Check out our Aboriginal Job Board!
Aboriginal organization set to collect anecdotal information on racial profiling
The Aboriginal Affairs Coalition of Saskatchewan is collecting anecdotal information on racial profiling by both city police forces and the RCMP.
Kim Beaudin, president of AACS, said the decision to collect the data was spurred on by friends and acquaintances constantly telling stories of getting pulled over while driving, including his daughter who was driving his van with some of her friends, or being harassed because they resembled a vague description of an “Aboriginal male involved” in a crime.
“People in Saskatoon particularly would say things such as … they thought there was a bylaw the city implemented called ‘Walking, riding your bike or driving while Aboriginal,’” said Beaudin, who has worked with people in the justice system for years.
A recent run-in with Darrel Night is a clear indication, said Beaudin, that the fear is still there for some Aboriginal people. Night’s experience with the Saskatoon Police Service in January 2000 led to the outing of what became known as “Starlight Tours,” the alleged practice of city police taking Aboriginal “offenders” from downtown Saskatoon and dropping them off on the outskirts of the city. Night was one of the lucky ones: in the freezing cold of winter he managed to find shelter. But not so lucky were Neil Stonechild (who froze to death in 1990) and Rodney Nastius and Lawrence Wegner, both of whom froze to death in 2000.
On a trip from Edmonton to Saskatoon, Beaudin stopped to pick up a hitchhiker. The hitchhiker was completely covered, trying desperately to blend in. The hitchhiker turned out to be Night.
“He told me, ‘I don’t like going to Saskatoon.’ I asked him, ‘How come you’re dressed like that?’ and he said, ‘I still fear for my life. I’m still scared the cops will grab me and kill me,’” said Beaudin.
Night’s recounting of his experience back in 2000 led to a number of police probes, both city and RCMP, and eventually to the formation of the Wright Commission, which delved into Stonechild’s death. The Wright report was filed in 2004 and contained a number of recommendations, all of which were implemented, said Insp. Russell Friesen, in charge of special standards division, which includes internal investigations, for the Saskatoon Police Service. Some of the implemented recommendations included GPS in cruisers, and soon cameras will also be in all cruisers.
All complaints to the SPS come through Friesen’s office. Since taking office in 2008, he said, he hasn’t had any complaints of racial profiling. The Canadian Review of Policing Research defines racial profiling as: “a racial disparity in police stop and search practices, customs searches at airports and border crossings, in police patrols in minority neighbourhoods and in undercover activities or sting operations which target particular ethnic groups.”
“Our investigations are based upon suspect descriptions for the most part, either that or through video. So if we get information that a person of a certain race committed a certain crime wearing certain clothing that’s what the initial investigation is going to be based on,” said Friesen.
Friesen is not aware of the study being undertaken by the AACS.
“If there were any specific issues they have in regard to racial profiling, the first thing that we would be doing is encouraging them to bring their concerns or complaint of anything of this nature forward … so they could be addressed formally,” he said. He adds if complainants don’t feel comfortable bringing concerns directly to the SPS, concerns could be taken to the Public Complaints Commission or to the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations. FSIN established a Special Investigations Unit in 2000 to hear complaints against the police.
Friesen notes that a 2011 community satisfaction survey conducted by an independent group had Aboriginal respondents indicating that 89 per cent were somewhat or very satisfied with SPS service. In 2005, that statistic was 59 per cent. Trust level also grew dramatically, with Aboriginal respondents in 2005 indicating 38 per cent and in 2011 trust hit 66 per cent. Friesen did not know how many Aboriginal respondents filled out the survey.
“The Saskatoon Police Service has an ongoing dialogue with the (Aboriginal) community,” said Friesen.
Interaction includes a Chiefs advisory committee, an Elders’ group, partnership with the Saskatoon Tribal Council and FSIN, and Treaty 4 police academy.
As well, the SPS has ongoing cultural awarenesstraining for members and the Saskatchewan Police College provides similar training for recruits. Training focuses on understanding prejudice, racism, discrimination and bias-free policing.
Despite the official changes within SPS, Beaudin expects “to end up hearing hundreds of stories” over the next couple of months as he collects information. Beaudin said he wants to see the response he gets out of Saskatoon before moving on to Regina to conduct a similar anecdotal survey.
- Community Access
- Contact Us
- Our History
- Archives Search
- In Depth
Share this with friends
- The #IdleNoMore Movement
- Relationship between Canada's Justice System and Aboriginal People
- 2013 Guide to Powwow Country Events Calendar
- Play Radio Bingo to win!
- CFWE-FM Alberta Radio Network
- Buffalo Spirit Foundation
- Western Association of Aboriginal Broadcasters (WAAB)
- June Windspeaker - May 27
- June Raven's Eye - May 27
- June Saskatchewan Sage - May 27
- June Alberta Sweetgrass - June 10
- Download 2013 AMMSA media kits for:
* Sage - Raven's Eye - Birchbark
- Online advertising on www.ammsa.com.
Subscribe & Donate
- Order a Windspeaker digital subscription
- Order a Windspeaker print subscription
- Support independent, Indigenous media in Canada by making a donation via paypal