Saskatchewan is a racist province. We know this from our communities, and it is confirmed in examples such as the recently released video of a white worker at a Regina Shoppers Drug Mart racially profiling an Indigenous customer. Anti-racist activists in Saskatchewan have long challenged the racism prevalent among the settler population. However, the police – one of the worst perpetrators of institutional racism in Saskatchewan – are often thought of as beyond challenge; they traffick in fear and intimidation, and they consciously co-opt resistance through initiatives like “community policing.”
It is within this context that the Saskatoon Coordinating Committee Against Police Violence calls for city-wide mobilization on International Day Against Police Brutality on March 15th around the following demands:
Carding is an intelligence-gathering tactic used by police forces in cities across Canada. It allows police officers to randomly stop, question, and document individuals when no criminal offense has been committed. It is racial and class profiling that disproportionately targets Indigenous peoples, people of colour, and poor white people. It is an illegal practice that violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. While the Province of Ontario has recently proposed to implement new rules and regulate this practice, opponents of carding, including Black Lives Matter Toronto and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, have criticized this proposal as inadequate – a mere token gesture. Regulated racism, they argue, is still racism. We thereby echo activists, lawyers, and community leaders across Canada to say that carding needs to be abolished, not regulated or reformed.
SMASH POLICE RACISM
Carding is part of the long history of colonial violence against Indigenous peoples perpetrated by the police. In a practice known as Starlight Tours, Saskatoon Police would routinely detain Indigenous men, drive them to the city’s outskirts, and leave them to freeze to death. Saskatchewan incarcerates Indigenous people at a rate 10 times higher than the non-Indigenous population in prisons. This is higher than the incarceration rate of Black South Africans at the height of apartheid. In Saskatchewan, if you are Indigenous, you are 33 times more likely than a non-Indigenous person to be incarcerated.
As the crime rate decreases across Canada, prisons are becoming increasingly crowded with people charged with minor offenses but unable to obtain bail. We believe that racial profiling by the police is in large part responsible for this disparity; the so-called “justice” system is in reality an apartheid system. We denounce all forms of police violence that criminalize Indigenous peoples and perpetuate settler-colonialism.
DEFUND THE POLICE
Saskatoon Police recently received $4.8 million from the Province of Saskatchewan on top of the $3.8 million budget increase from the City of Saskatoon, increasing their overall budget to $90.8 million. The Regina Police budget has similarly increased, in part to fund high-powered carbine rifles, mirroring a trend seen in police forces across North America toward militarization. Meanwhile, community organizations and social services across Saskatchewan, such as the Lighthouse Supported Living shelter in North Battleford and Mother’s Centre in Saskatoon, are facing closure due to provincial budget cuts. The number of people without access to permanent housing is also increasing.
Saskatoon Police Chief Clive Weighill repeatedly speaks about the need to address poverty as the root cause of crime. Yet the numbers show that the police are responsible for causing and perpetuating the very social inequality they claim to oppose. We demand both the Province of Saskatchewan and the City of Saskatoon to divest from Saskatoon Police, restore the cancelled funding, and invest more funds into social programs that serve the needs of poor working-class people.
DEMAND COMMUNITY CONTROL OF SASKATOON POLICE
We recognize, however, that we cannot expect politicians to control the police in the way we want. The issue of police violence is an issue of political power. Under the current governance structure, the Saskatoon Board of Police Commissioners is a rubber-stamp institution that rarely disagrees with the police’s violent actions; it is unaccountable to the people most affected by their actions. We reject this anti-democratic form of governance that serves and protects the colonial-capitalist status quo. We reject “community policing” as a seemingly more benign form of policing exemplified in initiatives like Diversity Committee, Community Support Programs, Cultural Resource Unit. While these initiatives purport to promote inclusion and public participation in policing, in practice they perpetuate the unequal power dynamics between the oppressors and the oppressed.
We therefore demand the Board of Police Commissioners be permanently abolished and replaced by a civilian police accountability council, which would consist of elected community members empowered to hold the police accountable for the crimes they commit, and control how Saskatoon communities are policed. We believe that the people most affected by the criminal justice system should have the decisive voice in how the system operates. The people should have control over the police, not the other way around.
All power to the people.
See you in the streets!
List of Events Across Canada:
Vancouver: 12:00pm – 2120 Cambie Street
Saskatoon: 4:30pm – Pleasant Hill Park
Regina: 5pm – City Hall
Ottawa: 6:30pm – Galerie SAW Gallery
Montreal: 8pm – Au Parc Lafontaine au coin des rues Garnier et Rachel.
Gatineau: 1 pm – Soupe Populaire
Maniwaki: 11am – Police Station