Indigenous outcry over hotel restraint incident sparks calls for change in Winnipeg

Click to play video: 'First Nations leaders call for investigation into Malborough Hotel incident'
First Nations leaders call for investigation into Malborough Hotel incident
First Nations organizations in Manitoba are speaking out - regarding the treatment of a young Indigenous woman at a Winnipeg hotel. Global's Katherine Dornian breaks down what we know about the incident which was caught on video - and the response. Some of the details in this story may be disturbing to some. – Jan 22, 2024

Indigenous leaders and community members called for change after a First Nations woman was seen restrained at the Marlborough Hotel in Winnipeg.

On Sunday afternoon, a large group of people rallied in the lobby of the downtown hotel. Including community members as well as Indigenous leaders from around the province.

Leaders as well as members of the community became outraged after a video with more than 100,000 views on social media began to circulate. The video showed a distressed woman in the hotel lobby, with her hands restrained behind her back.

“That video that went out made a lot of people angry and made a lot of our people upset. And when you call on us, we will be there, because we are there for our people the grassroots people,” said MKO Grand Chief Garrison Settee.

Leaders have said the woman in the video is from a First Nation in Northern Manitoba and she was in Winnipeg for a medical appointment.

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Click to play video: 'Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs says further research on landfill search complete'
Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs says further research on landfill search complete

Police say on Christmas Day, hotel staff called them at 10:30 a.m. to remove a loitering woman but they were unable to respond. Just before 1 p.m. hotel staff called police again, alleging the woman had pulled out a knife and attempted to stab a staff member after being asked to leave a second time.

A statement provided by Rakib Hoque, the Marlborough hotel manager, says police advised them to “protect their guests and staff,” which is why they restrained her.

“Our only intention was to prevent this young woman from harming herself or others until WPS arrived,” Hoque said.

Winnipeg police say they arrived shortly thereafter and took the woman into custody. Police say she was charged with assault with a weapon.

When asked by Global News, police said the use of restraints was justified as a staff member at the hotel had been a victim of assault.

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“Staff members prevented the female from leaving before police arrived. Once officers arrived shortly thereafter, the suspect was placed in custody without incident,” police said in a written statement.

Police say they have been made aware of the video and are continuing to investigate.

But Manitoba Chiefs unanimously took issue with the woman being restrained by hotel staff and have expressed concern regarding what may have happened off camera.

“It was very scary. It was very detrimental to a lot of people that reached out to me. And that shouldn’t ever happen,” said Grand Chief Cathy Merrick, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC).

Merrick says the AMC has terminated its business relationship with the hotel as it takes issue with being the hotel people are sent to by the First Nations Inuit Health Branch when in Winnipeg for medical appointments.

Merrick and the other chiefs are also calling for the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch to no longer place patients at the hotel.

Settee says this incident highlights the need for Indigenous-led hotels, security forces, and medical professionals.

“We have to take control of these services, because ultimately, people who do not know the culture will not know how to de-escalate situations the way our people can. And many times they exacerbate the problem instead of defusing it,” Settee said.

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AMC says it will be working with police to ensure a fair and respectful resolution.

Global News has reached out to the woman in the video but has yet to receive a response.

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