On Sunday evening The Independent debuted its new weekly radio newshour program (aptly titled ‘The Indy Newshour’) on the brand new independent Internet radio station Keep Station Radio.
Broadcast from St. John’s, Keep Station Radio is the brainchild of Dave Hopley, co-owner of Rocket Bakery and Living Planet, and Justin Davis of music video production outfit Heavy Weather.
The station is currently broadcasting each evening from 7-10 p.m., featuring an eclectic mix of local music, much of which is not broadcast anywhere else in the province, a selection of Canadian artists, The Indy Newshour, and will be debuting new specialty programming in the coming weeks and months.
Hosted by Independent editor Justin Brake, The Indy Newshour will recap the top stories of the week and go in-depth on a select few of those stories. The show can be streamed live at 8 p.m. Sunday evenings at keepstation.ca, and downloaded as a podcast following the broadcast.
The first show looks at the ongoing epidemic of violence against aboriginal women in Canada, and features an in-studio interview with Lynn Moore, a former Crown attorney of the Family Violence Intervention Court who is joining the call for the provincial government to reinstate the court, which effectively addressed domestic violence in a way no other programs or services were. Download the pilot episode here, click the player below to listen now, or read the full transcript below.
If you have ideas for the show or would like to suggest a story or topic to investigate, please email Justin Brake at justin (at) theindependent (dot) ca.
The Indy Newshour with Justin Brake – March 2, 2014
Transcript by Erika Steeves
Loretta Saunders’ death latest in growing epidemic
JUSTIN BRAKE: On Wednesday the search for Loretta Saunders came to an end when Halifax police found her body on a median along the Trans Canada Highway near Salisbury, New Brunswick, almost two weeks since she had last been seen. On Thursday, Saunders’ roommates Blake Leggette and Victoria Henneberry, were charged with first-degree murder. They were found February 18th near Windsor, Ontario, in possession of Saunders’ car. Saunders’ boyfriend said she was three months pregnant with his child. She was working on her Honours thesis on violence against aboriginal women in Canada. Saunders is one of 800 missing or murdered aboriginal women in Canada since 1990. It’s not known if Saunders was targeted because she was aboriginal, but her family, the Native Women’s Association of Canada and Nova Scotia, and Saunders’ thesis supervisor from Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, are speaking out about the ongoing epidemic of violence against aboriginal women in Canada. According to the United Nations, aboriginal women are eight times more likely to be murdered or go missing in Canada than non-aboriginal women. Saunders’ death comes amidst continued calls by indigenous and human rights groups, both opposition parties in Ottawa, and the United Nations for Canada to launch a national public inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.
Last week four NDP members of Parliament, including St. John’s-Mount Pearl member Ryan Cleary, as we heard earlier, stood in the legislature and called on the Conservatives to launch the inquiry. Responding to the NDP members, Conservative Minister Kellie Leitch, who holds the portfolio for the Status of Women, says the government is already doing enough because it has committed $25 million to addressing the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women.
[Audio clip of KELLIE LEITCH]: “What I say to the member opposite is we have taken action and we will continue to do so. Why don’t you stand up for aboriginal women?”
JUSTIN BRAKE: On Thursday Cheryl Maloney, president of the Native Women’s Association of Nova Scotia, addressed the epidemic at a press conference in Halifax.
[Audio clip of CHERYL MALONEY]: “And I think Canadian society, and especially our prime minister, has been able to ignore the reality of the statistics that are against aboriginal girls. She is vulnerable. Every aboriginal girl in this country is vulnerable. For Canada to be ignoring it for so long, it’s disheartening. How many more families does this have to happen to before they take serious the problem? The inequity of aboriginal people and the problems our girls face in this world growing up in Canada, we shouldn’t be growing up in a country where we’re at risk to be missing and murdered more than anyone else.”
