Three stories from Saskatoon this week are part of the same story. Native people were rarely seen off reserves until the 70s as farming moved into the hands of agribusiness and uranium became an important part of the economy. As the money left the province, so did many people. Saskatchewan "leaders" have bragged for decades that we are the cradle of medicare and other important social programs.
If there were an organization called Hypocrisy International, we might be at the top of the list.
Amnesty International report [pertinent exerpt below]
There were sporadic reports of the use of excessive force by police officers. At least two people faced extradition to the USA where they faced a possible death sentence.
There were allegations of patterns of police abuse against First Nation (Aboriginal) men in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. There were reports that members of Saskatoon City Police had for a number of years had an unofficial policy of abandoning intoxicated or "troublesome" members of the indigenous community away from the population centre of Saskatoon, thereby placing them at great risk of dying of hypothermia during the winter months.
Some asylum-seekers continued to be detained for prolonged periods before being deported. The Canadian authorities examined criteria for eligibility before hearing the evidence of the need for protection in the individual case. This had the effect of rendering certain groups of people ineligible to make a refugee claim. Asylum-seekers whose applications were turned down by the Immigration and Refugee Board did not have access to a meaningful appeal on the merits of their case. At least one refugee was at risk of forcible return.
In May 2000, the Supreme Court of Canada heard the case of Sebastian Burns and Atif Rafay, two Canadian citizens facing extradition to the State of Washington, USA, on capital murder charges. In 1997, the British Columbia Court of Appeals ruled that the extradition of Canadian citizens without satisfactory assurances against the death penalty, violated rights protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Canadian government appealed against this ruling to the Supreme Court which has since ruled that Sebastian Burns and Atif Rafay cannot be extradited to the USA unless guarantees are sought that they will not face capital punishment.
June 22, the same day Mayor Maddin fired Chief Dave Scott we read in the paper that the police service sent used bulletproof vests to the cops in Ecuador, where Amnesty International has noted police in its two major cities have tortured citizens.
Ecuador has been a staunch ally of the American "war on drugs," going so far as to imprison an American citizen for "money laundering".
Ecuador has also been in the news recently because of a homophobic group [OFFSITE PDF] hell bent on "social cleansing" of gay, lesbian, bi and transexuals who are perhaps also in tune with police policy. The announcement of the vest donation from Saskatoon was made the same week-end as the Gay Pride march. Another aspect of Saskatoon police cover-ups has been assaults on gays by police or police looking the other way when others did the bashing.
This will also come out when the clean-up of corruption and cover-up in this city gets underway.
Saskatoon girl displays bruise inflicted by city cop
Jim Williams, U.S. citizen held for 8 years without due process in Ecuador prison
Sep. 2001: Apparently Jonathan is in the correctional centre having been picked up on a weapons charge while he was sleeping at his cousin's place.
The weapons are not his.
There are a thousand Jonathans revolving through the doors of the so-called justice system, sing their names to papers so thousands of others will be paid to strip them of all hope. We repeat the story of Jonathan Poundmaker (left) who was mistakenly identified by Constable Gardipie -- one of the few Native constables -- from a fuzzy security video - and picked off the street on Thursday night before Easter in 1997. He was held for five days without any explanation. He was acquitted at trial. It turned out the "offence" was the theft of a $20 video taken by an unrelated Poundmaker and returned to the store the morning after it was taken. During the time he was released, awaiting trial, he managed to breach his undertaking (by breaking his curfew) and chalked up a few fines. He had been doing well in school, but by missing his Tuesday morning class (while in police custody for the crime he didn't commit) he fell behind and shortly afterwards dropped out of school and moved to Swift Current. He had an easy claim against the police but ran out of time to file it. There are a thousand stories like this in our naked province.
The Foster Parent story would not have been on fifth estate if we had not put it on the Internet, defying the gag orders given us by the band of hypocrites who make the rules in this place and enforce them with authoritarian fervor -- selectively and harshly.
The poor of Saskatchewan (of which Natives are forming an increasing percentage) have been living in Third World conditions for a couple decades. People on Social Assistance (often two or three generations) receive cheques to give their landlords (for slum housing) and a guarantee that their utilities will be paid. The actual cash they receive is not enough to live on by any standards. Is it any wonder, then, that many young people are selling sex and/or breaking into the homes of people who actually have homes? Is it any wonder that so many people drink and use illegal drugs? Guess who owes that $20M in uncollected fines.
