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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald (Newspaper) - January 13, 1971, Lethbridge, Alberta The LetHbridge Herald Fourth Section Lethbridge, Alberta, Wednesday, January 13, 1971 Pages 39 - 50 Why punish 670 men for actions of one or tivo says warden? Escapes won't deter reform objective OTTAWA (CP) - Reform of prisoners is the objective of the federal correctional service and isolated instances of attempted escapes won't deter the program. The system was caught in the reflected publicity given the attempted escape of two men from Kingston penitentiary last week. But Warden Arthur Jarvis Monday said the attempted break would not affect the program of granting leaves at the penitentiary. "Why punish 670 men for the actions of one or two," he said in an interview. NEW SLANT ON POLLUTION - After a week of preparation by dynamite expert Edward Kennard of Blackwood, N.J., the 27 5-foot smokestack of Canada Cement Co. plant in Port Colborne, Ont., fell to the ground Tuesday. The plant was built in 1906 and terminated production in 1966 due to high costs of operation. No silent suffering Action is promised by Indian people By JIM POLING FORT CHIPEWYAN, Alta. (CP) - Tomorrow is sunrise and sunset, and little more, for tbc 1,500 people who crowd the weatherbeaben buildings of this northeastern Alberta community. It's a quiet place, except for the sharp cries of idle sled dogs chained to their small shelters. Quiet, not because the men are away on the traplines or tending to nets suspended below the ice of Lake Athabasca, but quiet because this backwoods community, where only a handful of white men live, is despondent. Its people, the Cree, Chipew-yan and Metis, say life has been suspended by a monument to the white man's progress-British Columbia's W. A. C. Bennett Dam, which most Fort Chipewyan residents have never seen, and which many cannot comprehend. The dam, almost 500 miles to the southwest in the Rocky Mountains, has harnessed the Peace River which used to bring spring flood waters across Alberta to the 1,000-square-mile Peace-Athabasca river delta here. The Indians and Metis say they won't suffer silently. They have hired a Vancouver lawyer to prepare a case for damages against the British Columbia government. The amount of the damages sought or details of the suit have yet to be worked out. SAY DELTA DRYING The people, 760 Crees, 240 Chi-pewyans and about 450 Metis, say the 600-foot dam, completed in 1968, has robbed the delta of the life-giving floods and is causing it to dry up. And, as a result, muskrat, beaver, fish and other wildlife upon which they live are disappearing. A group of 13 Alberta scientists agrees. In a brief to the provincial government last' June, they said willow thickets and heavy grass are replacing water, ponds are freezing to the bottom, streams and channels are drying up and the levels of Lake Athabasca, where the ('elta drains, are falling drastically. The brief predicted the death of the delta by thirst and also forecast ths collapse of the Lake Athabasca commercial fishing industry within three to five years. A symposium to discuss the effects of the dam on the delta and possible remedies will be held in Edmonton Thursday and Friday. It was organized by the group of scientists and is being sponsored by the University of Alberta. Spokesmen for the Indians and the Metis, persons of Indian Mid while blood, say the liveli- hood of the people is drying up I with the delta. The number of persons on welfare at the settlement has increased more than 40 per cent since the dam was built, says Pat Mercredi, band manager f oi* the Cree He says that 900 of the 1,000 Indians now are receiving welfare. Before 1968, about 50 per cent lived off government cheques, but Mr. Mercredi emphasizes, only at certain times of the year. "No one is starving," says the young Cree who wants a better deal for Indians in general. "But conditions are bad. There's malnutrition, lighting is poor, there's no sewage system and no business that will put the money back into the community." James Henderson, Alberta health minister, says the effects of the dam on the people have been exaggerated, although he admits his evidence is "superficial." The provincial and federal governments paid $20,000 wel fare in Fort Chipewyan in 1967, when the population was 1,000, he says. He estimates that dur ing the 1970-71 fiscal year wet fare cheques will total $40,000, but individual social assistance payments have increased in the last four years and there are 500 more people in the commun' ity. Maintaining that most of the problem isn't Alberta's responsibility because the Indians are looked after by the federal government and much of the area involved is located in Wood Buffalo National Park, Mr. Henderson says he finds the theory that the people survived on trapping "hard to buy." OVER WELFARE BUDGET Mr. Mercredi doesn't. He manages welfare funds received from the federal government and estimates he is $12,000 