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A northern Manitoba woman who was arrested for Facebook comments made against Indigenous people is now asking for the public’s forgiveness.
Destine Spiller, of The Pas, Manitoba, wrote an apology at her mediation circle on Thursday in The Pas, reading the letter to First Nation leaders and elders. According to the Canadian Press, the group “held hands, cried and prayed together.”
“I uttered the statements out of anger and realized too late that these comments were hurtful,” said Spiller. “I have over and over wished I could take the statements back.”
Spiller was one of two women arrested for comments made on the social media platform in 2018 that were considered threatening, and a possible incitement of hatred.
The racist comment came after a comment on a photo of her vandalized vehicle in Flin Flon, Manitoba. Spiller reportedly commented that there should be a “shoot an Indian day” to curb crime, stating that she was going to “kill some Indians when I get home.”
Spiller subsequently lost her job at a Flin Flon hair salon, as the comments were shared hundreds of times across Facebook.
The two women were not charged for their crimes, and instead, were given to the Restorative Justice Centre which set up mediation circles over a year’s time for Spiller and the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, a northern-Manitoban First Nations group.
Opaskwayak Cree Nation leader Christian Sinclair says he believes it’s the first time the circle has been used for a non-Indigenous person.
“We can deal with this business in a way that people come out of it feeling better about themselves, about justice being served in that context,” Sinclair said. “We are all learning and are all human beings at the end of this day and we have to live in this world together.”
The circles are used for more educational and rehabilitation rather than incarceration.
“(It was) through a First Nations lens as opposed to the European justice system that’s about punitive approaches,” he explained.
“It becomes an opportunity of doing justice in a new way where it truly is restorative. Nobody came out of there feeling punished or ashamed. It was about making everybody a better person going forward.”
Spiller now has a year to meet several conditions based on Cree laws, and will have to write a formal apology, as well as an essay on Indigenous issues.
“You can be assured that I have learned a very valuable life lesson and will remember it for the rest of my life,” said Spiller.