JUSTIN BRAKE: Also on Thursday, DARRYL LEROUX, associate professor of Sociology and Criminology at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax (and Loretta Saunders’ thesis supervisor), published an essay about Saunders’ death, focusing on the bigger picture. You can read the full essay on TheIndependent.ca, but in it he highlighted some of the root causes of the problems aboriginal people in Canada face: “I refuse to speculate about Loretta’s death. What I do know is that our society has discarded indigenous women and girls in much the same manner for generations. These people were playing out a script that we all know intimately but never acknowledge. I told a good friend of mine yesterday that there’s no conspiracy. There’s no mystery. Loretta will show up in a ditch like so many indigenous women before her. He was taken aback. I told him that’s the pattern. It’s our doing, which Loretta articulated so clearly in her writing: theft of land base, legalized segregation and racism, residential schools for several generations, continued disposition equals social chaos.” On Wednesday, prior to the announcement by Halifax police that they had found Saunders’ body along the Trans Canada Highway near Salisbury, New Brunswick, The Independent spoke with Michéle Audette, president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada. Audette criticized a special parliamentary committee, which recently concluded a yearlong investigation into missing and murdered aboriginal women and will release its report on March 7th. She said the committee is “a partisan exercise. It’s just playing with lives.” An independent inquiry would have a mandate and will reveal hard facts she says the government does not want to face.
[Clip of JUSTIN BRAKE‘s interview with MICHELE AUDETTE]:
MICHELE AUDETTE: With this special committee, for me, I found that it wasn’t strong enough and it was supposed to be a non-partisan committee where you can see that it was totally partisan, where the Conservatives had the majority. I gave them an ultimatum on November 21st that if we don’t see in that report, and the real involvement of the native women of Canada, and NWAC, we know that we won’t see in any recommendation the urgency of having a national public inquiry. So, for me, I said it’s already biased. The exercise is not frank, it’s not truthful, and it’s already saying what the Conservatives will like to see, or wish to see.
JUSTIN BRAKE: And what is that exactly?
MICHELE AUDETTE: Well, the cheapest recommendation, the one that’s going to make them good until the next federal election – so they say they do real stuff for indigenous women across Canada – and nothing on a national public inquiry and a plan of action. A couple of days before I saw Minister Valcourt, who said ‘there’s no way my government will fund an initiative like this. We know the root cause. Our government does so great and so much for indigenous women and family violence.’ So why spending the money of Canadian tax payers by doing that committee, bringing witnesses, when they already know the game or the results. So I said, for me, I’m not going to waste time. I’m going to go on the ground with the people, and I’m going to tell everybody for the next federal election teach indigenous women and indigenous men how to stand up and vote, exactly for the [inaudible] family who lost a loved one, like thousands of other families across Canada who lost a mother, a sister, a niece, a cousin, or a daughter. Where we need to have some response. We need to have some answers for the closure, for the pain that they’ve been having everyday because they weren’t treated like a Canadian sister. For me it’s unacceptable.
[End of clip]
JUSTIN BRAKE: Last fall, James Anaya, a United Nations special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, spent nine days in Canada where he met with aboriginal leaders in several provinces. Upon concluding his visit, Anaya said, “I have heard a consistent call for a national level inquiry into the extent of the problem and appropriate solutions moving forward with the participation of victims’ families and others deeply affected. I concur that a comprehensive and nation-wide inquiry into the issue could help ensure a coordinated response and the opportunity for the loved ones victims to be heard, and would demonstrate a responsiveness to the concerns raised by the families and communities affected by this epidemic.” Anaya commended the federal government and provincial governments for making “notable efforts to address treaty and aboriginal claims and to improve the social and economic well-being of indigenous peoples.” But despite those positive steps, he said much more needs to be done. “From all I have learned I can only conclude that Canada faces a crisis when it comes to the situation of indigenous peoples of the country. The well-being gap between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people in Canada has not narrowed over the last several years. Treaty and aboriginals’ claims remain persistently unresolved, and overall there appear to be high levels of distrust among aboriginal peoples towards government, at both the federal and provincial levels.” Anaya also commended the Canadian government for issuing a formal apology to survivors and the families of victims of Canada’s residential school system in 2008, and for initiating the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate the gross human rights abuses in the residential schools leveled against aboriginal children from the 1870s until the late 1900s. During that time, aboriginal children were taken from their families and communities and forced into the state-funded, church-run schools where