What if instead of returning to “normal” and waiting for the next crisis, we dug in as a province and drew on our spirit of caring for one another to reimagine a future that improved the health, happiness, and quality of life for all people in Saskatchewan? Let’s get moving!
Whereas poverty is not a natural phenomenon, but a consequence of political and structural forces over which governments have considerable influence;
Whereas poverty is an impediment to realizing the full economic, social, and personal health of Saskatchewan’s peoples;
Whereas living in poverty is particularly harmful to the health and development of children, and entails consequences which last well into adulthood;
Whereas experiences of poverty are disproportionately borne by Indigenous persons, and are a direct impediment to achieving reconciliation;
Whereas individuals experiencing poverty are best positioned to know what is needed for them to escape poverty;
Whereas the condition of poverty is contrary to the principles contained in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms;
Whereas Saskatchewan is obliged to demonstrate compliance with its international obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights;
Whereas Article 11 of this Covenant recognizes the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for themselves and their families, including adequate food, clothing and housing and to the continuous improvement of living conditions;
Whereas Article 7 of the Covenant recognizes the right of everyone to the enjoyment of just and favourable conditions of work, which ensure all workers earn fair wages and a decent living for themselves and their families;
Whereas proposals such as adequate income security benefits, a living wage, quality and affordable housing and childcare are not just social policy concerns, but basic human rights;
Whereas the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has been very critical of Canada and the provinces for not ensuring these rights in such a wealthy nation;
Whereas eliminating poverty would confer considerable health, economic and social benefits on Saskatchewan;
THE LEGISLATURE OF SASKATCHEWAN ENACTS AS FOLLOWS:
Object, Definition & Objective
1. The object of this Act is to commit the Province of Saskatchewan to eliminating poverty across the province. To this end, the Act establishes a standard, measurable definition of poverty against which efforts will be evaluated. The Act also sets a timetable for reporting progress, identifies initial actions to be taken in the next two years, and creates a mandate for a permanent advisory committee on poverty elimination.
2. This Act also commits the Province of Saskatchewan to ensure that articles of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights are acted upon and monitored.
3. For the purposes of this Act, “poverty” is defined as the condition of a human being who is deprived of the resources, means, choices and power necessary to acquire and maintain economic self-sufficiency.
4. For the purposes of this Act, the Market Basket Measure (MBM) is the indicator of poverty in Saskatchewan.
5. For the purposes of this Act, Saskatchewan’s objective shall be to reduce the number of people in poverty by 50% by the end of 2024, using the 2016 MBM as a baseline.
6. For the purposes of the Act, Saskatchewan’s objective is to show continuous reductions in the depths of poverty until its poverty reduction goals are met.
7. For the purposes of this Act, the Minister of Health is the lead ministry responsible for reporting on actions taken towards meeting the goals of this Act. Annually, the Minister shall set goals for reducing poverty and shall provide a report on the progress achieved. These reports shall be publicly available.
8. Where measures in this Act or in the provincial strategy to eliminate poverty require coordination among Ministries or actions by various Ministries, these shall be brought to Cabinet by the Minister of Health. These shall be discussed and coordinated by Cabinet or a sub-committee of Cabinet. Where such measures require budgetary allocations, the Minister of Finance shall direct Ministries to give high priority to including them in the provincial budget.
1. For the purposes of this Act, a provincial strategy to eliminate poverty will be established.
2. For the purposes of this Act, specific responsibilities of each Ministry will be identified in the strategy.
3. The provincial strategy is intended to guide Saskatchewan towards its goal of reducing poverty by 50% by the end of 2024.
4. The provincial strategy will consist of actions to be taken by the provincial government, in consultation and cooperation with regional and local partners, with special effort made to consult people with lived experiences of poverty in the design of actions.
5. To achieve the goals set out in this Act, the provincial strategy will be developed according to the following principles:
- that prevention of poverty is preferable to the treatment of poverty;
- that prevention of poverty is contingent upon both a strong social safety and access to safe, stable employment that provides a living wage;
- that preventing poverty requires active participation from all elements of society, but especially those with lived experience of poverty.
6. The provincial strategy shall be introduced in the Legislature no later than six months following the adoption of this Act.
1. The actions contained in this section will be undertaken over the two years immediately following the Act’s implementation, and are in addition to other actions which will be defined in the strategy.The provincial government will implement an income security plan which ensures present benefits meet basic needs. As one element of this income security plan, the provincial government will design, implement, and evaluate a basic income pilot program:
- This pilot program will provide an income sufficient for a basic standard of living, irrespective of work status;
- Receiving an income under this pilot program will not be contingent upon participation in any treatment, employment, or educational program;
- Participants in this pilot program will be free to spend the income received according to their own priorities;
- Participants in this pilot program will contribute to an evaluation of the program intended to determine its effectiveness at lifting individuals out of poverty;
- Results of this evaluation will be presented in the Legislature no later than four months following the conclusion of the pilot program.
