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Mi’kmaw women prompt last-minute change to First Nations Self Government Summit




The First Nations Self Government Summit in Halifax added a talking circle on how First Nations leaders can address the issues of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls after lobbying by a group of Mi’kmaw women.

On Tuesday, while addressing delegates on the first day of the three-day summit, Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Regional Chief Morley Googoo announced he’d made the addition to the agenda following a conversation with the family of Cassidy Bernard.

Bernard, a 22-year-old Mi’kmaw woman, was found dead at her home in We’koqma’q First Nation in October and police have classified her death as suspicious. 

« When I looked at the agenda, I was really upset, » said Annie Bernard-Daisley, Cassidy Bernard’s first cousin.

« I didn’t see any sort of arena for a discussion on missing and murdered Indigenous women. When I went to Morley, I said ‘We need a venue,’ and it was done. » 

Bernard-Daisley, a We’koqma’q band councillor and board member of the Native Women’s Association of Nova Scotia (NSNWA), said she was disappointed that the issues facing Indigenous women in Canada weren’t considered first at an event focused on First Nations self-determination. 

A matter of urgency

Delegates were invited to discuss the issues and share experiences at a talking circle scheduled for mid-afternoon Wednesday. The session fit the format of the summit, which was aimed at gathering and provoking ideas on self-determination in Mi’kma’ki, the territory of the Mi’kmaq.

Annie Bernard-Daisley of We’koqma’q First Nation is Cassidy Bernard’s first cousin. (Nic Meloney/CBC)

« I can’t describe the overwhelming urgency there is to discuss this matter, » said Bernard-Daisley.

« Especially in an arena filled with national leaders, political leaders, all the chiefs and councils across the Maritimes. All of us have to work together. »

Cassidy Bernard’s death was within a week of that of another young Mi’kmaw woman, Candace Stevens, whose death is being treated as a homicide. Both were mothers to young children.

Bernard-Daisley says it’s not just Cassidy’s death that’s driving her advocacy — it’s how she lived. 

« How she took the world on and how she represented herself, that’s carrying over to me, » she said. 

« She’s with me all day long. I feel that fight in her. And I will do that for her, and ask everyone to do that for her. It’s not only her we’re fighting for. We’re fighting for them all. »

Including women’s voices

The talking circle was also a way to emphasize women’s voices, which were lacking at the summit, said Lorraine Whitman, president of Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association (NSNWA) and secretary of the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC).

Lorraine Whitman, president of Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association and secretary of Native Women’s Association of Canada. (Nic Meloney/CBC)

« We’re included, in my mind, only as a token, » said Whitman. « We’re here but we’re not participating at the tables. »

We’re included, in my mind, only as a token– Lorraine Whitman

Whitman, who helped Bernard-Daisley co-ordinate the talking circle, said she thinks the adversity facing Indigenous women is the result of the patriarchal system imposed on First Nations by Canada.

She said the underrepresentation of women in political leadership is an indicator that more needs to be done for Indigenous women to achieve self-determination.

« Our creator has us mirrored as equal, » she said. 

« Our women were companions to the men in the physical, … in spirituality but also in the governance. Along the way, that’s been missing. »

Traditional role in decision making

Karen Pictou, executive director of the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association, said better supporting Mi’kmaw women translates to better healthier Mi’kmaw communities. 

« We are the keepers of our family, we are the glue of our communities, » she said. 

 « Any time there’s a crisis, it’s our grassroots women that show up and take care of each other. » 

Karen Pictou, executive director of the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association. (Nic Meloney/CBC)

Pictou said she wants First Nations leaders to consider the roles of Mi’kmaw women traditionally. She said they’ve always been sought to provide the « emotional component » necessary in sound decision making.

Media were asked not to attend the talking circle. Dozens of delegates attended but CBC confirmed none of the chiefs from Atlantic communities were in attendance except for Morley Googoo, who attended the last five to 10 minutes. 

Bernard-Daisley, Whitman and Pictou said that a hopeful result of this week’s summit would be a regional effort to make space in the political realm for First Nations women.

They said they will be drafting a summary of what was learned during the talking circle.

Summit organizers said a report on the findings and results of the summit will be released, but could not provide a timeline.


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‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal




MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow




Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise




Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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