On Friday July 3rd, 2020, seven OUTSaskatoon staff members met with Saskatoon Police Chief Troy Cooper and a Constable from the Cultural Resources Unit to discuss recent homophobic actions by Saskatoon Police Service (SPS) members and the relationship between the SPS and the 2SLGBTQ+ community. In reflection and in light of the recent excessive force towards Evan Penner, we feel compelled to speak out and state that we are reassessing our relationship with the Saskatoon Police Service and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).
Historically, the use of excessive force by police towards Black, Indigenous, People of Colour, Two Spirit, Trans, and Queer people is well documented across Canada, within Saskatchewan, and here in Saskatoon. This history has fairly resulted in skepticism and distrust of policing within underserved communities. We ask members of Saskatoon Police and the RCMP to understand that apathy regarding these histories is dangerous. In order to take the action needed to confront systemic discrimination, racial injustices, homophobia and transphobia, and ongoing police brutality, we need to lean in to uncomfortable conversations, not resist or be apathetic to them.
While we had a productive meeting on Friday, we see the difference between speaking to Chief Troy Cooper and other SPS community liaisons and the attitudes of police who interact with the general public on a daily basis. Intentions for future change differ greatly from the present-day impacts of police violence that are felt by many within our community and all Saskatoon citizens. We also recognize the pivotal role that the municipal, provincial, and federal governments play in upholding the current structures of policing locally, provincially, and nationally. We see all levels of government as responsible for making changes and we pledge to engage with our local, provincial, and federal representatives on the issues of police funding and violence, the severe lack of funding of mental health supports and strategies within our province, and the need for federal strategies and standards.
Additionally, we firmly support the work of the Okihtcitawak Patrol Group (OPG) and we stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter YXE and the Indigenous Joint Action Coalition in their five calls to action:
- At this crucial moment in time, in solidarity with Indigenous People and all communities fighting colonialism and police brutality, we call for an end to the severe harms caused by the Saskatoon Police Service on a daily basis.
- We call for an end to violent police responses directed toward substance users and those with mental health and wellness concerns.
- We call for an end to violent policing of the working class, sex workers and people experiencing homelessness, as well as Queer, Two-Spirit, Trans, disabled, and poor communities in our city.
- We call for the immediate firing of the officers who assaulted Evan Penner.
- We call for the abolition of the police, the closure of prisons, and a renewed emphasis on community programming and resources we desperately need.
We see this point in time as an opportunity for change. We commit to listening and holding intentional space for our community, and to be bold in the ways we hold systems and elected leaders accountable. We urge municipal, provincial, and federal leaders to use this time to take action, question the ways things are currently done, and commit to system change.
In our meeting with Chief Troy Cooper, he asked each of us “What does this moment in time mean for you?” and “What are you hearing from the community?” We now ask you, the community, what are your responses to these questions? If you wish to answer anonymously click here.