3. The provincial government will establish a permanent Advisory Committee on Poverty Elimination responsible for advising Cabinet on updates to the province’s poverty elimination strategy and the actions identified therein.
- Membership of this committee will include persons with lived experiences of poverty, representatives from Indigenous governments, anti-poverty organizations, academics, and business associations.
- Persons with lived experiences of poverty will receive the support they require to participate as full members of this committee.
- Reports from this committee to Cabinet shall be publicly available.
4. The provincial government will, in collaboration with stakeholders, develop, implement and evaluate a Saskatchewan Housing Strategy which includes expansion of social housing, rent controls, rental unit quality inspections and housing first programs.
5. The provincial government will design, implement, and evaluate a provincial child care program for the entire province:
- This program will aim to provide sufficient child care spaces in communities across Saskatchewan.
- This program will be designed in collaboration with community stakeholders who are already engaged in providing child care services, the parents who rely on child care services, and will be driven by their knowledge of community needs.
6. The provincial government will implement a $15 per hour minimum wage, with an incremental plan to move to an actual living wage.
The Saskatchewan government promised “transformational change”… Instead we got a mean-spirited austerity budget that requires sacrifices from the many and delivers benefits to the few. It doesn’t have to be this way. For a government that prides itself on making “tough choices” this doesn’t seem that tough.
If we are serious about decolonization in Saskatchewan, then the role of police in targeting, harassing, assaulting, incarcerating, and disrespecting Indigenous people – as well as the low-income, disabled, and marginalized – must be addressed. Too many people experience the police as a violent, racist force in our cities, yet this province lags behind when it comes to building a movement to address the impunity and inflated budgets that city police services continue to enjoy.
Carding and Street Checks
The police practice of targeting racialized people for “random” ID checks and harassment has been the subject of mass opposition and front-page reporting in eastern metropolises like New York City and Toronto, where Black Lives Matter and activists like Desmond Cole have doggedly pressed the issue and won legislative reforms. Until recently, police practices of carding and street checks have received comparatively less attention in Saskatchewan and the prairie provinces. However, a national investigation published in the Globe and Mail August 17 2015 revealed that on a per capita basis, police card five times as many people in Saskatoon as they do in Toronto (Regina Police Service, meanwhile, refused to offer any of their data for the Globe investigation). The overwhelming majority of people subjected to this unconstitutional and arbitrary authority in prairie cities are Indigenous.
We call for the abolition to the practice and policy of carding and street checks by police in Saskatchewan.
The “Unwanted Guest” Initiative
The “Unwanted Guest” initiative is a collaborative project of the Regina Downtown Business Improvement District and the Regina Police Service that was introduced in May 2015. Based on legislation in the 2009 provincial Trespass to Property act, the policy allows business owners and police to target panhandlers, the homeless and low-income, and people with mental health or addiction issues, who are identified and placed in a police database. Once in the database there is no mechanism for appeal and individuals are subject to heavy ticketing for failing to adhere to their banishment.
The “Unwanted Guest” initiative has been used by police in place of the “Tag Day” anti-panhandling bylaw that was repealed in 2009. Business owners and the police are able to impose and enforce the ban with impunity. Those targeted have no formal recourse other than to file a complaint with the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission. Meanwhile, existing laws already prohibit shoplifting and violent behaviour.
The “Unwanted Guest” initiative reveals how the propertied business class uses the police as an institution of social cleansing and social control in violation of the Charter rights of vulnerable and oppressed peoples, many of whom are simply seeking a warm place to be or enough money to live.
We call for the “Unwanted Guest” initiative and any similar policies in other cities to be repealed and for the database of targeted individuals to be deleted from police records.
Oversight and Accountability
The fact there is no credible form of civilian oversight for police services in Saskatchewan is an affront to basic notions of democracy. Police are the only people permitted to move through our communities with open guns and other weapons and with the power to arrest, detain, and shoot people. Yet, they are subject to less scrutiny and oversight than schoolteachers or bus drivers.
Take the case of Constable Robert Power in Regina. Constable Power lied at least three times in official police records about his assault of Eddie Stonechild while on duty in 2012. It was only after a judge ordered the release of security camera footage in 2015 that we could see Constable Power kicking Eddie Stonechild – a frail, unarmed, and homeless Indigenous man – in the torso. The kick knocked Stonechild backwards and he smashed the back of his head on a concrete barrier. Constable Power’s lies were revealed and he was convicted of assault. However, the provincial oversight body for police in Saskatchewan, The Saskatchewan Police Commission, ruled that Constable Power should be reinstated and so he continues to serve as a police officer in Regina despite his lies and his conviction for assaulting a homeless Indigenous man while on duty. In August 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed Power’s appeal of his assault conviction.
