By The Canadian Press
OPASKWAYAK CREE NATION, Canada — A Manitoba woman arrested over online comments that threatened violence against Indigenous people will serve 80 hours of community service on a First Nation as one of many conditions to resolve the case after participating in mediation circles.
The woman, who is non-Indigenous, was given seven conditions based on Cree laws, values and traditions that include writing an apology and an essay on Indigenous issues. She must also attend a cultural awareness camp on residential schools.
“She sees it as an opportunity that will educate her and make her a better person at the end of the day,” Opaskwayak Cree Nation Onekanew (Chief) Christian Sinclair said Wednesday.
“One of the elders said ‘You are now part of our family because we are going to heal together now going forward.'”
Two women, who have not been identified by police or Manitoba Justice, were arrested on suspicion of uttering threats and public incitement of hatred after comments appeared on Facebook last summer.
In July, a Facebook account under the name Destine Spiller posted photos of a vandalized car in Flin Flon and proposed a “shoot a Indian day” in retaliation. One user suggested a “24-hour purge.”
“Let’s grab Budweiser and some shot guns,” another responded.
A hair salon in Flin Flon said one of the women who posted was no longer an employee after extensive condemnation of the comments online. The area’s school division also put out a statement saying the comments did not reflect its values, clarifying a woman who commented on the post hadn’t been an employee of the division for a long time.
The women were never formally charged. Instead, the provincial Justice Department said the case was referred to the Restorative Justice Centre, which organized the mediation circles with Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, which represents 26 northern Manitoba First Nations.
Both women took part in the first circle on Opaskwayak Cree Nation in January. They were asked to read what was written in the Facebook posts out loud to around 20 elders, chiefs and other members of the community.
Sinclair explained that everyone in the circle is equal, gets to ask questions and is involved in education and healing.
“It’s not considered a form of punishment but a form of rehabilitation or reconciliation and you … come out of it with a win-win situation,” Sinclair said.
One of the women did not show up for the final mediation circle on Wednesday. RCMP said the Crown will determine the next steps around formal charges for the woman.
Sinclair said it was a historic opportunity to see justice from a First Nations perspective and the woman who took part was very receptive.
“We came out of it feeling really good about it and that it was fair and that it served justice to our community at large.”
—By Kelly Geraldine Malone in Winnipeg