geneva was told in May.

Corrections officers are still bitterly resentful of this “job bonus” being at least temporarily suspended. Various states operated a similar scheme of barbarity. Washington is the only one that made no significant secret of the direction relayed to the female inmates. The “system” of authorized abuse only broke down when corrections officers began jumping on females openly without first taking them to the canteen, a laundry room or store.

It was also noted that the Washington Department of Corrections was as good as its word — inmates were punished severely if they complained. The Washington DOC also tried to coerce abortions for inmates who had been raped by their guards.

The problem with the American prison system is that it is a patchwork of institutions, very few of which adhere to EU or UN standards. The U.S. was also accused of not adhering to international human-rights standards. Whatever standars do apply aren’t enforced with corrections officers. (See article at http://www.prisonlegalnews. org/index.html.)

Current and former black employees from across Washington State also say the corrections department is rife with racism and they face a daily barrage of racist language – like guards referring to Martin Luther King Jr. Day as “Happy Nigger Day.” Two groups of black guards recently filed lawsuits against the state’s DOC.

The guards describe a frightening atmosphere where white guards refer to blacks as “coons” and worse; where minority prisoners are targeted for beatings; where black guards receive threats; and where white guards feel comfortable enough to brag of membership in hate groups like the KKK.