over budget for the first six months of fiscal 1970-71. Fred Marcel, chief of the Chi-pewyans, says the Indians don't want welfare because they could make more money hunting, fishing and trapping-if the delta were restored. "It's tough. How the hell are we going to live on welfare forever?" Frank Ladouceur, president of Apithtowkosan, the local Metis association, has lived in Fort Chipewyan all of his 50 years and has never seen conditions worse. "If you can find 15 or 20 of our people working, that's good." Last fall, he and a partner spent one month trapping in the delta and returned with 87 muskrat pelts which paid $157. Five years ago they split $2,525 from 1,000 muskrat furs taken from the same area in 11 days. "Although we are a maximum security institution, not all our inmates are desperadoes. We have many worty inmates." The program of granting prisoners leaves is basically designed for medium or minimum security establishments, but Mr. Jarvis said it had been successfully tried recently at Kingston. 50 LEAVES GRANTED Mr. Jarvis said that in 1970 there were 30 leaves granted for medical reasons and another 20 for community adjustment during the final periods of imprisonment. He said he didn't expect the number of leaves from Kingston to increase dramatically in the future because "by the time they're ready for leaves we usually send them to medium security institutions." "Our main responsibility still is to protect the general public, but I think the leave of absence is one of the answers we've been looking for . . . ," he said. But Paul Faguy, commissioner of penitentiaries, said granting prisoners leaves has increased markedly in recent years and would continue to increase. From April 1 to Dec. 1 last year there were 13,460 leaves granted from the 36 federal penal establishments compared with 9,000 in all of 1969. There are about 7,160 federal prisoners -those serving two years or more. During the Christmas holiday season this year there were 681 leaves granted and only five late returns. Just one prisoner, from the Gravenhurst, Ont. minimum security establishment, still had not returned. The main reasons for granting leaves are serious medical or family problems and for community adjustment prior to completion of sentence. Only in rare instances are there official escorts. The commissioner must be consulted directly for approval of any leave longer than five days. The system started in 1962 and has proved generally successful. "You can't teach a prisoner responsibility by keeping him in tight s e c u r i t y," said John Braithwaite, associate commissioner responsible for correctional programs. "It's easy to operate an institution under tight security, but it's much more difficult to operate a reform program for prisoners." Mr. Ladouceur isn't on the welfare rolls yet, and says he is feeding his wife and seven children by snaring, a little trap ping and some odds and ends This was the worst Christ mas we've had since I can remember. I was mad. Every other Christmas I had $700 or $800 in mv pocket." CONDITIONS BAD He doesn't think the men will attempt a spring muskrat hunt because the delta is "straight mud or the grass is too high." The people admit they can't live on muskrat trapping alone, but they say that this combined with fishing and hunting can keep them independent. Sume of the oldtimers also admit water levels in Lake Athabasca were lower 40 or 50 years ago but what worries them is the delta and its animals. The delta is an important breeding and rest area for waterfowl from all four of North America's major flyways. Its channels also provide spawning beds for pike and pickerel from Lake Athabasca. Mr. Ladouceur says duck and geese come in fewer numbers now because of the low water and the fish haven't enough water to get into the spawning areas. Last year a commercial fishing co-operative was formed in the settlement but was kr �?ked down by two strokes of bad luck. The fishing season was delayed one month by heavy ice on the lake near the delta. When the men finally started fishing, an oil slick from the Great Canadian Oil Sands Co. plant uostream on the Athabasca River at Fort McMurray closed the season. OIL STILL AROUND Mr. Ladouceur says the co-operative received about $38,000 in damages from the company but oil can still be found in parts of the lake and in the delta. A spring hunt for muskrat would determine the gravity of the situation, says Roy Gilmore, department of Indian affairs and northern development agent in the settlement. He says there was little rainfall in the area last summer and this could be a reason for the low water. However, time will tell whether the water levels will rise again. Mr. Gilmore says the average trapper earns about $500 a year while a good trapper in the nast has made as much as $3,000 to $5.f") 'n one year. Says Mr. Mercredi: "No matter how harsh the conditions are. we'll make it-nhysical'v. "The only thing that bothers me is the psychological effects. 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