Human Rights Watch wants special unit to look at alleged Sask. police violence against Indigenous women – Saskatoon

Human Rights Watch is calling for the creation of a special investigative unit to look at allegations of violence by police in Saskatchewan.

During detailed interviews last year with 64 Saskatchewan Indigenous women, the New York-based organization says it uncovered dozens of claims of police misconduct, including overly intrusive strip searches, excessive use of force, racial profiling and sexual harassment.

“The crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada means that police services across the country should be acutely aware of and sensitive to the well-being, vulnerability and needs of Indigenous women,” said Farida Deif, Canada director at Human Rights Watch.

“Instead, in some cases, it is the police themselves who are making Indigenous women feel unsafe.”

Human Rights Watch, the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, the Elizabeth Fry Society and others held a news conference Monday to elaborate on the report.

At the conference, Deif said the group found evidence of a “deeply fractured” relationship between police and Indigenous communities.

‘Why is there still denial? You can’t deny that this is going on in our police system.’
– Heather Bear, vice-chief

She said Indigenous women told them they wouldn’t call police to report crimes for fear of harassment and violence. She said one woman told them “we become as invisible as we possibly can” in public places to avoid police attention. This breakdown of trust is particularly dangerous for victims of violence, she said, and could be life-threatening.

Sheila McLean, an Idle No More community organizer, said at the news conference the report “is not talking about a few bigots on our police force” but rather systemic racism and the justice system’s role in perpetuating it.

‘Not invisible’

All parties at the news conference agreed action is needed, not more reports. Heather Bear, Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations vice-chief, asked how many reports have…

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