When community members raised this issue in a presentation before Regina City Council vote on the police budget in December 2015, Mayor Michael Fougere, who chairs the Board of Police Commissioners, repeatedly interrupted them and told them they were not permitted to even mention the name “Eddie Stonechild” before council. This public display of censorship in which the chair of the Board of Police Commissioners sought to silence and intimidate those calling for police accountability demonstrates how little credibility present oversight mechanisms have.
Or take the case of Regina resident Simon Moccasin, who was racially profiled, physically assaulted, and unlawfully detained by Regina police on December 10, 2014. Directly afterward, Mr. Moccasin was discouraged by RPS personnel from filing a formal complaint. After a year of relentless grassroots organizing on the issue that included demonstrations, a town hall event, and interventions by activists at meetings of the Board of Police Commissioners, the Public Complaints Commission finally issued a report in response to Moccasin’s formal complaint.
Commissioner Brent Cotter’s January 5, 2015 report validated and confirmed every detail of Moccasin’s account of events, including his unlawful assault and detention, but, crucially, it refused to comment on the primary issue of racial profiling. In addition to finding that Moccasin was assaulted and detained without justification, the PCC report found that:
- the two officers involved omitted their violent use of force in their official incident report;
- the Watch Commander with whom Moccasin attempted to file a complaint “did not take appropriate action”;
- the officers involved were “not sufficiently familiar with the limitations of police authority… and it is suspected this knowledge deficiency is widespread.”
Despite the findings of the report, neither the two officers, the Watch Commander, nor any of their superiors received any discipline. When Moccasin tried to arrange a direct meeting with the mayor and chair of the police board, Michael Fougere, to discuss the findings of the PCC report, Fougere declined.
Most people who file complaints with the Public Complaints Commission never receive any response but a form letter informing them that there will be no further investigation into their complaint. For every complaint that is dismissed without investigation, there are many more police victims – the vast majority – who never file a complaint.
The current system of Boards of Police Commissioners mandated in the provincial Police Act merely provides an additional public relations service for municipal police, offering nothing in the way of accountability or credible oversight. Boards of Police Commissioners function as boosters and sycophants for police chiefs and make a mockery of civilian oversight.
And how can you have oversight and accountability without transparency? University of Regina journalism professor Patricia Elliott has written that the Regina Police Service may be the least transparent and most opaque police organization in Canada. Writing in January 2016, Elliott revealed that that the RPS came dead last among police services in Newspaper Canada’s Annual Freedom of Information Audit for 2015.
A third recent case in Regina further highlights systemic shortcomings in police responsiveness and transparency. Regina resident Nadine Machiskinic, an Indigenous woman and mother of four, died from injuries sustained from a 10-story fall down the laundry chute of the Delta Hotel in the middle of the night on January 10, 2015. The police – called 60 hours after Machiskinic was found by staff – told the family there was no surveillance footage from the hotel, Yet, more than a year later footage was released. Toxicology reports were delayed and investigators were shuffled. The family has struggled to access updates on the investigation from police. Reports that Machiskinic had pulled the fire alarm and banged on hotel doors seeking help appear to have been dismissed. In fact, police told the family they had ruled out foul play almost a year before a coroner’s report was even released. A Coroner’s Inquest has now been set for March 2017 and the family is raising money on its own in order to pay for legal representation during the inquest as they seek justice in the face of systemic barriers.
Machiskinic’s case highlights a further issue that is well known about police culture: the prevalence of misogyny and sexism. Women in Saskatchewan, and Indigenous women in particular, often fear and distrust the police because of their own experiences with police or because of the experiences of women they know. As autonomous grassroots groups, we have been approached by numerous women expressing concern and dissatisfaction about their encounters with police and with how police investigations are handled.
We call for the provincial Police Act to be amended such that the current regime of Boards of Police Commissioners be replaced with credible, independent, arms-length Civilian Oversight Committees charged with the mandate and the resources to critically monitor police practices and conduct.
Such Civilian Oversight Committees would monitor the police and consider public complaints from the standpoint of protecting the public safety of all residents, especially those most vulnerable to police abuse. We know that today, as throughout Saskatchewan’s history, the police are more likely to be a source of fear and distrust among vulnerable communities than a source of safety and support. And we know that this is not by accident.
Funding and Budgets
Despite persistently high levels of social inequality, poverty, and homelessness in our cities, gigantic annual police budgets continue to crowd out resources for public housing, mental health and wellness services, income supports, and other community priorities like public transit.
It has become standard practice for city councils to approve large budget increases for city police year after year, without any discussion of whether more policing is the best use of public dollars. In 2015, four of the top 10 City of Regina earners were on the police payroll, with then Chief of Police Troy Hagen in the top spot earning more than $256,000 a year. This was the same chief who in December 2015, just days after RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson acknowledged the presence of racists in the RCMP, denied that there any police with racist views in Regina.
As a profession and an institution, the police are not trained or equipped to address the most pressing social needs within our communities, yet they continue to consume the lion’s share of city budgets. Furthermore, in the midst of major public sector budget cuts and scores of frontline layoffs in health care and education, in November 2016 the province allocated nearly $10 million to hire 81 more police officers in Regina and Saskatoon.
