A petition calling for the resignation of Saskatchewan’s minister of corrections, policing, and public safety was delivered to the legislative building Friday morning.
According to family advocate Soolee Dinah Papequash, the petition was signed more than 1,700 times by both individuals and organizations concerned about inmate’s access to proper meals, health care and communication.
Dinah Papequash says she receives calls daily from Saskatchewan inmates, one of which is her 22-year-old grandson.
The call for Christine Tell to step down comes after emails from concerned advocates have gone unanswered.
“It’s just another way of her hiding behind her doors,” continued Dinah Papequash, “not coming out to face the facts of what’s happening.”
“We’re not asking for everything to be done at once,” she said, “but we’re please asking for help ASAP out there in all the jails.”
The petition also asks the provincial government to apologize for how the spread of COVID-19 has been handled in jails, however, a statement issued by Tell says everything is being done to manage facilities appropriately.
“We have implemented COVID-19 measures recommended by the Saskatchewan Health Authority,” the statement reads, “which includes mandatory masking, testing upon admission and as directed by public health authorities, and quarantining new admissions for 14 days.”
The statement details the supplies inmates have available to them, including masks, soap and hand sanitizer.
“We have also provided two additional 10-minute phone-calls, at the government’s expense, so that inmates are able to call their friends and family.”
Tell’s statement does not directly acknowledge receiving emails from advocates, but it did offer advice for those with concerns.
“Inmates, their families, and advocates who have concerns should work with staff through the processes outlined in the Correctional Services Act, or to contact the Ombudsman, who is an impartial, non-partisan official who reports directly to the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan.”
Still, Saskatchewan NDP MLA Nicole Sarauer feels Tell has not done enough.
“We need a minister who is willing to actually do the work, to listen to the families, to hear the concerns from not just inmates and inmate’s families, but staff as well,” said Sarauer.
Dinah Papequash also hopes Tell will join advocates in the future for a healing circle.
“It’s not a challenge,” she said, “it’s an invite.”