Restorative actions for non-Indigenous woman ‘won’t be easy,’ says Southern Chiefs justice director

By | February 14, 2019

The director of justice for the Southern Chiefs’ Organization is praising a Flin Flon woman for choosing restorative justice to make amends for uttering threats toward Indigenous people last year.

“I applaud her for wanting to take that route because it won’t be easy,” said Chantell Barker, the head of restorative justice for 34 southern First Nation communities in Manitoba. Barker is also a former probation officer with Manitoba Justice.

“When you go through the court system you don’t have to face the people that you’ve harmed or you’ve hurt,” she said. “I know from the court system, it doesn’t repair relationships, it doesn’t provide reconciliation.”

Three women — two from Flin Flon, Man., and one from Denare Beach, Sask. — were charged in connection with a series of social media posts in 2018 which referred to Indigenous peoples as “animals” and proposed violence.

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.”

Only Spiller elected to participate in a conflict resolution mediation circle instead of going through the traditional court system. 

On Wednesday, Opaskwayak Cree Nation released the seven acts she can take to make amends based on the seven sacred teachings:

  • Courage – complete culturally appropriate anger management and domestic violence workshops facilitated by OCN’s own restorative justice staff.
  • Respect – attend cultural awareness residential school camp such as the one held at Guy Hill.
  • Truth – seek counselling with a mental health therapist.
  • Honesty – handwritten apology letters sent to news outlets through the RCMP.
  • Love – 80 hours of community service to be served on a First Nation.
  • Wisdom – written essay/research paper on an Indigenous issue such as sanatoriums, missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, residential schools and the sixties scoop.
  • Humility – to stay away from social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.

“All the recommendations would really help this person understand the impacts of her behaviour,” said Barker.

She said this is the first case she knows of where a non-Indigenous person has the opportunity to make amends through restorative justice. 

Opaskwayak Cree Nation said Spiller still has an opportunity to decline the conditions if she prefers to go through the criminal justice system.

Graffiti is sprawled on the car belonging to Destine Spiller. The incident led the woman to rant on Facebook that she would kill “Indians.” She has since apologized for her actions and lost her job as a hairstylist. (Destine Spiller/Facebook)

Woman welcome at annual gathering

Daniel Highway, co-ordinator of the annual August gathering for Guy Hill Residential School survivors, said Spiller would be welcome to attend the event and learn about the legacy of residential schools. 

“We have sharing circles, we have sweat lodge ceremonies, we have pipe ceremonies, we have elder cultural teachings, we have a lot of youth activities,” said Highway, who himself is a former student of Guy Hill. 

“The whole point is just to get together and rebuild our family structure.”

Typically former students and their families and friends attend the annual gathering located on the site where the school once stood about 30 kilometres north of The Pas, but anyone who is interested can attend, said Highway.

“If they came it would give them a chance to get to know who we are as people,” said Highway.

“The whole point of reconciliation is all about forgiveness. Forgiving other people, forgiving yourself especially and asking for forgiveness.”

Barker believes if Spiller decides to fulfil the seven recommendations she will develop a greater sense of empathy.

“To learn about impacts of colonialism, residential schools and even going to the residential school site, I think she’ll realize how hurtful her words were because our people have been through a lot,” she said. 

Opaskwayak Cree Nation is recommending Spiller have a year to complete all seven of its conditions.