Two weeks ago TransSask was invited by Saskatoon’s Board of Police Commissioners, who provide general oversight for Saskatoon Police Services, to attend a virtual meeting with them today on June 10th as part of their strategic planning. TransSask elected to not attend this meeting.
Yesterday we did however submit a letter to address the key points the meeting was intending to discuss. As this was after RSVP deadline, we are unsure whether this letter was read today. We have decided however to publish this letter on our website.
In addition to a series of meetings, the Board is taking feedback from June 10th to August 5th. If you would like to provide feedback, you can do so via the Board’s website.
To Commissioner Mairin Loewen, Commissioner Jo Custead, and the Saskatoon Board of Police Commissioners,
We thank you for the invitation to participate in your Community Conversations session. As we’re currently in the midst of our strategic planning and capacity-building work to serve our community members directly, I’m afraid we must decline. I would ask that you please present these answers in our stead.
#1 – What is the biggest challenge facing your community/neighbourhood when it comes to public safety?
When it comes to public safety, the issues facing the trans, two-spirit, non-binary, and gender diverse communities are many. But the key to many of these issues is that our communities face living in a society that is fundamentally transphobic, and especially for our BIPOC community members, a society that is fundamentally racist.
We frankly do not have good overall statistics data when it comes specifically to the safety needs of trans communities. As just one specific example, when it comes to hate crime reporting, as pointed out by Egale Canada, there is “little to no data collection on this topic; which continues to look over gender minority communities like trans, non-binary, gender diverse, and gender non-conforming people. That of which, exacerbates the lack of information and underreporting within these communities.”
According to a report by Trans PULSE on the “Health and well-being among racialized trans and non-binary people in Canada”, in the five years prior to the study (2019), “72% of racialized respondents had experienced verbal harassment, and 49% had experienced sexual harassment. In the same time frame, 41% of racialized respondents had been physically intimidated or threatened, and 23% had experienced physical violence. 1 in 3 racialized respondents had been sexually assaulted” during the study’s timespan.
#2: What are the top policing values you would like to see created and/or strengthened in our community?
According to Saskatoon Police Service’s own website, the values they stand by are Honesty, Integrity, Compassion, Fairness, Commitment, Respect, and Professionalism. Our organization does not find fault with these ideals. However, we would ask that the Saskatoon Police Service do a thorough and public accounting of the ways they may have failed to meet these ideals and concrete actions that you will be taking to address them.
Again according to the same report by Trans PULSE, there is “a profound mistrust in police and the legal system among racialized trans and non-binary people…73% of racialized trans and non-binary respondents worried about being stopped or harassed by police or security because of who they are”. The report goes on to note that in emergency situations, 1 in 3 racialized survey respondents avoided calling the police and only 1 out of 5 expected to be fairly treated by police and the court system if they were ever physically assaulted.
This mistrust has been earned through failings of police services throughout North America and within Canada, such as the death of a Black trans woman after being taken into custody by Toronto Police on October 26th, 2020, as reported by CBC News. As further noted by the report, the woman was then misgendered by police in their statement following her death.
Our organization frankly does not have an answer to how this trust can be re-earned or even if it can be.
#3: How can your organization contribute to strengthening a culture of community safety in Saskatoon?
TransSask contributes to a culture of community safety by supporting and advocating for our trans, two-spirit, non-binary, and gender diverse communities. Part of our advocacy work requires us to be critical of the institutions of power—of which the Saskatoon Police Service is—that have caused direct harm to our communities.
In our dealings with the institutions of power, we face both micro-aggressions and direct violence for simply existing as who we are. The history of this violence is not short, nor is it purely a historical fact. It is the current reality for many in our communities.
While we acknowledge that individual members of the police may seek to make their communities safer in the course of their work, we are skeptical that community safety can be achieved through the means of modern police forces.
We hope these responses have been helpful as you develop your strategic plan. We do apologize if you find any of these responses lacking detail or concrete solutions. The truth is that detail and concrete solutions take a great deal of funding and resources that marginalized organizations frequently do not possess. For example, on the federal level, 2SLGBTQ organizations currently are slated to receive $15M for three years, while at the local level, the Saskatoon Police Service received a budget of $98.8M for 2020.
To properly contribute to these conversations and to perform the work required to enact meaningful change, we cannot do so while so under-resourced and requests to perform this work for free only stretches our resources further.
In recognition of this resource disparity, we would ask that the suggestions and contributions of the member organizations that did take the time to attend today’s meeting are taken to heart and properly prioritized as they deserve to be compensated for their efforts to achieve a safer Saskatoon.
TransSask Support Services