Conservatives put partisanship before MMIWG, Indigenous representation on Police Board: Fontaine

Pallister’s decision to remove an Indigenous leader and strong advocate for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) and a former inner-city principal from the Winnipeg Police Board to make room for partisan appointments is harmful to the future of inclusive policing, MMIWG Critic Nahanni Fontaine said today.

“It’s more than disappointing—Pallister’s continued disregard for the families of MMIWG and the vulnerability of Indigenous women and girls is unacceptable,” said Fontaine. “What we need to hear from our government is that Indigenous women and girls' lives matter. What we are hearing instead is silence.”

The province can appoint two people to the police board. Pallister removed the current appointees, Leslie Spillett and Angeline Ramkissoon, who had a year or less left in their mandates.

Spillett is an Indigenous leader, executive director of Ka Ni Kanichihk, a founding member of the Sisters in Spirit campaign and a recipient of the Order of Manitoba. Ramkissoon is a woman of colour and the retired inner-city principal of Wellington School and David Livingstone School, where she developed a ground-breaking program for kids with FASD.

Pallister replaced these two community leaders with Alicja Szarkiewicz, the Conservatives’ failed candidate for Logan, and Larry Licharson, a businessman who doesn’t believe in property taxes.

Under the police board’s recent guidance, there has been better dialogue between WPS and the Indigenous community, the creation of the Indigenous Advisory Council, and the addition of Indigenous culture, history and experiences to the training of all future cadets and WPS members.

This is the latest indication that Indigenous and diversity issues are not on the Conservatives’ priority list. Neither of the mandate letters for the Minister of Indigenous and Municipal Affairs or the Minister of Justice made any mention of MMIWG, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, or reconciliation. These urgent issues were also absent from the Throne Speech and Budget Speech.

“This is further evidence of just how empty Pallister’s claims of inclusivity really are,” continued Fontaine. “Manitoba was a national leader on MMIWG and reconciliation. Now what are we the leader of? Telecom mergers? This is no time for partisan games. We need action, now.”