A large proportion of the incidents police are called to address have their root causes in inadequate mental health supports, systemic poverty, and addiction. Constantly ramping up the number of uniformed officers on the streets does nothing to address these root issues. The social issues that are prevalent in “high crime” neighbourhood’s like Regina’s North Central are simply not addressed by placing more cruisers with new carbines on every block. It is neither fiscally prudent nor sound policy to continue pumping money into police salaries, overtime, and equipment when, by nature of the case, it does nothing to address issues at their source. It is a mark of authoritarianism to rely on the police to respond to systemic poverty and social hardship when there are more sensible, more effective, and more just ways to empower communities.
We would like to see municipalities and the province begin to direct public funds away from police services and toward the services and programs that address root causes and best meet the needs of people in our communities.
A Future without Police
In our vision for Saskatchewan, the boot print of the police is always shrinking rather than ever expanding. When we orient collective resources to meet genuine social needs, communities are empowered. Safety arises from the good relations that are fostered when people are able to live in dignity, with adequate housing, food, and cultural resources.
Historically, the police emerged in the nineteenth century in North America as a means to suppress working-class people and, with the formation of the North-West Mounted Police in the Prairies, to assert colonial dominion over Indigenous nations and their lands. We should not view the police as an apple cart, in which some of the apples are rotten. We should understand that from the perspective of those at the bottom of social hierarchies, the police have always been a rotten institution that plays a structural role in maintaining an unjust society dominated by colonial and capitalist relations of power.
In our vision for Saskatchewan, the institution of the police will become a relic of a colonial past. Before the police can be abolished however, we must ramp up efforts to bring civilian oversight to the police, to defund and demilitarize the police, and to redirect resources to meet genuine social needs in our communities.
OVERCROWDING IN SASKATCHEWAN PRISONS
Over the last decade, overcrowding has become a major issue in the Saskatchewan prison system.
- The Saskatchewan prison population has grown by 51% since 2006.
- The current prisoner population is 1,792.
- Thus cells that were built for one prisoner are being double-bunked; and recreational, educational, and religious spaces have been converted into sleeping areas.
- 39% of Saskatchewan prisoners are on remand; that is they are in prison for offences they have not yet been convicted of.
- Many of those on remand are there because of administration of justice offences, sometimes called “breach offences”: violations of often petty, complicated, hard-to-keep court-imposed rules regarding minor problems such as the breaching of probation or bail conditions.
- In 2015, Saskatchewan police laid administration of justice charges at four times the national average.
- Remand contravenes the principle of innocent before being proven guilty.
- Studies show that there is a link between crowding inside prisons and violence.
- According to the provincial auditor, Judy Ferguson, “Saskatchewan’s short-term measures to provide additional housing for inmates, such as its use of double-bunking and converting rehabilitation program and visitor space into living space, is not sustainable. These measures shrink space available for rehabilitation programming. Rehabilitation is key to reducing repeat offences and reintegrating inmates into society.”
- According to Howard Sapers, the Correctional Investigator of Canada, crowding inside prisons “can lead to less than optimal living and working conditions, and can restrict access to vocational training and psychologists.” In Sapers’ view, “All of that just adds stress to an already stressful environment—that’s counterproductive in terms of the rehabilitative goals of the corrective system.”
OVERREPRESENTATION OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLE IN THE SASKATCHEWAN PRISON SYSTEM
Indigenous people are vastly overrepresented in provincial prisons in Saskatchewan. While Indigenous people make up 17% of the population of Saskatchewan, they constitute:
- 80% of the youth in Saskatchewan prisons.
- 80 – 90% of the men in Saskatchewan prisons.
- Up to 90% of the women in Saskatchewan prisons.
Saskatchewan has the highest incarceration rate for Indigenous people among the provinces.
- Are also overrepresented in remand and segregation.
- Have lower parole rates.
- Are more likely to return to prison on revocation of parole, often for administrative reasons, not criminal violations.
The overrepresentation of Indigenous people in Saskatchewan prisons is directly linked to systemic racism against Indigenous peoples, which is itself rooted in settler colonialism. Almost everywhere in Canadian society whiteness is an advantage and Indigenous identity a disadvantage.
The Saskatchewan justice system is no exception. A 2014 study by Jim Scott, a Saskatoon defence lawyer, found that “Aboriginals in Saskatchewan have been sentenced to well over twice the amount of jail time as non-Aboriginals.”
Scott also found that Saskatchewan judges are not applying the Gladue Principle, a 1999 Supreme Court ruling that requires Canadian judges to take into account, when sentencing, the historic and on-going injustices against Indigenous people, including the residential school system, the Sixties Scoop, and an underfunded child welfare system.
Prisons are big business, especially during a prison boom. Some corporations are making a killing as the Saskatchewan prison system is increasingly privatized. Profit (not service) is their only value.
