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Deaths point to police racism.


Two significant incidents in Western Canada have pushed the issue of police racism directed towards Aboriginal people into the national spotlight this month.

First, it was revealed that two veteran Saskatoon city police officers have been suspended [with pay] while allegations they dropped a Native man outside the city limits with no jacket in minus 30 degree Celsius weather are under investigation. The bodies of two Native men were found in the Saskatoon area in the first week of February. Several other deaths have been attributed to similar alleged police actions. The investigation began when a third man, Darryl Knight, filed a complaint, saying he had survived that kind of treatment.

Then, in Winnipeg, after police failed to respond to five 911 calls from the same residence, two Aboriginal women were found killed when police finally attended their home eight hours after the first call for help was placed. It has been alleged they failed to respond to the calls because the women were Aboriginal.

Native leaders all over the province of Saskatchewan say their people know it is standard police procedure in the province to take Native people outside the city and make them walk back to town in sub-freezing temperatures.

The RCMP were asked by Saskatoon police chief Dave Scott to conduct an inquiry into the deaths in his city. That inquiry has since spread to the city of Regina.

Saying First Nation/police relations are at a "new and dangerous low," National Chief Phil Fontaine added the incidents add more urgency to his call for a contextual review of the relationship the RCMP has with Aboriginal people. He wrote letters to Saskatchewan Premier Roy Romanow, RCMP Commissioner Phil Murray and the Saskatoon police chief, demanding action.

"On the one hand, I am encouraged by the decision of the Saskatoon police chief and the Saskatchewan Justice minister to request an independent investigation into the matter," Fontaine wrote to the RCMP commissioner. "On the other hand, the appointment of the RCMP will not engender a whole lot of trust in our communities, given the past history."

He reminded Murray of their Nov. 19 meeting where he said he received assurances of co-operation from the commissioner.

The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations has received hundreds of calls from other Native people who claim to have been subjected to treatment similar to that allegedly received by Knight.

On Feb. 22, the FSIN activated a helpline where people can call and report trouble with police or add to the information already in hand. Sources at the FSIN say the leadership is not completely comfortable with the role the RCMP is playing in investigating the city police service. They say the RCMP have been known to engage in the same kind of activities.
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Author:Barnsley, Paul
Publication:Wind Speaker
Date:Mar 1, 2000
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Next Article:Government rushing Indian Act changes.

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