Saskatoon Police Service Responds To Report By Human Rights Watch

The Saskatoon Police Service has reviewed the report released today by New York based Human Rights Watch. The report states that it examines the treatment of Indigenous women by police services in Saskatchewan.

The SPS agrees with statements made in the report regarding the vulnerability of Indigenous women in our society. Chief Clive Weighill has spoken on many occasions about the challenges faced by Indigenous people including; poverty, poor housing, racism, and disadvantage. These are socio-economic conditions that our service and many other police services have been very vocal about in attempting to raise awareness.

We met with representatives with Human Rights Watch in 2016, worked closely, and were fully cooperative in answering any questions related to our service. We take the allegations by women outlined in the report very seriously and have asked Human Rights Watch to provide specifics so that we may investigate.

  • Incarceration of intoxicated persons: the SPS has partnered with the Saskatoon Tribal Council, the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, the Saskatoon Health Region, and the Lighthouse in an effort to reduce the need to house intoxicated persons in our detention area. We have stated that this is a health issue, not a law enforcement issue.
  • Searching women in custody: the SPS has one of the highest ratios of female police officers in Canada. We also have female Special Constables and matrons working 24 hours a day in our detention area. Strip searches are a very rare occurrence and are strictly guided by policy.
  • Police oversight: Human Rights Watch may not fully understand police oversight in Saskatchewan. Their comment that civilian oversight of police is provided on an advisory basis is not accurate. In incidences where a police officer is investigated for a criminal act the investigation is reviewed by Saskatchewan Prosecutions which then makes recommendations. The current oversight system was constructed post Stonechild Inquiry, with full participation and endorsement from the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations.

It is unfortunate that Human Rights Watch did not discuss any of the positive changes that have taken place at the Saskatoon Police Service and within our community as a whole over many years. Once again, while we agree that relations between police and the Indigenous community have been strained in the past we have made significant positive gains in healing the relationship with the Indigenous population. It is disappointing that none of those positive initiatives were included in the report. They include:

  • The implementation of all recommendations from the Stonechild Inquiry.
  • Indigenous Chair of the Saskatoon Board of Police Commissioners.
  • The creation of the Action Accord on Intoxicated Persons in partnership with the Saskatoon Tribal Council, the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, the Saskatoon Health Region and the Lighthouse. The accord has reduced the number of persons incarcerated for public intoxication.
  • The recently unveiled memorial to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls which was erected outside the SPS Headquarters building and partnered with the Saskatoon Tribal Council.
  • Doubling the number of Indigenous Police Officers.
  • Creation of Indigenous Victim Service Workers.
  • Creation of Indigenous Missing Person Liaison.
  • The creation of an Indigenous Relations Consultants position and expansion of the Cultural Resource Unit.
  • A complete revision to the methodology of handling and investigation of missing persons.
  • Intensive education for all members regarding Indigenous history and culture.
  • A long standing Chief’s Elders Advisory Committee.
  • Regularly scheduled lunch and learns and Elder’s teachings.
  • The creation of the Race Against Racism.
  • The Saskatoon Police Advisory Committee on Diversity.

The SPS would like to encourage anyone who may have a complaint about their interactions with police to make a complaint in one of three ways: to the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, to the Provincial Complaints Commission or to the Saskatoon Police Service.

For further information on the Saskatoon Police Service and it’s programs and initiatives visit saskatoonpolice.ca.