PRIVATIZATION OF PRISON FOOD SERVICES
As part of its prison privatization scheme, in 2015 the Wall government privatized prison food services, contracting out meal preparation to Compass Group, a for-profit, multi-national corporation. Now meals for Saskatchewan’s prison population are prepared in Alberta and trucked in frozen. Since food privatization took effect, prisoners at Regina’s Correctional Centre have gone on a number of hunger strikes, citing concerns about food quality and quantity.
Nutritious food is an essential part of prisoner rehabilitation and brings lasting benefits to prisoners and society.
Colonial Settler Society Policies
The privatization of prison food services must be seen in its particular cultural and historical context:
- The demographics of Saskatchewan’s prison population is 80% – 90% Indigenous.
- Its relationship to other colonial settler society polices using food to weaken and control Indigenous peoples: ►John A. Macdonald’s starvation policy, implemented in 1878, to force Indigenous peoples into submission ►inadequate diets at residential schools that undermined the health of generations of Indigenous children.
- The call of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.
Premier Brad Wall’s Colonial Mindset
Brad Wall’s response to the prisoners’ concerns? “If you really don’t like the prison food, there’s one way to avoid it, and that’s don’t go to prison.” Wall would be well-advised to read the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
Adequate food of reasonable quality is a Charter right, under section 12, banning cruel and unusual punishment.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides:
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of him[her]self and of his[her] family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of … lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his [her]control.
PRIVATIZATION OF PRISON PHONE SERVICES
In 2014, a contract was signed with Telmate, which turned prisoner-family phone contact into a for-profit enterprise. A long distance call now costs $1 for the initial connection and 30 cents a minute. Many prisoners cannot afford to keep in contact with family and friends. No prisoners should be cut off from family and community. It makes reintegration into society on release much more difficult and re-offense much more likely. However, the Saskatchewan government’s privatization of prison phone services must also be seen in its particular cultural and historical context:
- The demographics of Saskatchewan’s prison population: 80% – 90% Indigenous.
- The relationship between the privatization of phone services and other white colonial settler society policies aimed at disrupting Indigenous families and communities: ►the residential school system ►the 60s scoop ►the underfunding of First Nations child and family services.
- The call of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.
PRISONS ARE NOT THE ANSWER!
- Keeping someone locked up is hugely expensive.
- It costs $166 per day to keep a person in a provincial prison in Saskatchewan. That’s $60,590 per year, more than the total tuition and room and board for a university student.
- Currently there are 1,792 prisoners in Saskatchewan prisons, bringing the total annual bill to $108,577,280—money that comes out of the pockets of Saskatchewan citizens.
- Funding incarceration means that resources are cut from education, health care, social services, and job creation programs. If even half of the current amount spent annually on imprisoning people in Saskatchewan were to be invested in these areas, everyone in Saskatchewan would benefit enormously.
- Uphold the principle of innocent until proven guilty and find alternatives to remand incarceration for administration of justice offences. Also eliminate from the judicial system all petty, complicated, hard-to-keep bail and probation conditions.
- The vast majority of crimes committed in Saskatchewan are non-violent. High incarceration rates are bad for the economy. Incarceration doesn’t do most prisoners any good either. Indeed, it often does them terrible damage. There should be alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offences.
- Prisons destroy families. Parents are separated from their children. Even mothers and their infants are parted. In Saskatchewan, where the majority of prisoners are Indigenous, imprisonment is, in its impact on families, a continuation of the residential school system.
- Very little is done in Saskatchewan prisons to ensure prisoners can return to society. There is not much in the way of rehabilitation services. Education programs and skill training are at a minimum. Thus recidivism rates are very high.
- The number of prisoners with mental health problems continues to increase, yet the level of mental health services has remained the same or diminished.
- Some prisoners have substance use or addiction problems. There are very few drug rehabilitation programs in Saskatchewan prisons.
- There is little treatment for prisoners suffering from FASD.
- Incarceration does not address or solve the problems resulting from colonization, residential schools, and systemic racism.
Indigenous people are shockingly overrepresented in the Saskatchewan prison system. What steps has the Saskatchewan government taken to ensure the Gladue Principle is being applied in Saskatchewan courts? Annual reports on progress should be mandatory. It has been over a year since the release of the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission—a report that contains a number of calls to action directed at provincial justice systems:
- Recommendation # 30: “To commit to eliminating the overrepresentation of Aboriginal people in custody over the next decade, and to issue detailed annual reports that monitor and valuate progress in doing so.”
- Recommendation # 31: “To provide sufficient and stable funding to implement and evaluate community sanctions that will provide realistic alternatives to imprisonment for Aboriginal offenders and respond to the underlying causes of offending.”
- Recommendation # 34: “To undertake reforms to the criminal justice system to better address the needs of offenders with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).”
- Recommendation # 38: “To commit to eliminating the overrepresentation of Aboriginal youth in custody over the next decade.”
