Saskatchewan: Racist policing, community mobilization

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On this week's episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Robyn Pitawanakwat and Andrew Loewen. They are members of Voices for Justice and Police Accountability, a group that formed this past January after a number of high-profile incidents involving police mistreatment of Indigenous people in Regina, Saskatchewan.

In the last year, the ubiquity and persistence of systemic racism and racist violence organized into people's lives across North America via policing, courts, and prisons has become more visible in the mainstream. Of course, to those communities that bear the brunt of it, it isn't news, just the latest moment in a centuries-long reality on this continent. And a sharp division in understandings of police and policing persist, with a strong correlation between whiteness and a refusal to acknowledge this brutal history and present-day reality. But it is precisely because of organizing among those directly affected that this refusal is now showing cracks.

It is the organizing in African American communities in major urban centres in the United States that has been most visible, but those are not the only contexts in which it is happening. There is a long history of grassroots efforts in Regina, Saksatchewan, particularly among Indigenous people who live there, to end police violence and impunity. The latest group to take up this work in Regina is called Voices for Justice and Police Accountability. It came together in January of this year, after a series of high-profile incidents. It is a broad-based group that is working hard on a number of fronts: holding public meetings and events, supporting in various ways individuals who have experienced police violence and misconduct, pursuing legal reforms that would strengthen oversight and accountability mechanisms, and working towards a long-term vision of building strong communities where police are less present and less relevant.

Robyn Pitawanakwat is a business-owner and Andrew Loewen is the editor of Briarpatch magazine, and both are centrally involved in the community organizing that has resulted in Voices for Justice and Police Accountability. They talk with me about policing in Regina, about the group, and about its multiple approaches to working for change.

To learn more about Voices for Justice and Police Accountability, click here.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show in general, visit its website here. You can learn about suggesting topics for future shows here.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Sudbury, Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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