Saskatchewan police oversight agency should be Indigenous-led: provincial justice minister

Saskatchewan is lifting the moratorium on evictions for non-payment of rent, Justice Minister Don Morgan, pictured here in a file photo, announced on Tuesday. Derek Putz / Global News

The next chair of Saskatchewan’s police oversight agency should “ideally” be a First Nations or Métis person, the provincial justice minister says.

“I think for First Nations and Métis people in our province to have confidence in the system, they would have a higher level of confidence knowing that we were willing to appoint somebody who was First Nations or Métis ancestry,” Justice Minister Don Morgan told reporters Monday at the legislative building, adding it’s a direction the province “can and should go.”

Read more: Saskatchewan police oversight agency wants to track demographic data on people filing complaints

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Saskatchewan police oversight agency wants to track demographic data on people filing complaints

The government recently tabled the Police Amendment Act 2020, which adds to the responsibilities of the Public Complaints Commission (PCC) that investigates complaints against police officers.

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Under the new legislation, the power to appoint investigation observers in cases involving police officers that result in injury or death will be transferred to the PCC — already on the lookout for policing trends and patterns.

“Our intention is to include that as part of the mandate of the Public Complaints Commission,” Morgan said.

“We think that process should include… the ability to investigate beyond just specific incidents if there’s a systemic issue as well.”

Read more: Saskatchewan unveils police reform bill that allows public oversight into deaths in custody

Established about 15 years ago, the “virtually all-civilian” PCC is being revamped, said Morgan, noting the agency’s current chair, Brent Cotter, has been appointed to the Canadian Senate.

Morgan said he has had discussions with Regina’s and Saskatoon’s police chiefs about as well as with the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan (MN-S) and the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) about the future of police oversight in the province.

The minister said he would like to see commissioners in place in the coming weeks and will urge them over the coming months to consult with the Saskatchewan Association of Chiefs of Police, Saskatchewan Federation of Police officers, municipal police commissions and citizen groups as well as with the MN-S and FSIN.

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The PCC has announced it will track data on race, ethnicity and gender on a voluntary basis, but has not yet started the collection.

Read more: Saskatchewan police oversight body to track race, gender, ethnicity data on voluntary basis

Morgan said he’s aware of Indigenous concerns with the justice system and pointed to the appointment of five Indigenous provincial court judges over the past year as a “step in the right direction.”

“I think we need to do more of that,” he said, adding that at minimum, the incoming head of the PCC  “must be is somebody that [the FSIN is] satisfied with.”

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