Saskatchewan’s police reform bill does not go far enough, advocates say
|globalnews.ca 19 Jun 2020 at 21:20|
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Proponents of public police oversight are now saying the bill doesn’t go far enough in addressing the needs of the people.
“We see now from news stories around the world that trust in policing is being challenged, as it should be,” said Rick Bourassa, VP of the Saskatchewan Association of Chiefs of Police.
“That’s what happens in good deliberative democracy, and we should be accountable to the people that we police.”
On Wednesday, Minister of Justice Don Morgan tabled the Police Amendment 2020 Act which would give civilians the opportunity to oversee investigations, but keeps them from conducting the investigation.
“Right now, the existing program what it lacks is: good optics, good transparency and they don’t have an obligation to report,” Morgan said.
If passed, the bill would give the Provincial Complaints Commission — the province’s civilian oversight body — the power to appoint an overseer for investigations.
However, despite the proposed changes — which the government says is a step toward transparency and accountability — the province’s legislation lags behind other jurisdictions in Canada as police would still be investigating police.
Saskatchewan remains one of three provinces in the country that does not have an independent investigative unit to look into police custody injuries and death.
“We think that a province the size of ours, and with the number of police forces that we have, to try and have a model like they do in Ontario or Alberta is expensive, costly, and it becomes a matter of creating another police force so it’s police investigating police at a different level,” Morgan said.
However, provinces similar in population size to Saskatchewan — Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador and Manitoba — have their own independent investigators.
“We’re at a moment right now where the community is reminding us that all lives won’t matter until Black lives matter and that First Nations and Metis lives matter, and this is all a problem of justice,” said Scott Thompson, assistant professor in sociology at the University of Saskatchewan.
“To then hear the government come out with these changes, and particularly say we’re going to make these changes and not other changes to solve the problem — simply because of cost — feels like they’re not prioritizing justice for everyone.”