Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - CITY + REGION - TIF­FANY PAULSEN

It’s been a long and dif­fi­cult week for the prov­ince of Saskatchewan.

When you weren’t talk­ing about the Ger­ald Stan­ley trial, you were con­stantly re­fresh­ing your Twit­ter and Face­book feeds try­ing to keep up. I’m em­bar­rassed to ad­mit that I was one of those jerks who turned my cell­phone on in the mid­dle of a chil­dren’s movie the­atre when I heard the ver­dict was go­ing to be an­nounced.

Both the pub­lic in­ter­est in the trial and the me­dia at­ten­tion were an­tic­i­pated. How­ever, the on­slaught of so­cial-me­dia com­men­tary was like a train wreck you couldn’t stop watch­ing. There was noth­ing nu­anced or re­fined about the dis­cus­sion. Ev­ery news out­let was full-on plead­ing with peo­ple to stop be­ing racist, mak­ing vi­o­lent threats and ut­ter­ing hate speech.

The beg­ging was war­ranted. The out­come of the Stan­ley trial be­came al­most ir­rel­e­vant to some; this was just an op­por­tu­nity to spew ha­tred to­ward In­dige­nous peo­ple.

The only laugh­able mo­ment was Feb. 8, when the RCMP “re­minded us” that we “could” be held ac­count­able for our on­line com­mu­ni­ca­tions. Thanks for the re­minder, RCMP. But here’s a thought: why not hold peo­ple ac­count­able and ac­tu­ally lay a charge?

We can­not con­tinue to live in this bub­ble where peo­ple feel en­ti­tled to write any ran­dom racist and/or vi­o­lent com­ment on­line with no con­se­quences. It’s ob­vi­ous we can’t hold each other ac­count­able be­cause on­line vit­riol con­tin­ues un­abated. So in­stead of the RCMP com­mu­ni­cat­ing their most heart­felt con­cern about the is­sue, how about ar­rest­ing and charg­ing some­one?

Sec­tion 319(1) of the Crim­i­nal Code states that every­one who, by com­mu­ni­cat­ing state­ments in any pub­lic place, in­cites ha­tred against any iden­ti­fi­able group where such in­cite­ment is likely to lead to a breach of the peace commits a crim­i­nal of­fence. Frankly, I’m hav­ing a hard time re­mem­ber­ing whether I’ve read any­thing on­line re­cently that didn’t fit this def­i­ni­tion.

So­cial-me­dia re­ac­tion was out of con­trol after Colten Boushie died in Au­gust 2016. The sit­u­a­tion was so bad, then-premier Wall re­buked the en­tire prov­ince. How­ever, last spring, the only re­ac­tion from the RCMP was that they had “looked into” the sit­u­a­tion. No charges were ever laid. So when the RCMP piped back up a few days ago with their gen­tle “re­minder,” it was hard to do any­thing but roll your eyes.

It’s not lost on many that one of the crit­i­cal prob­lems in ru­ral Saskatchewan is that an emer­gency call to the RCMP is not the same as one to a city po­lice ser­vice. If you live in Saska­toon, you can ex­pect a 911 call to bring the po­lice quickly. Peo­ple liv­ing in ru­ral Saskatchewan don’t re­ceive that same level of ser­vice, even in emer­gency sit­u­a­tions.

There needs to be a re-ex­am­i­na­tion of how the RCMP de­liv­ers ser­vices to ru­ral parts of Canada. More­over, it should be the RCMP lead­ing the is­sue by bring­ing the coun­try’s at­ten­tion to the gap in ser­vice. This should not be left to the vic­tims of crime. If the prob­lem is lack of re­sources, they might want to con­sider hir­ing for­mer Saska­toon po­lice chief Clive Weighill, who seemed to be able to suck mil­lions of dol­lars from Saska­toon city coun­cil (present com­pany in­cluded) no mat­ter how stretched the bud­get was.

Feel­ings of help­less­ness with the jus­tice sys­tem among In­dige­nous peo­ple did not start and will not end with the Stan­ley case. Those feel­ings ex­isted long be­fore any­one even knew the names Stan­ley or Boushie.

One step to in­crease In­dige­nous peo­ple’s con­fi­dence in the jus­tice sys­tem would be for the RCMP to start ac­tu­ally hold­ing peo­ple crim­i­nally re­spon­si­ble for their on­line com­ments in­stead of send­ing out gen­tle “re­minders.” It’s a con­crete step that is long over­due.


Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.