many were physically and emotionally abused, stripped of their language and culture, and indoctrinated with Christian teachings and values. The final residential school closed in 1996, but by that time more than 4,000 aboriginal children across Canada had died while in their custody. At the end of his visit to Canada, Anaya said, “It is clear that the residential school period continues to cast a long shadow of despair on indigenous communities, and that many of the dire social and economic problems faced by aboriginal peoples are directly linked to that experience.” When Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued an apology on behalf of the Canadian government in 2008 he excluded the residential schools in Newfoundland and Labrador, since Canada maintains, on constitutional grounds, they already existed prior to Confederation. St. John’s lawyer Ches Crosbie is co-leading a class action lawsuit against the government of Canada, arguing survivors of residential schools in Makkovik, North West River, St. Anthony, Nain, and Cartwright should be included in the federal government’s $2 billion compensation plan for those who were forced to attend the schools from 1949 to 1979. On Friday, Crosbie told The Independent he didn’t fully appreciate the impact that the schools had on aboriginal children in Newfoundland and Labrador until he travelled to Labrador to meet with some survivors. He said, “You can tell the residential school system represents a deep wound for them. One chat I remember was with a lady, and she went to Ottawa to listen to the prime minister’s apology back five years ago. And when she realized it didn’t include survivors in Newfoundland and Labrador, she said it was like a knife through the heart.” Residential schools are but one source of the crisis faced by indigenous groups across Canada today. Leroux, Saunders’ professor, cited the dispossession of indigenous groups’ land and resources prior to colonization by European settlers as another big problem. Labrador’s Southern Inuit Metis of NunatuKavut are still fighting for recognition by Canada as status Indians, while Nalcor and the provincial government forge ahead with the Lower Churchill Project, part of which the Inuit Metis maintain is on NunatuKavut land. The Nunatsiavut government is currently embroiled in two court cases against the province, since they say no adequate research was done on the hydro dams’ downstream effects. Once the reservoir is flooded, they say elevated methyl mercury levels will poison fish, seals, and other animals in the Lake Melville settlement area the Inuit have depended on for hundreds or thousands of years. In his essay Leroux wrote, “It is a recipe for disaster for indigenous peoples, and especially indigenous women. Who suffers most when access to land, to the ecological order at the basis of most indigenous societies, is limited, controlled, or outright eliminated? Is that not what’s at the basis of a settler society like our own? Eliminating indigenous peoples relationship to the land and/or their actual bodies so that we can plunder it for our own gain? All the while, through trickery and deceit, we convince our children that indigenous peoples are to blame for their own condition, that through no fault of their own they simply don’t understand how to live well in society.”
March 11 demonstration and flash mob to renew calls for reinstatement of Family Violence Intervention Court
JUSTIN BRAKE: When the provincial government announced its 2013 budget last spring, the Department of Justice took a particularly large hit. One of the initiatives cut was the Family Violence Intervention Court, a special provincial court downtown St. John’s devoted strictly to dealing with cases of domestic violence. Initiated in 2009 as a yearlong pilot project, and continued for three more years because of its success, the court sat once every two weeks. A special team in and outside the court worked together to handle eligible cases of domestic violence, providing support for victims (mostly women and children) and rehabilitation programs for abusive partners.
Last November St. John’s Centre MHA Gerry Rogers introduced a private members’ motion in the House of Assembly calling on the government to reinstate the court. Justice Minister Darin King defended the department’s decision and told the CBC despite the fact the court was “very successful for the people that went through the system,” the $520,000 (or 0.2% of the department’s budget, as Rogers points out) could be put to better use. On V-Day, February 14th, as part of the global One Billion Rising movement for women’s rights, Rogers organized a demonstration and flash mob that was to take place in Atlantic Place, downtown St. John’s, where the court operated before its closure. Bad weather forced the event to be postponed, but it’s now been rescheduled for Tuesday March 11. More information can be found on the One Billion Rising St. John’s Facebook page. Lynn Moore was a Crown attorney for the court and has publically opposed the government’s decision to shut it down last fall. She’s now practicing private law. She joins us in the studio this evening. Welcome to the Indy News Hour, Lynn Moore.
LYNN MOORE: Thank you very much. I’m glad to be here.
JUSTIN BRAKE: You’re now a practicing lawyer at a private law firm. Why did you leave government?
LYNN MOORE: I left for a large number of reasons, but one of them was the disappointment I felt when the Family Violence Intervention Court closed. It was something that I was very excited to be a part of, and I was very disappointed about its closure.
JUSTIN BRAKE: Explain what the Family Violence Intervention Court was and why there was a need for it?
