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Ashmont man uttering threats trial will continue Dec. 5; community leaders discuss racism at Mannawanis Centre

Left to right: Saddle Lake councillor Pamela Quinn, County of St. Paul Reeve Steve Upham, Saddle Lake Chief Eric Shirt, St. Paul Mayor Maureen Miller, Saddle Lake councillors Darcy McGilvery and Cherrilene Steinhauer address the issue of racism with a group of people at the Mannawanis Friendship Centre on Thursday. 

The Ashmont man facing three charges of uttering threats concerning remarks allegedly made to “shoot up” Saddle Lake Cree Nation, Whitefish Lake Cree Nation and Ashmont School will continue his court proceedings on Dec. 5 after his matter was brought before the Provincial Court in St. Paul on Thursday.

Duty counsel for 70-year-old Andrew Sydora told the Court of Queen’s Bench that the accused was unable to apply for legal aid because he was receiving a pension and will need to go the Department of Justice to pursue Legal Aid.

There is a question on the accused’s mental fitness to stand trial and counsel suggested a psychology report on Sydora’s mental wellbeing.

The case first went to court on Nov. 7 but was adjourned as Sydora was said to be in the hospital.

A dozen protestors stood outside the courthouse with signs condemning the threats.

‘A lot of work to do’

A discussion about how communities can come together to combat racism happened moments after the Sydora matter was dealt with in court at the Mannawanis Friendship Centre.

Saddle Lake Chief Eric Shirt, along with three other council members, Mayor of St. Paul Maureen Miller and County of St. Paul Reeve Steve Upham sat with a group of roughly 25 people in an open discussion in light of these threats.

In a written statement from Saddle Lake, they said they viewed the threats as an act of terrorism and wanted the courts to prosecute to the full extent of the law.

Shirt said the community is still feeling the uncertainty and anxiety.

“A lot of work to do yet with settling and sharing a sense of safety with our kids, but more importantly is the long-term effects and attitude where our kids are somehow less-than because there are native and they can be targeted easily to this manner,” said Chief Eric Shirt.

“This is Canada and we’re all good people and we’ve been living in that community of friendship for years and we need to continue that and strengthen that but also we need to really get out there and get the word out in terms of what that means in terms of responsibility that the hatred has to stop.”

Tackling racism in our communities at the Mannawanis Friendship Centre. Saddle Lake Chief Eric Shirt, Mayor of St. Paul Maureen Miller and County of St. Paul Reeve Steve Upham discuss ways to combat racism in their communities in the wake of the threats leveled against two First Nations and Ashmont School.

Posted by Lakeland Connect on Thursday, November 21, 2019

Mayor Miller said she echoes Shirt’s comments and adds that it’s everyone’s responsibility to shut down hateful conversations, otherwise they perpetuate.

“Definitely our community as a neighboring community, this is not acceptable. So we need to be those leaders and say, you just need to stop the conversation, and you need to educate. And we need to take this responsibility together.

“I definitely need our community to step up to that charge and I think we’re willing to do that.”

Reeve Steve Upham said: “We’re just happy to be here and be in conversation and help them develop that understanding and be supportive as neighbors in this very tense time and maybe bring a bit of perspective to the situation and create awareness of the conversations that need to continue to happen.”