Everyone should try and arrange to drop into Courtroom 1 at Saskatoon Provincial Court at 9.30 on a Monday morning, or, even better on Tuesday after a long week-end.
What about the privileged classes in this Third World territory? There are lots of SUVs on the decaying roads, ski machines in the winter ditches and boats and water toys in the increasingly polluted waters. The university keeps churning out lawyers who attend all the classes on how to make money and skip the classes on social justice. The university also graduates several thousand other people a year. The social workers who often tell the police what to do (so Dueck told us was his excuse for allowing the Ross incest to continue for 43 months) and who, like Hilga of the SS, make their clients jump through paper-work hoops and endless appointments to get their monthly pittance -- many of them were "trained" at our universities.
Apart from telemarketing depots the biggest growth industry in Saskatchewan is the "justice" system. Brash young grade twelve graduates are being recruited, trained and put to work to push other people around. They receive no training in the liberal arts, which are the target of continual cutbacks at the university.
Canada has a strong reputation for contributing education and resources to developing countries. We should continue to do so. Saskatchewan should go on the list of needy recipients.
Much of the deterioration of this province occurred on the watch of Premier Roy Romanow, who's name has been bandied about for international diplomatic service after he "fixes" medicare for the country. Remember the part about Hypocrisy International? He could be the first individual recipient. Chris Axworthy would be second.
Saskatoon appears in Amnesty International's annual list of human rights abuses, a list that chronicles torture, killings and persecution around the world.
The allegations that Saskatoon police dumped three Native men outside of the city last winter are described in detail in the 300-page report, compiled by Amnesty's head office in London, England, and released worldwide Wednesday.
"We take this concern raised by Amnesty International pretty seriously. This is not the kind of international image you want to convey. It's a pretty serious matter," said Justice Minister Chris Axworthy. "Our hope, of course, is that next year there will be a different story as we begin some kind of reform-oriented process."
The report outlines the allegations of "patterns of police abuse against First Nation men in Saskatoon." Darrell Night says he was driven by police to a field near the Queen Elizabeth power plant and abandoned in freezing conditions. It's also suspected the same thing happened to aboriginal men Rodney Naistus and Lawrence Wegner, whose bodies were found in the area on Jan. 29 and Feb. 3. Neither of the men were wearing jackets.
These cases were included in the Canadian section of the 300-page report, which also included sections on slavery in Sudan, torture in the former Yugoslavia and abuse of women in Afghanistan.
Alex Neve, secretary-general of Amnesty's Canadian branch, said this doesn't mean Saskatoon has as many or as severe abuses as other places mentioned.
"It's a situation which does raise serious and important human rights questions, and it's a situation which we think needs to be resolved. That's why the Saskatoon case is there," Neve said.
"It remains an open file (for Amnesty). I'm sure it will continue to receive attention."
Amnesty wrote to Chris Axworthy last April shortly after the allegations surfaced supporting an independent inquiry, and Neve still believes that is what is needed.
"There needs to an expert independent eye to get to the heart of the matter. We still think that's what's needed," he said.
Neve said Amnesty pays special attention when it sees a potential pattern developing, rather than isolated reports. Alex Neve also noted the report is researched and written by Amnesty's London office, which decides which abuses merit attention.
Lawrence Joseph, a vice-chief with the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, said he isn't surprised by Saskatoon's inclusion on the list.
"It's saying shame on you Saskatoon, shame on you Saskatchewan, and shame on you Canada," said Joseph, an outspoken critic of the way Indian people are treated by police and the justice system. "Certainly, it's telling the world that Saskatoon and Saskatchewan needs to do something about these realities."
Joseph said United Nations studies continually show Canada has the highest standard of living in the world, but the living conditions of its aboriginal people rank just 63rd. All issues, from justice to socio-economic conditions, must be addressed immediately.
"If any politician thinks they are just going to walk away from this, it's not going to happen," he said. "The indifference is rampant in the treatment of First Nations people in this province."
