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‘There’s nothing left there’: A founder of Canada’s first healing lodge says CSC dismantled vision – National




One of the visionaries behind the very first healing lodge in Canada says Correctional Service Canada completely dismantled what the lodge once was, and Sharon McIvor is now concerned about safety inside.

In 1989, McIvor, then with the Native Women’s Association of Canada, was asked to be an Indigenous voice on the task force that redesigned women’s prisons in Canada. The group published the report “Creating Choices,” which led to five new prisons for women across the country, including Okimaw Ohci, the first healing lodge, which opened in Saskatchewan in 1995.

McIvor remembers one of the first meetings at the now-shuttered Prison for Women in Kingston, Ont., the only facility for federally-incarcerated women in the country at the time.

Exclusive: White and non-Indigenous offenders made up 11 per cent of those in healing lodges last year

Inmates were holding a powwow, and McIvor watched their self-led drumming, dancing and what’s known as a grand entry.

“They start coming in and I started to cry. I realized that these women knew what they needed to try to get themselves out of what they were, but they didn’t know how to do it,” McIvor remembers.

She began working on advocacy and programming and bringing in elders for Indigenous prisoners.

McIvor worked with a small group called a planning circle to launch the country’s first healing lodge in Saskatchewan. It was important it be set up in the prairies, she said, where the majority of offenders were coming from.

WATCH: What a healing lodge is and why child murderer McClintic served time there

Once the location was selected, they moved their meetings to Maple Creek, Sask., the nearest community to Okimaw Ohci, and launched the circle that included elders, members of Correctional Service Canada, incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women, people from the Nekaneet reserve and non-Indigenous people from Maple Creek.

The first priority at the new lodge, she says, was safety.

“The biggest thing that I saw was that they’re never ever safe,” McIvor said. “Because of the prison or penitentiary culture, you always had to watch your back. And you have a culture in there where you’ve got someone in charge … how you become the big dog is that you abuse everybody else, so you always have to watch your back.”

By being in charge, McIvor said, she doesn’t just mean a hierarchy among staff, but among inmates.

“That was the first principal in our healing lodge, is that what we needed was a place where they could be safe because until you’re safe and you’re not always surviving, you cannot change.”

‘I don’t understand’: Indigenous advocates question why non-Indigenous offenders in healing lodges

After that, it was about getting in touch with the Indigenous worldview.

“It’s not so much about culture, because culture, you think, ‘Okay, culture is, let’s go have a sweat lodge, or let’s go to the powwow.’ Our worldview is so much bigger than that,” McIvor said.

“So what [we] needed and what we wanted to do was to first expose them to it and secondly encourage them to understand it, and understand how incredibly important they were, and if something happened to them or if they’re not doing what they’re here to do, then everyone is missing out.”

She says the system worked in the early days, with low recidivism rates, but the lodge in its current form is unrecognizable.

McIvor left Okimaw Ohci in 2005, unhappy with major changes made by Correctional Service Canada which took over operations at the lodge. But she still speaks with elders and others currently at the site.

“They discontinued what we put in place, so it’s just a regular penitentiary right now. It’s not a healing lodge.”

Some of McIvor’s biggest concerns were over the addition of male staff and male elders — especially when the vast majority of Indigenous female offenders have a history of sexual assault and trauma.

“I left when we could not prevent a corrections officer who applied…to work at the healing lodge and used his union seniority to become a staff member,” she said.

“I couldn’t stop them. I had no influence anymore. As you know, I do a whole lot of activist work.”

McIvor, a member of the Lower Nicola Indian band and a lawyer, has a long history of activism and advocacy. In a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court, she fought the government over discrimination in the Indian Act.

Her work for Indigenous women was recognized with a Governor General’s award. For the last two decades, she has taught and designed courses at the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology, the only public Indigenous post-secondary institution in British Columbia.

21 child murderers have been sent to Indigenous healing lodges since 2011: data

But as the CSC changed the system in 2005, she remembers her fight against the organization as “futile.”

“They get their weapons training [now],” she said. “We refused to give them weapons training because there was going to be no weapons involved.”

In the early days, the term “guard” was never used, either. Instead, the Cree words for aunty, older sister or mother stood in its place. She also laments the loss of a daycare, a space which is now, she understands, used for offices.

And while there is still no traditional barbed wire fence or cells at healing lodges, she remembers the system of coloured cloths tied in trees to mark the perimeter in the isolated setting in the woods. She remembers one inmate who would walk to the edge and stick her foot out and bring it back repeatedly, but says there were no escape attempts.

One concern that has been echoed by others in the Indigenous community — including the nearby Nekaneet First Nation — is that CSC, not a panel of elders as it had been, now controls who enters the facility.

“Taking the elders out of the equation just really, really undermines everything,” said McIvor.

WATCH: Indigenous advocates question why non-Indigenous offenders are serving in healing lodges

Global News reached out to Correctional Service Canada for a response to McIvor’s concerns that healing lodges are much different places now.

CSC spokesperson Julia Scott responded with a paragraph about how healing lodges operate today, but no direct response to any of McIvor’s concerns was offered, except to say elders “provide input” on transfers.

Documents obtained by Global News show that on average since 2011, 15 per cent of inmates at healing lodges were not Indigenous.