- Recommendation # 42: “To commit to the recognition and implementation of Aboriginal justice systems in a manner consistent with the Treaty and Aboriginal rights of Aboriginal peoples, the Constitution Act, 1982, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, endorsed by Canada in November 2012.”
Jason Demers’ “Warehousing Prisoners in Saskatchewan: A Public Health Approach” (CCPA 2014) and Nancy Macdonald’s “Justice is not blind” (Maclean’s February 29, 2016) were particularly helpful resources in creating this submission:
Other sources include:
James T. D. Scott, “Reforming Saskatchewan’s Biased Sentencing Regime,” (2014): http://www.spmlaw.ca/scdla/JimScott_sentencing_bias_2014.pdf
“Overcrowding hampering Canada’s prisons,” CBC, November 20, 2015.
“Overcrowding plagues jails,” Leader-Post, December 9 2016.
“Failings of failure to comply,” Leader-Post, December 24, 2016.
“Saskatchewan government’s effort to reduce remand numbers welcome,” Leader-Post, January 13, 2017.
SEIU West president Barb Cape discusses the effect health region amalgamation will have on patient care and service quality in Saskatchewan.
Saskatchewan covers 651,036 km comprising 6.5% of Canada. Saskatchewan was settled by indigenous peoples as soon as the glaciers retreated roughly 11,000 years ago. Saskatchewan includes four ecozones: prairie, the boreal transition, boreal forest and taiga. Our province is home to at least seven First Nations and six Treaties are meant to guide our relationships on the shared lands, signed 1871 – 1906. Initial European contact began with the fur trade (1690 – 1820) and this contact increased dramatically when Saskatchewan became a province in 1905.
Saskatchewan’s diverse landscapes, its indigenous cultures, and the historical developments since settlement by a largely agrarian European population provide spectacular experiences for today’s visitors from both inside and outside our province. Data showed that 52% of tourism expenditures in Saskatchewan came from Saskatchewan residents.
My thoughts on fostering a sustainable and high-quality visitor experience in Saskatchewan and a promising future for all people in the province are as follows.
The tourism multiplier effect
Saskatchewan has many spectacular attractions for visitors that enable recreation, learning and personal growth. Attractions include the sand hills of Lake Athabasca, fishing in northern lakes, Prince Albert Park, Wanuskewin Heritage Park, the Western Development and Royal Saskatchewan museums, the T.rex Discovery Centre at East End, Grasslands Park and the Cypress Hills to name a few. These attractions have well deserved support from people and various levels of government. The ‘big attractions’ create a multiplier effect beyond user fees, by supporting a host of tourism-related activities in the local and provincial transportation and services sectors. The small attractions created by enterprising people in the ‘shadows’ of the bigger attractions, are not always the credit they are due. What kinds of support do these initiatives need?
One of many examples of a smaller attraction in the shadow of a bigger one, is the Bluff Creek Ranch offering day and multi-day horse-back rides for visitors. The ranch borders the East Block of Grasslands National Park, in the Wood Mountain Hills south of North America’s North/South continental divide. Bluff Creek Ranch collaborates with the Park and both benefit from each other’s attractions. Louise Popescul writes:
“Because of what the land has provided for us, there have been spin-offs in other areas of the community as well. Visitors have been able to enjoy the Wood Mountain area that is so rich in beauty and history. They have been able to experience the Old Post Historic Site, Wood Mountain Regional Park, Wood Mountain Rodeo Ranch Museum and the Bar F Bed & Breakfast. All of these sites are functioning today because of what this landscape has had to offer not only us but many generations that have come before us, albeit in very different ways.”
The Bluff Creek Ranch’s experience provides several subtle but important insights for advancing sustainable tourism in Saskatchewan. Some of these are:
- Advertising costs can be crippling for small tourism operations. Here, Grasslands Park attracts many visitors and Bluff Creek Ranch expands the local options that are available to those visitors. The Bluff Creek Ranch advertises primarily locally, to reach visitors that are already there to see the Park. On the other hand, Bluff Creek Ranch provides access to remote areas of the park via horseback, not otherwise available to most visitors. Both support one another.
- Bluff Creek Ranch has guided visitors ranging from U of S university classes to visitors from Japan. These visitors found the landscape impressive and moving. The landscapes in Saskatchewan are impressive, and too often taken for granted. The landscape alone is valuable and provides value. This should be considered in planning and resource use, as in protecting the ‘view-shed,’ for example.
- Louise Popescul mentions the value of historic sites and local museums. These local treasures should not be ignored. Often relatively minor investments by local people, and local, regional and provincial governments can multiply the benefit of such investment.
- All levels of government and regulatory agencies should consider that small operations can nonetheless provide great value. Small operations should not only be respected but fostered and given considerations that can facilitate their success. For instance, an excessive permit cost was evident in a small tourism operation where the owner transported visitors in a small bus no more than 30 km from the base. The permits required by the province for this small operation were the same as if the owner were operating a bus company operating across Canada (Personal Observation). This and similar administrative insensitivity can be crippling to small operations.