Saskatoon Police Service Chief Dave Scott was not in Wednesday. Police spokesperson Const. Grant Little said he couldn't comment on the Amnesty report because of the pending RCMP investigation into the alleged incidents.
Amnesty International, celebrating its 40th year, has campaigned against more than 45,000 cases of human rights violations around the world.
Justice Department officials are looking at creating a special internal unit with sweeping powers to collect $20 million in unpaid fines levied against offenders across the province.
These powers include garnisheeing wages and carrying out civil actions to collect the money. Officials are also studying the possibility of deducting the money owed from federal income tax refunds.
The government contracts out fine collection to private agencies. As of April 30 this year, however, the collection agencies had recouped only $4 million of $24 million in fines accrued since 1993.
"At the end of the day, there are just some people that will never pay their fines," said Barb Hookenson of the Justice Department's court services division.
Up until September 1996, individuals could face a jail term for not paying court-ordered fines. That changed when the federal government passed Bill C-41.
"We can't throw people in jail, we have to use every other means possible." Prior to 1996, almost eight per cent of fines ordered resulted in jail time. Since then, less than one per cent of people fined end up behind bars.
The average for unpaid fines is $110, and the offences are mostly traffic related. Earlier this year, the government began holding back the renewal of driver's licences in cases where the person faced an unpaid fine.
"If they don't pay and they decide that perhaps they'll just drive without a licence, or just nor worry about getting a licence, then the next step is a demand letter indicating the fines are going to a collection agency," Hookenson said.
The collection agencies, though, are working with limited powers. "The powers that they have are the phone calls and letters. They don't have any abilities to take anyone to court," said Bohach.
"There are certain points where they may collect some money, but then the cost of collecting it becomes higher than the fine. At that point, the collection agency may contact us and let us know that's the case. We'll keep the judgment registered, but there's not much we can do about it after that." Hookenson said officials are now engaged in an analysis of whether creating a special fine collection unit makes financial sense.
"We're now doing the analysis of the costs-benefits associated with this - what is outstanding on fines, what we might be able to achieve if we set up an internal unit," she said.
"We intend to have all our analysis and proposals together by this fall." Tapping into income tax refunds "could make some improvements in our fine collection system," she added.
The government began turning over the unpaid fines to collection agencies in 1997.
The backlog of fines dates to 1993.
Saskatoon's aboriginal population has more than doubled during the past 12 years while general population numbers have stagnated, according to a City of Saskatoon publication.
Saskatoon now has a higher proportion of aboriginal people than any other major Canadian city, at 7.5 per cent.
In order for aboriginal people to become full members of the community more has to be done on issues such as affordable housing, education and business opportunities, said Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief George Lafond and city Coun. Owen Fortosky.
"Are we doing enough? I don't think we are," Lafond said.
More than 12,000 registered Indians lived in Saskatoon in 1999, a 122 per cent increase since 1987, according to the spring 2001 issue of Populace, a bi-annual magazine examining demographic information that is published by the city.
The main reasons cited in the magazine are high birth rates, net in-migration from rural reserves and a general trend among First Nations people toward moving to cities.
During the same period, the population of non-aboriginal people in Saskatoon increased by only 10 per cent.
There will also be vastly different demographic shifts within the populations. The aboriginal population is far younger, with 40 per cent under age 15. This compares to 22 per cent of non-aboriginals in that age group. This will mean challenges for the city and other service providers, who will have to find ways to serve young aboriginals and an older non-aboriginal population.
Lafond said institutions such as Wanuskewin Heritage Park, the Native survival school and the recently opened recreation and cultural facility on 20th Street have helped aboriginal people carve out their place in Saskatoon.
"These are all wonderful projects. I think we've come a long way, but the point is that we are still behind and trying to catch up," he said.
Lafond said many aboriginal people still do not feel they are true citizens of Saskatoon in the way most non-aboriginal people do.
Eighty per cent of Saskatoon's aboriginal people live on the west side of the city. Neighbourhoods with the highest proportions of aboriginal people are Pleasant Hill (30.7 per cent), Riversdale (27.6), Confederation Suburban Centre (26.9), and Massey Place (18.2).
Fortosky, who represents most of these areas, said adequate housing is the first priority to ensure a good quality of life for aboriginal people in Saskatoon.
