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BBD - question about racial tension in Saskatoon

Silver

I don't have a handicap.
Dec 5, 2004
1,863
1
<Disclaimer: The goal of this thread is not political, but if that's the way it goes, then obviously, let it be locked or deleted.>


As most of you know, I'm in law school. This year I'm taking a seminar on "Topics in Human Rights" and we watched an interesting video today put out by the National Film Board of Canada regarding the practices of the Saskatoon Police Department when dealing with the Aboriginal population of Saskatoon.

The gist of it is (and this happens all over the place in one form or another with all sorts of people)...the police take 'undesirables' (in the case of Saskatoon, Aboriginals...usually in a state of inebriation or possibly high) and drop them off outside of town and let them make their own way home. The problem with doing this in Saskatoon in the middle of winter is that it's -30*C and people thus die.

Having a relatively small Aboriginal population in BC, I do find the racial tensions that this type of treatment creates hard to relate to. In Vancouver, the police tend to take our relatively high population of drug users (we have what is recognized as one of the worst "skid rows" in North America) and drop them off in a local park or another part of the city and let them make their way back to the area that they frequent. This is not as dangerous in a city that rarely dips below 0*C.

In any event, I am curious as to what the firsthand experience of someone privy to those tensions is like. Has the problem of police mistreatment generally been curbed, at least to some degree, as the film suggested? If so, has this eased tensions? Does the city/province make efforst to ameliorate the conditions of such a disadvantaged group?

Rock, you're probably able to chime in as well, although I'm not sure if the situation is quite the same in Regina. I could be mistaken, but I believe that Saskatoon has a higher percentage of Aborinals peoples that live there. My professor told us today that by 2010, Saskatchewan as a province is likely to have a population over 30% Aboriginal.

In any event, it's an issue that is relatively unique to Canada. For the Americans, you can probably think it best analagous to the situation of African Americans. In Canada, Aboriginals highly overpopulate the prison system, so much so that in Saskatchewan, an Aboriginal male is more likely to end up in jail than to complete high school. There is also higher rates of illiteracy, substance abuse, etc.

I just thought it an interesting issue well worthy of discussion, whilst still avoiding "politics".

So...?
 

Big Brother Dunk

Well-Known Member
Aug 29, 2005
554
0
I'll be away from a computer til next Tuesday. In the meantime, I can't give this the response it merits, so I won't answer til then. Suffice to say it is a problem, but there are initiatives that have been started in order to deal with the problem.
 

Big Brother Dunk

Well-Known Member
Aug 29, 2005
554
0
Hi Silver.

Sorry it took so long to get back to you. I had five days off and went out of town.

Anyway, as far as racism in Saskatoon is concerned, I don’t think it’s really a major issue in the general population. I don’t believe racism is any more of a problem in Saskatoon than in any other city in western Canada. The issue is more of a socio-economic one as opposed to a racial one.

The fact is, the native population in the urban centres is growing. There are a lot of isolated communities in northern Sask. where the prospects are very poor for the young people living there. In fact, the unemployment rate at some of those communities approaches 90%.

As a result, they end up moving to the cities, Saskatoon and Regina in particular.

Unfortunately these youths don’t bring marketable skills with them. The result is that the unemployment rate among aboriginals in the Saskatoon is around 16%, while the rate among non-aboriginals is around 3%. And that can cause problems.

There are some joint government/private sector initiatives that have been started that are designed to help these people get some education and job-related skills, but there is still a ways to go.

Now with all that said, there is a lot of tension between the aboriginal population and the city police. As you’ve mentioned, various police services utilize the “midnight rides”. In the Saskatoon case, they were dealing with one of those situations, except that at the time it was –30. The youth died as a result.

Following that, there was a hearing to determine if criminal charges could be laid against the two cops involved. There wasn’t enough evidence to proceed in that case. That lead to an inquiry to look at racism and practices in the police department which resulted in various recommendations.

Needless to say, since that time there has been a lot of racial tension between the aboriginal population and the city police. The police are being held up to much closer scrutiny and many incidents result in claims of racism.

The bottom line? I don’t think there is an above average amount of racism in Saskatoon. I know and have worked with many native people and they’re just like you and me. On the other hand, the Saskatoon Police Department has some serious PR issues that they have to deal with. As I mentioned earlier, they’re under a microscope and they’ve got to be above reproach when dealing with aboriginals.

I don’t envy their position.
 
OP
S

Silver

I don't have a handicap.
Dec 5, 2004
1,863
1
  • Thread Starter
  • Thread starter
  • #4
BBD, thanks for giving this a well thought out response. At this point, I'm not sure if I have anything to add to the discussion, so I'll hold for now.

Thanks again.

And this is a really interesting topic if anyone wants to weigh in...perhaps using analagous tensions. We could use a good, spirited discussion around here.
 

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