LYNN MOORE: Violence against women is a very serious problem in our province. The Family Violence Intervention Court was a specialty court that was designed to streamline cases involving intimate partner violence. There were a large number of victims that were going through their traditional courts that would come to the Crown Attorney’s office and ask to have charges withdrawn because, for a wide variety of reasons, they did not want to proceed in the criminal justice system. The Family Violence Intervention Court proceeded on the basis that a person would accept responsibility for their actions and they would plead guilty and then go through a series of counseling sessions. This helped them in their rehabilitation, and it helped the victims as well. It was something that a large number of people availed of, and I believe it was very successful in addressing the root causes of violence.
JUSTIN BRAKE: Can you talk a bit about the support and rehabilitation programs for the accused and the victims, and the children, I guess, as well?
LYNN MOORE: There was a pool of money available for victims, that they could attend counseling if they wanted. There was a Victim Services worker who was assigned, as you mentioned in your introduction, but strictly to that court; she provided regular contact with the victims and advised them of the process as it was going through, checked in to see how they were doing, checked on contact between intimate partners in domestic violence situations is something that is very concerning for law enforcement agencies, how often they’re seeing each other. Often the people will be released on bail to not have contact, and then they’ll want that changed. The Family Violence Intervention Court allowed the participants in the justice system to know when someone wanted to change the terms of the contact, would allow us to know that this was really the victim’s wish, and it would allow us to change the terms of contact gradually. Originally we might say there’d be no contact, and then there could be contact in public places, or telephone contact, or contact in the presence of a third person. This allowed for there to be graduated contact and for the victim to suss out whether or not she actually really felt safe around the person. In terms of the men, the learning resources program at the John Howard Society offered extensive and intensive counseling for the perpetrators of the violence. And depending on their risk – whether they were high, medium, or low risk – the would attend either two, four, or every six weeks for counseling. Sometimes it was group counseling. Sometimes it was individual counseling. A lot of the people who participated in the program said that the level of change that they went through was incredible, as a result of this counseling. They were very, very happy with the services that were offered by the learning resources program at the John Howard Society.
JUSTIN BRAKE: And what did you see as a Crown attorney for the court? How effective was it?
LYNN MOORE: It was hugely effective because we were able to actually proceed with the cases. As I mentioned earlier, when people say, “well, I don’t want this case to proceed,” it becomes very difficult to prosecute that case if you have a reluctant witness who, say, for instance, just decides that they’re not going to show up to court on the day of the trial. Then you’re in a very difficult position. A person who is subpoenaed is under a court order to attend, and the normal thing that you do as a Crown attorney when you’re subpoenaed someone who doesn’t come is you ask the judge for a warrant for their arrest. So you’re in a very unenviable position of having to decide how you’re going to attempt to prove this case. Do you ask to have the victim arrested? Do you ask for a postponement, knowing that you’re not going to get it because you normally only get postponements when witnesses don’t show up when you ask for a warrant? Or, if she does show up and says she’s not going to testify, what do you do? Or if she testifies and says I don’t remember anything, then do you cross-examine? Oftentimes, when you have an unwilling victim, and generally when instances of family violence occur, there aren’t a lot of other witnesses around. It usually only happens when there’s two people present. So if one of those people doesn’t want to say anything, and the other one can’t be compelled to say anything because that person is accused in defense and has the right to the presumption of innocence, and the requirement for proof of unreasonable doubt, you can’t prove an offence. So one of the things that the court did was it allowed there to be a public record of family violence, because the men would accept responsibility, the perpetrators would accept responsibility for their offences, and the record was created. But I believe, more importantly than that, what the court really did was it changed behaviour. When you’re looking at offences, you have a certain class of offences where people are not interested in changing their behaviour. Like, for instance, a lot of people involved in the drug trade. They view the criminal justice system as a cost of doing business. They are moving potentially millions of dollars worth of drugs into our province. They’re making a fine dollar at it, and if they have to go to jail for a couple of years, that’s the cost of doing business. People who are involved in family violence, people who are perpetrators of family violence, they don’t want to behave in this way. They generally love their partners and they have difficulty learning to engage in a way that doesn’t involved violence. And really what they need is an opportunity to learn how to notice when they’re having warning signals, to determine what their triggers are. There was a number of very specific points that the learning resources program at John Howard Society taught people to look for, and to realize ‘hey, I’m getting into a territory here where I may behave in that way that I hate.’ It changed behaviour, and it also ended a cycle. We know that little girls who are raised in families where their mother is beaten by their father, that those girls grow up to be much more likely to be assaulted by their intimate partners. And boys in those families grow up to be much more likely to be assaulters.