"Good quality housing is a necessity. I think we can do a lot better," he said.
Lafond said he'd like predominantly aboriginal neighborhoods to be associated with culture and vibrancy, much like Chinatowns in other cities.
Regina's aboriginal community makes up 7.1 per cent of that city, while the percentages are lower in Winnipeg (6.9), Edmonton (3.8), Calgary (1.9), Vancouver (1.7) and Toronto (0.4).
Aboriginal people comprise 11.4 per cent of Saskatchewan's population, but just three per cent nationally.
The Saskatoon Police Service will donate dozens of used bulletproof vests to police in Ecuador - a country where the national law enforcement agency has come under fire from Amnesty International for allegations of torture and human rights abuses.
The Saskatoon Board of Police Commissioners approved Thursday the donation requested by the Consulate of Ecuador in Canada and National Police of Ecuador.
The decision was made with no debate at the committee table - and that concerns Amnesty International's John Tackaberry.
"It is crucial that people who are engaged in these certain kinds of dialogues be informed about what is going on on the ground," said Tackaberry, a spokesperson for Amnesty International in Montreal.
Mayor Jim Maddin, chair of the commission, said in an interview he was unaware of the concerns over the police in Ecuador. But he stood by the commission's decision, and noted the issue would be different if the police were donating used assault rifles.
"It's police officer helping a police officer - they likely don't look at the politics or the rest of it," said Maddin.
"To be honest with you I didn't check about it or research it. I would think it is a real feel-good initiative among police agencies with other police agencies for their protection."
Ecuador ranks among the 149 countries on Amnesty International's 2001 report on human rights abuses around the world. According to the report, abuse by police is widespread even after attempts by the government to reform the national force.
"Methods of torture and ill-treatment included kicking in the face, stamping on feet, burning, and electric shocks on genitals, tongue and chest, as well as beatings," stated the report.
The National Police of Ecuador are associated with the former criminal investigation service that was shut down in 1991 after a commission concluded members systematically used torture as part of investigations, and were responsible for the disappearance and death of two teenage brothers in 1998.
Tackaberry said Amnesty International advises organizations to use caution in donating equipment to other countries. The agency opposes the transfer of any equipment that can assist people or organizations violating human rights. Bulletproof vests, said Tackaberry, are in a grey area.
"It is essentially passive equipment, and it can be protection for good or for ill depending upon what the situation is. It is not necessarily opposed by Amnesty International. But we do have serious concerns about the types of human rights violations that are continuing to occur," said Tackaberry.
Police Chief Dave Scott said the department only wants to help out fellow officers in Ecuador who have limited resources to protect themselves in the line of duty.
Since 1998, the capital Quito and city of Guayaquil have experienced a general increase in criminal activity, especially robberies, assaults and carjackings. Police also contend with drug traffickers and organized crime.
The Saskatoon Police Service will return to the city's race relations committee table after a nearly three-year absence, police Chief Dave Scott said Thursday.
Scott told the Saskatoon Board of Police Commissioners he will direct an officer to sit on the committee as a voting member starting in the fall.
He said he made the decision after reviewing the issue in the context of a reorganization of community services offered by the police. Also factoring into the decision, he said, is the audit currently under way of the committee.
That audit will identify appropriate operation of the committee and roles of individual members.
"As soon as the audit is finished, and if we can get resources back to it, we will (return)," said Scott.
The race relations committee advises city council on ways to minimize racial tension and promote racial harmony in Saskatoon.
In the summer of 1998, the police withdrew from the committee largely due to a shortage in resources. Since then, an officer has been available at the request of the committee to provide information.
The news Thursday was welcome to commission chair Mayor Jim Maddin, who for three years has been calling for the police to come back to the race relations table. The return will mean increased police input into race relation activities, he said, and another avenue for improving awareness of police department of cultural issues.
"I believe our police services are some of our front-line civic employees. They interact on the street all the time with people of all creeds and colours, all races, all ethnicity and cultures," said Maddin, a former member of the committee.
The current membership includes city councillors Lenore Swystun and Owen Fortosky, and officials from the school boards, Saskatoon District Health, Saskatchewan Intercultural Association, Social Services, Indian and Metis groups, and the public at large.