Protesters plan to greet Olympic torch

First Nation to draw attention to slain, missing women

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The Olympic torch will be welcomed with the usual hoopla and fanfare when it arrives in Manitoba next week, but when it crosses into Treaty One territory on Tuesday, it will face a stern reminder of Canada's missing and murdered indigenous women.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 31/12/2009 (4604 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Olympic torch will be welcomed with the usual hoopla and fanfare when it arrives in Manitoba next week, but when it crosses into Treaty One territory on Tuesday, it will face a stern reminder of Canada’s missing and murdered indigenous women.

"Our intention, basically, is to drive home this message what’s been happening in Canada and to give information out," said Roseau River Anishnabe First Nation Chief Terry Nelson.

"I am inviting a lot of the families of murdered and missing women to be standing on the road with pictures of them," he said by phone Wednesday.

MIKE APORIUS/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Terry Nelson

Treaty One territory begins in eastern Manitoba where the Whitemouth River crosses the Trans-Canada Highway, about two kilometres east of where Highway 11 crosses the Trans-Canada.

"People need to be reminded that these women were not treated with the same respect… You look at the response to the death of one white woman on the road. It’s not the same thing," Nelson said.

Nelson expects at least two other chiefs from the treaty area to take part in the event near the eastern boundary of their territory.

The Roseau River chief was in Ottawa earlier this month for a special chiefs’ assembly. He was among several native leaders who warned Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl the year ahead could see blockades and other forms of economic disruption until more money and support are provided for native education.

On Wednesday, Nelson said there are no plans to trip up any of the torch bearers or disrupt any other community celebrating the arrival of the Olympic flame in Manitoba next week.

"We don’t want to interrupt someone else’s event," said Nelson, who has orchestrated blockades and demonstrations over the years.

"Out of every protest we’ve been involved in, sometimes we’ve made white people late for lunch."

The Olympic torch leaves Treaty One territory — which covers close to 43,250 square kilometres — on Jan. 8 near Brandon.

First Nations should welcome Olympic athletes from around the world, but "we cannot allow those athletes to go home believing that Canada is a bastion of human rights," Nelson said in a news release. "We as indigenous people are not terrorists. There is no list of over 500 murdered and missing white women killed by indigenous men, there is however a list of over 500 murdered and missing indigenous women, most of those women were killed by white men. In Vancouver where the Olympics will be headquartered, 49 women were killed, murdered, terrorized and desecrated after death by one white man. Police failed to take the murders seriously because the murdered (mostly indigenous women) were considered by police to be the lowest of the low."

In a statement issued Wednesday, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs said the torch run and the Olympics are about "peace and unity," and more First Nations are involved than ever.

"This Olympics, First Nations are hosting the torch run from one end of the country to another," Grand Chief Ron Evans said in a statement.

"As Grand Chief, I will have the honour of bearing the torch, along with others on Jan 7."

Evans said games traditionally played an important role in uniting First Nations.

"The Olympics gives us a forum to showcase our talents, our skills and our diplomacy on an international stage. Games in First Nations’ history went beyond simple sports competition.

"They have always been key to the holistic development of individuals and a crucial element to ensure the health and development of our communities," Evans said.

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

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