The national group Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP) says racial profiling of Indigenous people by police in Saskatchewan exists.
A recent incident with William Favel is an example of discriminatory interactions Indigenous people experience every day with police, says CAP Vice-Chief Kim Beaudin.
“Racial discrimination and profiling is in the bloodstream of all police departments across this country,” said Beaudin in a statement to media.
During a phone interview May 14, William Favel, an Indigenous man, said Saskatoon Police forcibly handcuffed and detained him – without probable cause – when he was headed to a barbecue.
“The police forcibly detained me on April 2 because I knew my rights and would not provide them my name and identification on an unlawful stop,” said Favel.
“They terrorized me and told me I was under suspicion of being in a gang solely because of my green Saskatchewan Roughriders facemask.”
Favel said the police drove past him three times as he walked down two city blocks on 20 Street West before eventually stopping him. The third time the police went past him they had slowed down, he said.
“This time I’m thinking ‘what are these guys doing? They are up to something.’ I’m thinking ‘I don’t have to talk to them.’ I just finished my jog.
“I was ignoring them,” he added. “I guess that was a bad idea.”
Favel said that is when he realized the police were going to approach him.
They asked his name.
“I said ‘I don’t have to give you my name sir.’ I was respectful to them.”
He recorded a part of the incident. In the cell phone video the officers are heard telling him he’s resisting arrest and to put his hands behind his back.
“They wanted to know what was in my back pack. They crank my arms behind my back, they tell me ‘you’re resisting,' they throw me down face first. I get kneed in the back of the head,” said Favel.
“Next thing you know I’m face down in the dirt with cuffs on me and my arm is dislocated. I said ‘what am I doing? What am I doing? I’m not doing anything.’
“They said, ‘He’s resisting, he’s resisting. You want to do it the hard way; you want to be the smart guy? We are going to take you to the (police station), finger print you and charge you with obstruction.’
“I was scared for my life at this point,” said Favel. “I know I didn’t do anything wrong and I thought this is going to go bad.”
Favel thought it was unfair police assumed he was part of a gang because he was wearing a green Roughrider facemask.
“I’m from Saskatchewan; who doesn’t love the Riders.”
Police searched his bag. All they found were two bottles of water, two bananas and his Aboriginal smudging material.
Before letting him go they issued him a jay walking ticket.
Favel said he called his sister and she took him to the hospital where he was treated for minor injuries.
CAP alleges police stopped Favel because he’s Indigenous and allege they gave Favel a ticket to cover their misconduct.
“Just because you walk in the ‘hood,' you are a hoodlum, according to the police department,” said Beaudin.
Incident left Favel traumatized
Favel, a single father of two who works full-time, said the incident has left him and his two sons, aged 17 and 24, traumatized.
“I hate the racial profiling thing, but that’s what it is, it is racial profiling. It’s discrimination.
“They hurt me physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually,” said Favel. “They broke me right down. They humiliated me.”
Before the incident Favel said his life was going good.
“I’m trying to go to work every morning. I come home, have supper with my boys, talk with my boys, go to the gym, come home and talk more with my boys, cook, clean up, I’m a very busy, active human being.
“I was doing great, going to a barbecue, it was Good Friday. I had a good week at work; things were going good until the police did that to me.”
Favel said he is trying to stay positive to be a good example for his sons.
“I’m going to hold a positive nice foundation for my boys but when they are not around I’m breaking down, I’m thinking suicidal thoughts and it’s not good. I think ‘I do this and boom the cops never bug me again.’
“When the cops are doing this they break my spirit, they break my shine.”
Favel wants an apology from the Saskatoon Police.
“If they are such big men I want them to come forward and admit they were wrong, be accountable for their actions,” said Favel.
“And if they don’t that just tells us the real truth about our justice system; weak and untrustworthy, can’t be trusted.”
Favel has also filed a complaint with the Saskatchewan Public Complaints Commission (PCC).
CAP is calling on the officers involved to be suspended or put on desk duty.
“We don’t need these kinds of officers roaming our streets, particularly in the area where Indigenous people live (and) work,” said Beaudin.
Alyson Edwards, media spokesperson for Saskatoon Police Service said they are waiting for the findings by the Public Complaints Commission. Edwards confirmed that at this time the officers remain on duty.
Saskatoon Police say that at approximately 9:30 a.m., April 2, 2021, members of the SPS in the area of 20th Street and Avenue L South attempted to arrest a man for obstruction after he refused to provide personal information for a ticket. He was later released with a ticket but no criminal charges. Written reports are not typically left for tickets such as the one that was issued.
“If a complaint about officer conduct is received, it is investigated with oversight by the Public Complaints Commission,” said Chief Troy Cooper. “This independent process is important and must be allowed to take place so that all details are known before we respond. Whether a complaint is made or not we also have a supervisor review files and a use of force evaluation that occurs internally - a provincially standardized process that has not yet been completed.”
Beaudin also said the $40 jay walking ticket should be thrown out and the city should cover counseling costs for Favel and his family.
Hopes for change
By speaking out and filing a complaint Favel says he is protecting himself, his sons and others.
“It will let them know this is unacceptable. If we don’t want stuff like this to keep going on and we want to make the world a better place, it starts with us.”
Both of his sons, especially his 24-year-old who is special needs, now fear police, said Favel.
“Now he thinks they are all bad just because of what these two cops did. I don’t want them thinking that first responders and police are all bad. I want them to know if they need help from first responders they can call and count on them.
“My children are traumatized now and no parent wants their children to feel what my children feel – scared,” said Favel.
“We are all brothers and sisters,” he added. “We need to change the negative cycle and turn it into a positive cycle, and then the world becomes a better place.
“I want to show what the police are really doing. What they did was unacceptable and it was not right. They probably deal with a lot of toxic people but me? I stay away from drugs and alcohol. I don’t even eat sugar. I eat healthy.
“I have lots on my plate,” added Favel. “I don’t need s***** police harassing me because they think I have drugs in my bag. There’s actually some good people that walk around (the inner city) and I was one of them.”
Story updated May 17, 10:13 a.m. to reflect comment from Saskatoon Police Service