The year 2022 saw a historic apology to residential school survivors delivered from the head of the Catholic Church, the ongoing and tragic murders of Indigenous women and girls in Winnipeg, a Grand Chief ousted after troubling allegations, and northern residents pleading for improved health care.
As we near the end of another year, here are five notable stories that made headlines over the last 12 months in Manitoba.
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On July 25, Pope Francis stood on Canadian soil and publicly apologized for the Catholic Church’s long-standing role in running residential schools for more than a century. The pontiff, who visited Canada last summer on what he called a “pilgrimage of penance” called the acts of some from the Catholic Church “evil” and “deplorable” and admitted the schools had “catastrophic” effects on Indigenous families and communities. Some in Manitoba praised the apology, while others criticized it and said it didn’t go far enough for Catholic Church’s role in operating residential schools.
In December, Winnipeg Police alleged that a serial killer had been killing Indigenous women in Winnipeg, and was allegedly responsible for four murders. The news and several other reports of murdered Indigenous women in Winnipeg over the last year has brought renewed calls from Indigenous leaders and activists for all levels of government and law enforcement to do more to keep Indigenous women and girls safe in Manitoba, and has led some Indigenous women to say they no longer feel safe living in the city of Winnipeg.
The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) voted back in April to remove Grand Chief Arlen Dumas from his position after troubling allegations were made against the now former Grand Chief, and a criminal complaint against Dumas was filed with Winnipeg Police. Dumas, who had held the role since 2017, was ousted from his position as the most powerful Indigenous leader in the province in April after it was alleged he sexually assaulted a woman who is reported to have worked with AMC. Dumas has not been charged with a crime, and no allegations have been tested in court.
Officials in rural and northern communities in Manitoba continued to sound the alarm in 2022, as ongoing staff shortages forced several hospitals and emergency rooms to temporarily close their doors, and forced some residents to travel long distances to access health care. Health care facilities in Leaf Rapids, Gillam and other rural communities have been forced to close on multiple occasions over the last year, as the province continues to struggle to recruit health care workers in the north, leading NDP leader Wab Kinew to say that rural and northern health care is now in a state of “absolute crisis.”
More than five decades after he worked at a residential school, RCMP announced June 17 that prosecutors had charged 92-year-old retired residential school priest Arthur Massé with sexually assaulting a child while he was working at the former Fort Alexander Residential School on the Sagkeeng First Nation. Massé is now accused of indecent assault on a 10-year-old girl between 1968 and 1970 at the school, as the result of an investigation that started in 2011, and involved 80 investigators. After news of the arrest broke some residential school survivors said they felt a sense of relief that someone involved in the residential school system had been charged with a crime. Charges against Massé have yet to be tested in court.
— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
Manitoba justice officials are preparing for a potential reunion of the Freedom Convoy in February planned for Winnipeg.
I checked in this week with Joanne Lewandowski. She’s the president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress here in Manitoba. I wanted to know how refugees from Ukraine are doing as the holidays arrive. I’m happy to report they’re ready for Christmas. But Joanne was quick to say the need for help never ends, especially when it comes to food. A food bank for refugees is being operated out of the Ukrainian National Federation building at 935 Main St. Please donate if you can. As the Russian invasion of Ukraine approaches its first anniversary, Joanne says they’re still seeing a few hundred new refugees each week. Here’s hoping the war ends very early in 2023. Joanne and her team have been working so hard for so long. I encourage you to lend a hand however you can. Oh, and one more update for you. Joanne says the young man who was stabbed at The Forks on Canada Day soon after arriving from Ukraine now has an apartment, he has a job and he’s looking forward to buying his first car. Joanne admits it took quite a bit of convincing but he’s decided to make Winnipeg his new permanent home.
Royal Assent has been given to an act put forth by a Manitoba Senator that will now officially recognize Jan. 4 as National Ribbon Skirt Day across the country.
Former Winnipeg Sun crime reporter and local St. Vital legend Bob (Doc) Holliday passed away Wednesday morning at St. Boniface Hospital following a long battle with cancer.
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