McIvor said whether to admit non-Indigenous women to their small healing lodge with 30 beds was a hot topic of discussion during the planning stages.

“At the end of the day we did not preclude non-First Nations women,” she said. “It’s against our worldview. Our elders said, ‘You can’t do that, we don’t do that.’”

Inmate escapes from healing lodge near Maple Creek, Sask.

But between 1995 and 2005, when she left, she says she remembers maybe one non-Indigenous woman inside.

“It just brings a new, another dynamic in,” McIvor said, saying she has concerns about the 15 per cent.

She says the facility in its current form, with all the CSC changes, is not safe — which was a huge part of the initial impetus for the separate facility.

“We didn’t have the same kind of structure as the other institutions, and so a lot of people would see it as a way of just doing soft time, right? And they don’t come in to take care of some of the issues that they are carrying, they come in to do some soft time. And when that happens, then that [old] culture comes back in, and I know the culture is back.

“In order to be safe, you need to know that you’re not going to get assaulted, you’re not going to be pressured to do things, basically you don’t have to take care of yourself as long. As long as you’re in survival mode, you’re not going to do anything,” McIvor said.

WATCH: Government policy should address access to healing lodges for convicts of serious crimes: Scheer

While they’ve existed for decades, many Canadians only learned about healing lodges since the outrage over child killer Terri-Lynne McClintic’s placement at Okimaw Ohci. She has since been transferred to a traditional prison, and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has promised changes to how female inmate transfer decisions are made.

McIvor, though, says she hasn’t thought a lot about McClintic’s case, because she doesn’t know enough about her particular situation.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea, but if you’ve got a place just where you’re housing people and giving them a few cultural lessons and you’ve got your guards back occupying a sacred space we put together for our babies, and you’ve got them acting like guards as opposed to people that are responsible and are really interested in the women…. Who am I to say that this woman shouldn’t go there?”


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Nostalgia and much more with Starburst XXXtreme




Get a taste of adventure with Starburst XXXtreme based on the legendary NetEnt Game. The nostalgic themes are sure to capture fans of the classic version as they get treated to higher intensity, better visuals, and features. The most significant element of the game is its volatility. Patience will not be an essential virtue considering the insane gameplay, and there is a lot of win potential involved. It retains the original makeup of the previous game while adding a healthy dose of adrenaline. 

Starburst Visuals and Symbols

The game is definitely more conspicuous than before. The setting happens over a 5-reel, 3-row game grid with nine fixed win lines, which function if a succession from the left to the right reel is present. Only those players that that attain the highest win per bet line are paid. From a visual standpoint, the Starburst XXXtreme slots illustrates lightning effects behind the reels, which is not surprising as it is inherited from the original version. Available themes include Classic, Jewels, and Space. The game is also available in both desktop and mobile versions, which is advantageous for players considering the global pandemic. According to Techguide, American gamers are increasingly having more engaging gaming experiences to socialize to fill the gap of in-person interaction. Starburst XXXtreme allows them to fill the social void at a time when there is so much time to be had indoors. 

Starburst XXXTreme Features

Players get to alternate on three features which are Starburst Wilds, XXXtreme Spins, and Random Wilds. The first appears on reels 2,3, or 4. When these land, they expand to cover all positions while also calculating the wins. They are also locked for a respin. If a new one hits, it also becomes locked while awarding another respin. Starburst XXXtreme offers a choice between two scenarios for a higher stake. In one scenario with a ten times stake, the Starburst Wild is set on random on reels 2,3, or 4, and a multiplier starts the respin. The second scenario, which has a 95 times stake, starts with two guaranteed starburst wilds on reels 2,3, or 4. it also plays out using respin game sequence and features. The game also increases the potential with the Random Wilds feature to add Starburst Wilds to a vacant reel at the end of a spin. Every Starburst Wild gives a random multiplier with potential wins of x2, x3, x5, x10, x25, x50, x100, or even x150.

The new feature is sure to be a big hit with the gaming market as online gambling has shown significant growth during the lockdown. AdAge indicates the current casino customer base is an estimated one in five Americans, so Starburst XXXtreme’s additional features will achieve considerable popularity. 

What We Think About The Game

The gambling market has continued to diversify post-pandemic, so it is one of the most opportune times to release an online casino-based game. Thankfully Starburst XXXtreme features eye-catching visuals, including the jewels and space themes. These attract audience participation and make the gameplay inviting. The game also has a nostalgic edge. The previous NetEnt iteration featured similar visuals and gameplay, so the audience has some familiarity with it. The producers have revamped this version by tweaking the features to improve the volatility and engagement. 

That is characterized by the potential win cap of 200,000 times the bet. Starburst XXXtreme does not just give betting alternatives for players that want to go big. The increase of multipliers also provides a great experience. If the respins in the previous version were great, knowing that multipliers can go hundreds of times overtakes the game to a new level. 

Players should get excited about this offering. All of the features can be triggered within a single spin. Whether one plays the standard game or takes the XXXtreme spin route, it is possible to activate all of the features. Of course, the potential 200,000 times potential is a huge carrot. However, the bet size is probably going to be restricted and vary depending on the casino. It is also worth pointing out that a malfunction during the gameplay will void all of the payouts and progress. Overall, the game itself has been designed to provide a capped win of 200,000 times the original bet. 

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‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year




In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal




MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.


The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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