I dealt with one case where a women (and I’m dating myself here now), but a women said to me, “You might know my father.” I had prosecuted him twenty years previously for assaulting her mother, and she was now in the position of going through the Family Violence Intervention Court as a victim. All I could think was, well, at least maybe her children won’t be asking another Crown attorney in twenty years times, “do you know my father?” I thought it was really a fantastic program – a way to make the violence stop.
JUSTIN BRAKE: In 2010, after the court’s first year, the Department of Justice wrote a report that detailed the court’s successes, including data and other information that would give us an idea about the court’s efficacy. But the court never made that report public. Having been on the inside you were privy to some of that information that would be included in that report. What do we know about how effective the court was in terms of some of those numbers? And why is the government withholding that information?
LYNN MOORE: The government, as I understand from Gerry Rogers, who has been a fearless advocate for this court, I understand from Ms. Rogers that she requested the report and was told that it was not being released because it was a Cabinet document. And I believe that Bill 29 is the legislative authority that allows government to say that they’re not going to release a document because it’s a Cabinet document. It’s a very broad power that they have to deny access to information. So why they chose to say that, I guess they would have to answer that. I can’t really answer that. The Family Violence Intervention Court liaison position would track the cases that went through the court. She followed the people who went into the court and she followed the people who didn’t go into the court. So for that four years, we were able to look at the recidivism rate for the people involved in incidents of family violence. And for every one person in Family Violence Intervention Court that was involved in another incident of criminal activity, there were four who didn’t go through the court. We know that it was four times more effective to go through the court than to go through the traditional court. It was really an astounding success.
JUSTIN BRAKE: There was a rally and a flash mob planned for February 14. People were going to attend and call for the reinstatement of the Family Violence Intervention Court. That was going to happen outside of Atlantic Place (inside is where the court was), and now, because of weather, that rally has been rescheduled for March 8th, which is International Women’s Day. Will you be there?
LYNN MOORE: I’ll be there. Yes, I’m very excited to be a part of it. They’ve asked me to speak at it, so I’m going to spread the word that this was a really good thing that we had in our province and it was something that made women safer. I really hope that we see it again, and we not only see it come back in St. John’s, but we see it move to other parts of the province. Violence against women is not a St. John’s thing. It’s a province-wide thing. It’s a national thing. In 2012 the federal government released numbers saying that the economic costs to our country of violence against women was $10 billion. So the $500,000 that the court cost is really money well spent if it reduces this very serious problem in our society. And I hope that it’s reinstated and I hope that it’s expanded to not just the other provinces but to other types of crime. Because the court dealt with intimate partner violence; it did not deal with violence against children or sexual violence against children, which is something that it could very easily be expanded to encompass, and would really do great things for children.
JUSTIN BRAKE: The government has withheld this information. They denied The Independent‘s request to see that document and said we’d have to file an access to information request, which would take some time. There’s no guarantee that we would get that report. Darin King, the Minister of Justice, has said that they stand by their decision to close the court and that that half million dollars annually could be better used elsewhere. What would you say directly to the Minister of Justice, Darin King, from your experience having been involved with the court? What would your message to the minister – and to Cabinet, to the government – be about the importance of bringing this court back?
LYNN MOORE: My message to Minister King was, ‘Let me sit down and talk to you’. I wrote to him when the budget came down, when I was still a Crown attorney, and I asked to meet with him. And the day that Premier Marshall was appointed as interim premier, I wrote to him and I asked to meet with him. I just don’t think that the message got through to them, when they were making the decisions about the budget, about how effective this court was. I believe that they have their hearts in the right place. They did some great thinsg for women in this province, and the Family Violence Intervention Court was their idea. It was their baby. I think that if they’re just willing to listen it would do a world of good.
JUSTIN BRAKE: Thanks very much, Lynn Moore.
LYNN MOORE: Thank you for having me.
JUSTIN BRAKE: And just a quick correction: the demonstration and flash mob will be going ahead on March 11th, not March 8th. Check the group’s Facebook page, One Billion Rising – St. John’s, for more information. That’s it for this first edition of the Indy News Hour. Thank you for listening.