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Saskatchewan police watchdog still on the books, timeline unclear

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WATCH: Saskatchewan is one of the only provinces without an independent, civilian-led agency to investigate police conduct, but the province says that could change soon – Mar 26, 2021

Back in 2019, Saskatchewan’s government committed to establishing a police watchdog. That hasn’t happened yet, and it’s unclear when it will.

Earlier this week, Premier Scott Moe said Saskatchewan is still working on developing an independent, civilian-led oversight body.

“It’s a discussion that you’re going to see the government, in the days ahead, start to take some concrete steps towards,” Moe said at a news conference on Monday.

Last June, Saskatchewan’s justice ministry said timelines were pushed because of COVID-19.

Read more: Police watchdog still coming, but Sask. government says timeline pushed back due to COVID-19

The ministry will have more details to share “in the near future,” said spokesperson Margherita Vitorrelli.

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“We continue to evaluate potential enhancements to police accountability and transparency,” Vitorrelli said in an emailed statement.

“Discussions have taken place with municipal police chiefs, and with officials in other jurisdictions.”

Saskatchewan is one of the only provinces without an independent civilian-led agency to investigate police actions that result in injury or death. Outside police forces conduct the investigations and report back to the justice ministry.

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) has been in talks with the province and said creating a watchdog has not been put on the backburner.

“We understand that this is a significant change with a lot of stakeholders in place,” said Jason Stonechild, FSIN’s executive director of justice.

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“We have to make sure that we not only have a transparent but … effective process for the police members as well.”

Read more: Colten Boushie’s mother: RCMP watchdog report shows injustice

The conversation is particularly timely following the release of a watchdog report on the RCMP’s handling of the shooting death of Colten Boushie, Stonechild said. The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission found Mounties racially discriminated against Boushie’s mother, Debbie Baptiste.

“The report they released was applauded by Indigenous leaders and communities,” Stonechild said. “That just goes to show how … a change from police oversight to civilian oversight could really rebuild and support public trust in policing, which is essential.”

Whatever the watchdog model may be, he said Indigenous participation is key.

Click to play video: 'Renewed calls for independent police oversight in Saskatchewan' Renewed calls for independent police oversight in Saskatchewan
Renewed calls for independent police oversight in Saskatchewan – Jul 4, 2018

The Saskatoon Police Service said it’s on board with an independent oversight body.

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“We welcome one, as long as it improves the current process and is developed to ensure it is trusted by the community and trusted by officers,” a spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

“At the end of the day, it has to do with trust in police and we are the beneficiaries of solid policy around that trust.”

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