More than two months after publishing an open letter calling for the implementation of body cameras for Saskatoon police officers, two Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations youth representatives have met with Saskatoon Police Service executive staff to discuss the letter’s intent.
On Sept. 12, Darian Lonechild, a fourth-year Indigenous studies student, and her FSIN youth representative counterpart Rollin Baldhead, a fourth-year Indian Teacher Education Program student, met with Saskatoon Police Chief Troy Cooper and his executive team to talk about how the relationships between Saskatoon police and Indigenous youth in the city can be improved.
This meeting follows Lonechild’s open letter sent on July. 4, wherein she called on Mayor Charlie Clark and Police Chief Cooper to enforce police-worn body cameras after the ambiguous circumstances surrounding Jordan Lafond’s death in 2016.
After asking for recommendations on social media, Lonechild brought five calls to action to the meeting:
1. The full implementation of body cameras on Saskatoon police officers
2. The creation of an Indigenous youth partnership board that targets the decriminalization of Indigenous youth
3. Increased cultural awareness workshops to train officers
4. Mentorship possibilities with Saskatoon police and Indigenous youth
5. Steps to developing a more positive relationship with the Indigenous community, on the terms of the community
Lonechild believes that the recommendations were heeded, though she reports that Chief Cooper’s retinue wasn’t able to offer much in the way of a response.
“I was hoping for was more input from the executive staff. It felt like there was a little bit of ‘heard it all before’ energy, but it was an introductory meeting, and it was their first meeting with FSIN youth councillors,” Lonechild said. “[Chief Cooper] was very interested and listened very well and gave very good feedback. Overall, it was a productive meeting. They are interested in [working] with us further.”
Lonechild anticipates future meetings between the two groups, though there are no hard dates set.
“This meeting was the first of many — [a chance] for them to get to know the FSIN youth,” Lonechild said. “We want to continue our relationship and hammer through these calls to action… They are willing to continue meeting and working with us and developing even more ideas [that] we can work on in the community.”
For Lonechild, a precedent has been set by talking to the Saskatoon Police Service as youth representatives.
“[The Saskatoon police] have a relationship with the FSIN, but they’ve never had a relationship with FSIN youth, so I thought it was important to bridge that gap,” Lonechild said. “There are a lot of young, bright people in the city that have a lot to share — with what work they would like to see in their communities. I hope that this relationship will continue after [Baldhead] and I are done our terms in two years.”
Ultimately, Lonechild is pleased with how the meeting proceeded.
“I’m happy that it happened — no meeting like it has happened before,” Lonechild said. “Chief Cooper has a good understanding of what issues are going on on the ground with Indigenous peoples and their relationship with police. He understands the history of colonialism and how it has deeply impacted our communities.”
Moving forward, Lonechild hopes to include more input from Indigenous youth in future meetings with the Saskatoon Police Service.
“We know that the body cameras are going to take a while, though they are committed to take them on,” Lonechild said. “I’ve been getting some young people organized to come share their perspectives [and] start working with the Saskatoon police. Working on the details for this on both sides is the priority right now.”
Tanner Bayne / News Editor
Photo: Riley Deacon / Photo Editor