- The above suggestion is not to say that there should be no regulation, but that regulation should be smart, reflect broad rather than narrow interests and be helpful rather than exercise undue command and control. For an example of inadequate regulation, an expansion in the outfitting and hunt farm industry was lead largely by the agriculture department in the provincial government. There was inadequate attention by Cabinet to environmental protection. There was an enormous expansion in guiding and bait pile hunting, and rearing of game on hunt farms. The tourism operators were inadequately trained for the challenges they faced. It lead to a necessary adjustment in the guiding industry and many bankruptcies among hunt and velvet/farms. The damage was North-America wide and introduced a serious disease into North American deer and elk. Efforts to reverse the spread failed. Data suggest that the disease (Chronic Wasting Disease) was not present in the wild before. It is now widespread and a great risk to wildlife and some risk to people.
- The value hunting by individuals, by residents and those visiting hunters not needing a guide, remains significant, for the value of wild food harvested and the recreation derived in doing so. “According to a recently released report commissioned by Saskatchewan Environment, hunters from the United States and other Canadian provinces spend nearly $15 million in the province each year. That money, combined with another $55 million that is spent by Saskatchewan hunters, creates the equivalent of 270 full-time jobs each year.”
Mismanagement and loss of a multiplier effect: The PFRA Community Pastures.
- Canada’s Community Pasture Program was a world class initiative that provided an impressive range of benefits from land restored and diversification on family farms. It also satisfied some of Canada’s obligations within the United Nations. The “…total annual value of private and public benefits derived from PFRA pastures is far greater than the total annual operating costs of the Community Pasture Program.” When this pasture program was unwisely abandoned its replacement by Saskatchewan continued to provide some, albeit reduced, benefits to ranchers. Many additional benefits such as recreation and heritage values remain lost.
Both the velvet/hunt farm and the PFRA pasture dilemma are attributable to one government department making decisions that reached far beyond the departments’ administrative strengths. Overall, the important values that arise from tourism, both from experiences that Saskatchewan people seek on their own and the business-type of tourism, are deeply connected in our land, in nature, our society and our institutions. Perceptive and cooperative governance is best able to protect those values for Saskatchewan’s peoples today and tomorrow. Complex decisions should be made with corresponding input from across sectors and from a broad segment of society.
Managing energy production, distribution and use in Saskatchewan
SaskPower has been given the unenviable task of providing energy to the people of Saskatchewan at affordable rates, wherever people live and consistently 24/7. SaskPower has served Saskatchewan well in the sense that unlike other provinces, we’ve had no major black-outs in southern Saskatchewan.
SaskPower has not been given a strong enough mandate to achieve deep energy conservation or to move more rapidly toward renewable energy. Saskatchewan’s reluctance to do so, to contemplate taking the federal Government to court, is an embarrassment for me as her citizen. Even if one adopts climate skepticism as a personal value, it is irresponsible to take whole province with it, in the face of so much urgency recognized around the world. The transition to renewables needs to be made at some point in time, the time is now. Many examples exist of paths taken by other jurisdictions.
Community renewable energy
SaskPower deserves to be applauded for its net-metering program and grants to facilitate adoption. Many Saskatchewan homeowners have moved to renewable sources of their own volition, well ahead of provincial policy. The SES Solar Co-operative Ltd. (https://sessolarcoop.wildapricot.org/ ) is an example where social capital was harnessed for progress. The Solar Co-op now has two projects already producing solar power and two more are planned. The Solar Co-op is poised to provide a promising return to its members as well as providing renewable energy.
Other renewable power projects in Saskatchewan, notably the Chaplin project of Windlectric Inc., a subsidiary of Algonquin power corporation, has been rightly rejected by public opinion first and then by the Ministry of Environment. A new site for this project has been proposed by Algonquin. Needless to say, there is some opposition to it also. Wind power projects, as much as they are needed, are not benign, and neither are coal, oil & gas or hydro projects.
Energy projects of any type will require some local and regional adjustment. To minimize the not-in-my-backyard type of opposition, and more importantly, to achieve the best possible locally relevant design, local people should have an opportunity to invest and thereby become part of the solution. A study of wind projects in Ontario has shown that projects with local ownership were most accepted. More importantly, the people of Saskatchewan should be involved in the design, management and the benefits of an energy transition. Describing such an involvement in Europe, Dirk Vansintjan writes:
“Twelve partners from eight countries worked together in the framework of the European Union’s Intelligent Energy Europe programme. Between March 2012 and April 2015 they realised REScoop 20-20-20, a project that highlighted the initiatives citizens are taking at local level, how they are overcoming obstacles, how they organise themselves, how they finance their projects… and how in all of this they demonstrate a remarkable ability to adapt to financial and legal obstacles and impediments. This publication contains a strong story. It was written at the local level, by highly motivated citizens committed to current and future generations. This story is a source of inspiration for many others in recapturing and developing a common good: renewable energy sources, energy transition and the democratisation of the energy market.”
