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Human Rights Legislation Done Nothing For Justice Of Native People - Courchene

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      NOVEMBER 1972      v03 n10 p10  
Winnipeg (CP) - The president of the Manitoba Indian Brotherhood says his organization will no longer cooperate with the attorney-general's department in matters -concerning human rights laws.

Dave Courchene said in a letter to Attorney-General A. H. Mackling that provincial human rights legislation: has done nothing for native people.

"After four years, a great deal of financial expense, a great deal of time, energy and headache, I have come to the conclusion that there is nothing we can do in working with your department or its office or its agencies to obtain justice for our people and to improve relations between races in this province . . . you leave us no alternative now but to look for other methods to fight for the human rights of our people."

The 14-page letter gave a detailed criticism of the report of the Toal Commission, set up in September, 1971 to investigate charges of racism arising from a petition drawn up by Brandon residents requesting that houses in their area not be rented or sold to Indian persons.

The commission concluded the petitioners were "ordinary citizens who complained by means of an inappropriate petition." The commission did not accept the allegation, that the petitioners "intended to be racist and discriminatory against Indians."

Mr. Courchene disagreed with the judgement, stating "to be well-intentioned .. does not absolve an individual from his personal responsibilities as a citizen and as a human being."

He contended that the petitioners, by directing their request against a group of particular racial identity, were being racist.

"Would those petitioners, had they requested, and as they testified - with the mayor's advice - that no Mennonite, or Ukrainians, or Poles or Jews, or Arabs, or Irishmen, have houses made available to them in that area have been accepted as well-intentioned?" Mr. Courchene asked.

He also accused the commission of "protecting" the police and the mayor, and absolving all officials of any responsibility for the petition.

The Indian Brotherhood withdrew from the Toal Commission in February when Mr., Courchene said the commission "had gone way off its terms of reference and was refusing to study the issues as we understand them to be."

He said that although several persons gave testimony about housing discrimination in Brandon, the commission studies every other topic but that.

Mr. Courchene earlier objected to the choice of James Toal, former superintendent of Winnipeg Police, as commissioner.