We are a coalition of penal abolitionists from across the prairie provinces who are committed to working towards life beyond the settler colonial violence of policing and prisons. We support and stand in solidarity with the Indigenous Joint Action Coalition and Black Lives Matter YXE, who recently released statements decrying the deplorable police violence inflicted on Mr. Evan Penner, an Indigenous man who was restrained, repeatedly hit, and pepper-sprayed by eight Saskatoon police officers during a so-called “wellness check” on July 4, 2020.

As penal abolitionists, community members, scholars, and advocates, we recognize the ways in which policing on the prairies has, from its inception, worked to contain and control Indigenous peoples. There is a long history of police removal of Indigenous peoples from their lands in the service of settler “property” and possession. The brutal force inflicted upon Evan Penner is a violent continuation of a systemic pattern of criminalization, containment, and forced removal. We see how policing functions to render an Indigenous man’s mere presence criminal.

After being brutalized by police, Evan Penner was charged with resisting arrest, assaulting a police officer, disarming a peace officer, mischief, and possession of a controlled substance. He was taken to the Saskatoon Correctional Centre, held there over the weekend, and then released on bail. This sequence lays bare the insidious process through which a “wellness check” becomes a mechanism for criminalization, containment, and punishment. As penal abolitionists, we understand the inherent connection between the violence of policing and the violence of prisons. It is well documented that surveillance and policing on the prairies is specifically aimed at imprisoning Indigenous people; in some jails on the prairies, Indigenous people make up 85-90% of the incarcerated population. Referred to as the “new residential schools” (Maclean’s 2016), prisons are thus another weapon in the settler colonial arsenal.

In resistance to this ongoing violence, and in solidarity with our relations in Treaty 6 territory/Métis homeland and beyond, we affirm the five-point call to action put forward by the Indigenous Joint Action Committee and Black Lives Matter YXE. We urge all community members to come together to create the pressure needed to enact these calls to justice—raise your voices, imagine a world of collective care beyond policing and prisons, and demand justice for Evan Penner and all Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour subjected to the violence of the penal system.

  1. At this crucial moment in time, in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter YXE movement and all communities fighting colonialism and police brutality, we call for an end to the severe harms caused by the Saskatoon Police Service on a daily basis.
  2. We call for an end to violent police responses directed toward substance users and those with mental health and wellness concerns.
  3. We call for an end to violent policing of the working class, sex workers and people experiencing homelessness, as well as Queer, Two-Spirit, Trans, disabled, and poor communities in our city.
  4. We call for the immediate firing of the officers who assaulted Evan Penner.
  5. We call for the abolition of the police, the closure of prisons, and a renewed emphasis on community programming and resources we desperately need.

In solidarity,

SMAAC (Saskatchewan-Manitoba-Alberta Abolition Coalition)
Free Lands Free Peoples
Bar None
Winnipeg Police Cause Harm

To add your name to this letter, email statementsolidarity@gmail.com

Criminalization and Punishment Education Project

Ottawa Sanctuary City Network

Jail Accountability and Information Line

S.T.A.N.D for Prison Justice

Vicki Chartrand, Associate Professor, Bishop's University

Sara Howdle, Faculty of Native Studies, University of Alberta

Lora McElhinney, Joint Effort

Sylvia McAdam, Assistant Professor, University of Windsor

Matthew Behrens, Perth, Ontario (Unceded, Unsurrendered Algonguin Territories)

Shama Rangwala, Assistant Professor, York University

Linda Mussell, PhD Candidate, Queen's University

Ameera Kabir, Student, Concordia

Souheil Benslimane, Coordinator, Jail Accountability and Information Line

Brenda Longfellow, Professor, York University

Nancy Van Styvendale, Associate Professor, University of Alberta

Carly LeCocq, Residential Counselor, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Shiri Pasternak

Jeff Shantz, Criminology, Kwantlen Polytechnic University

Mark Mullkoff, MSW, RSW, Abolition Convergence

Aloys Fleischmann, PhD Candidate, University of Alberta

Robbin Derry, Dhillon School of Business, University of Lethbridge

Craig Fortier, Assistant Professor, University of Waterloo (Renison University College)

Keighlagh Donovan, Ph.D. Student

Jennifer Ward, PhD Student, Faculty of Native Studies, University of Alberta

Kelsey Timler, PhD Student, Interdisciplinary Studies, University of British Columbia

Lucas Xavier

Kent Scott

Alecia F

Julian Rioux

Diana Da Silva, BA, MSW

Naty Tremblay, ED, Rittenhouse: A New Vision

Simon Lambert, Associate Professor, Indigenous Studies, U. Saskatchewan