For people living in northern Saskatchewan, power outages are an all-too-frequent occurrence. Power lines break from trees falling during storms for instance. Here also, local ownership and involvement is important. Saskatchewan’s power grid might be de-centralized encouraging local initiatives to produce the power they use in their own region.
SaskPower also deserves to be applauded for allocating some of its support to community power initiatives. However, we should go much further. We should enable that every energy project, if it is not locally owned, has a portion of its investment coming from Saskatchewan. This will require an enabling institutional adjustment and advising the people of Saskatchewan of this opportunity.
Governance and attitudes
Several of the above recommendations involve the need for broad-based decision making in Saskatchewan, for putting the common good first and sharing the power of decision making. There are examples where our levels of government involve experts at academic or other institutions in decision making. This is most often directed at technical solutions where research is invited. Saskatchewan has many bright people in educational institutions. These people should be invited not merely for product know how but management and governance know how. Social science and socioeconomic input will help let Saskatchewan be its best, as much or more so than gadgets or high-tech practices.
Recent newscast addressing the social milieu in Saskatchewan have been troublesome. There are examples of overt racism, disregard for public safety and drunken driving. One gets the sense that this province, once rightly proud of its socially and common-good minded citizens, is becoming increasingly divided. Perhaps at the root of this trend is an overblown sense and misplaced entitlement, leading to carelessness in thoughts and action.
For an example, some calls exist in Saskatchewan for payments to land owners for the ecological services that belong to all of us and require all of our care. “If people in the city want clean water,” a statement might go, “they have to pay for it.” These dichotomies are troublesome, city vs country, land owner vs non-landowner. What is the logical extension to this kind of thinking? Will we need to pay for air next? Will we pay people for driving on the right side of the road?
One can only speculate where and how these harmful sentiments arose. I for one would like to hear an explanation from social scientists, philosophers and from perceptive Saskatchewan elders of any culture. I would also like to hear their suggestions for a way forward.
If any of the above suggestions require support from my taxes, so be it. I can buy gadgets on my own, but I cannot buy a healthy environment, an esthetically pleasing landscape or a tolerant citizenry on my own. These are goals that we need to support jointly and we need to provide the money required. Saskatchewan is too great a province not to let it grow forward and not to let it be the best it can be.
 Canadian Plains Research Center. (2005). “The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan: A living legacy.” University of Regina, Regina, Saskatchewan; 1072 pp.
 Fung, K.-i., Bill Barry and Michael Wilson, Eds. (1999). “Atlas of Saskatchewan.” University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK.; 336 pp.
 Schmutz, J. K., Allen Patkau, Ken Belcher, Renny W. Grilz, Peter E. Joyce, Wade and Louise Popescul, Kerry Holderness (2007). “Value and Preservation of Ecological Services of the Northern Great Plains.” Pp. 131-186 in Robert Warnock, David Gauthier, Josef Schmutz, Allen Patkau, Patrick Fargey and Michael Schellenberg, Editors. 2007. Homes on the range: Conservation in working prairie landscapes. Proceedings of the 8th Prairie Conservation and Endangered Species Workshop, Regina, SK.
 Canadian Co-operative Wildlife Health Centre (2003). “International Chronic Wasting Disease Workshop.” August 15, Canadian Co-operative Wildlife Health Centre and Saskatchewan Department of Environment, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon.
 Cross, B. (2007). “Hunters spend big bucks in Saskatchewan.” The Western Producer: 33.
 Kulshreshtha, S. N., and George G. Pearson (2006). “Determination of a cost recovery framework and fee schedule format for the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada – Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration community pasture program.” Unpubl. Report, Dept. of Agricultural Economics, Univ. of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon.
 Kulshreshtha, S., George Pearson, Brant Kirychuk and Rick Gaube (2008). “Distribution of public and private benefits on federally managed community pastures in Canada.” Rangelands: 3-11.
 Monk, S. (2012). “Death of the PFRA: Destroying Canada’s “Greatest success story.” Cowboy Country Magazine, October/November, p. 31-35.
 Dolter, B. (2016). “A Response to Saskatchewan’s Climate change white paper.” Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives: October, 20 pages.
 Holtz, S. (2013). “Redirecting anti-wind energy: Individuals, communities and politicians can turn a debate stalemate into an opportunity for collaboration.” Alternatives Journal 39(5): 44-47.
 Vansintjan, D. (2015). “The energy transition to energy democracy: Power to the people.” Final results oriented report of the REScoop 20-20-20 Intelligent Energy Europe project. De Wrikker, www.dewrikker.be, Antwerp, Belgium
By Mélissa Compain.
Saskatchewan teacher Mélissa Compain speaks to SaskForward on how neighbourhood schools could be used to host other community services and programs needed by the community.