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Canada: Police Fail Indigenous Women in Saskatchewan
(Saskatoon) – Indigenous women’s accounts of police abuse in Saskatchewan raise serious concerns about their safety in the province, Human Rights Watch said today in a submission to the Government of Canada. The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, which launched in September 2016, should closely examine how policing failures and distrust of law enforcement endanger Indigenous women.
The submission is based on six weeks of fact-finding in Saskatchewan between January and July 2016. Human Rights Watch interviewed 64 Indigenous women as well as service providers in Prince Albert, Regina, Saskatoon, and several smaller communities in northern and central Saskatchewan. Human Rights Watch documented Indigenous women’s accounts of police neglect when they reported domestic violence, as well as inappropriate and invasive body and strip searches, sexual harassment, and physical assault. Indigenous women reported a deep mistrust of law enforcement and fear that they would face retaliation if they filed a complaint against a police officer.
“The crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada means that police services across the country should be acutely aware of and sensitive to the well-being, vulnerability, and needs of Indigenous women,” said Farida Deif, Canada director at Human Rights Watch. “Instead, in some cases, it is the police themselves who are making Indigenous women feel unsafe.”
Indigenous women throughout Saskatchewan told Human Rights Watch that they would not report a crime against them or a crime involving an Indigenous woman that they had witnessed out of fear that the police might retaliate by harassing them or by treating an Indigenous suspect with physical violence.