Mediation circle says making amends, avoiding Facebook will make woman who wrote racist posts 'better person'

A Manitoba woman should spend the next year learning about Indigenous cultures and history, and practising acts of reconciliation, to make up for racist social media posts, a mediation circle led by Opaskwayak Cree Nation has recommended.

1st-of-its-kind mediation circle was held after posts called for violence against Indigenous people

The first-of-its-kind mediation is a response to racist Facebook posts from three women last summer, which came after a car belonging to one of the women was vandalized. The posts proposed a 'shoot an Indian day' and called for a '24-hour purge.' (Destine Spiller/Facebook)

A First Nations mediation circle says a Manitoba woman should spend the next year learning about Indigenous cultures and history, and practising acts of reconciliation, to make amends for her racist social media posts.

"[Opaskwayak Cree Nation] saw value in turning a serious and unfortunate situation into a teaching moment under the spirit and intent of reconciliation," the First Nation that led the restorative justice effort said in a statement Wednesday.

"It was a win-win situation that allowed for true restorative justice and an approach of rehabilitation, as opposed to having a winner and a loser and someone being punished under the European justice system," OCN Onekanew (Chief) Christian Sinclair said in an interview with CBC.

The first-of-its-kind mediation circle was called after two non-Indigenous women from Flin Flon, as well as a third woman from Denare Beach, Sask., were charged with posting racist comments on Facebook in July.

It started when a woman named Destine Spiller posted photos of a vandalized car, which sparked a comment by a woman named Raycine Chaisson calling for a "24-hour purge." Spiller responded by proposing a "shoot an Indian day."

RCMP investigated and after consulting the attorney general of Manitoba, the cases of the two Manitoba women were referred to a restorative justice process. The woman from Saskatchewan chose to go through the criminal justice system.

Both Flin Flon women originally opted to take part in the restorative justice process, but one pulled out after the first meeting and has decided to go through the courts, said Sinclair, leaving Spiller as the lone participant in the mediation process.

"It's going to be very interesting to be able to compare the two situations as we move forward," said Sinclair.

RCMP said the Crown will determine the next steps around formal charges for the woman who pulled out of the mediation.

'Precedent-setting'

The year-long term enables the woman to visit those involved with the mediation process every three months, attend traditional ceremonies and educate herself on First Nation history.

Sinclair said the case provides a unique opportunity to deliver restorative justice from within a First Nation framework of the seven sacred teachings: courage, respect, truth, honesty, love, wisdom and humility.

"This is actually very historic because it's actually the first time non-Indigenous have come into our circle to be dealt with in a restorative justice circle from an Indigenous perspective, so it is precedent setting," he said.

The woman must complete anger management and domestic violence workshops facilitated by OCN's restorative justice staff and attend a camp on residential schools. She must also seek counselling with a mental health therapist and write apology letters, to be distributed to media outlets through the RCMP.

'Heal together going forward'

She must also complete 80 hours of community service on a First Nation and write an essay or research paper on an Indigenous issue, and must stay off social media like Facebook and Twitter.

"We know that this individual that has taken this approach, it's going to make her a better person," said Sinclair. 

"As one of the elders said at the end of the restorative justice circles … 'You are now part of our family, we will help you become a better person, educate you and enlighten you on our reality,' and that we work together and heal together going forward."

Although the time limit within the restorative justice model is four months, OCN recommend the conditions be extended up to a year.

If the woman doesn't agree to those terms, her case will be referred back to the criminal justice system, OCN's statement said.

After the posts came to light last year, one of the women lost her job as a hair stylist in Flin Flon.

The mediation circle was held on Jan. 19 and was led by elder Irene Young, who works in restorative justice with Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story said, based on a media release from Opaskwayak Cree Nation, that two Manitoba women have taken part in the restorative justice process. OCN Onenakew Christian Sinclair clarified that in fact, one woman withdrew from the process after the first meeting and has opted to go through the courts.
    Feb 13, 2019 4:54 PM CT

With files from The Canadian Press