(Photo, Intro by Jennifer Sparrowhawk)
I first met Sheila after she contacted our group (The Saskatoon Coordinating Committee Against Police Violence). She asked if we could, in a show of support, attend the hearing where she would finally receive the verdict of a three-year-long case she’s been waging against the Saskatoon City Police after being viciously attacked by a police dog one night in her yard and then being wrongly arrested for a robbery in the area.
One thing that stood out during Sheila’s court proceedings is when the
lawyer that was representing the Saskatoon Police argued on their
behalf: “they have to be able to do their job and make quick
decisions, without fear of reprisal, so long as they’re not acting with
malice or in a way that’s clearly reckless or unlawful.” It is no secret that the police are a racist organization. How could they not be? The purpose of their creation was to aid in colonization, which inherently pursues the extinguishing of indigenous culture and people. How can we trust an organization with this mandate to act without malice?
Sheila’s tenacity in her fight to receive justice from a system imposed to oppress and devalue her is admirable and inspiring, but it is only one of many cases of police violence that prove the system does not serve the people. We need to imagine a different system where the police are held accountable to community members, rather than to an intrinsically racist government.
KC: What projects are you involved with right now?
I do beading projects, artistic-wise. Earrings, necklaces, key chains. I learned by watching others do it. Beading plays a big part in my life now. I have some of my work on kijiji and I also go around to businesses. I’m waiting to get more supplies before I can accept bigger projects though.
KC: What is your day job? What do you like about it? What is challenging?
I don’t have a day job right now due to anxiety. Since my experience with the police I have been struggling with anxiety everyday.
My last job was as a dishwasher supervisor at TCU (Teachers Credit Union) Place. I liked it but the main reason I gave my notice was because of the segregation between the cooks and the dishwashers. The cooks didn’t want the dishwashers to sit with them during breaks. I didn’t think it was fair that the dishwashers weren’t treated as part of the team and there was no one I felt I could go to with this issue.
KC: What is important to you?
It is important I find justice in this court case I am in with the police. I find it unfair that the police can overstep their protocol and get away with not taking responsibility for their actions. They have been taking so long to make an agreement on their part. The whole court system works for them, and not for the people. It is important for me to continue seeking the justice I am looking for.
I don’t want to feel how I’ve been feeling everyday, waiting for a decision to be made -like I have no hope in winning this court case and that the government system can do things their way when it comes to people like us. Equality is important among all people, not just opportunity for certain groups. I’m about fairness.
Being a part of this group (SCCAPV - Saskatoon Coordinating Committee Against Police Violence) is important. I like how there is all different kinds of people in the group, all kinds of races. I like that roundness. It’s not about one race against another. It’s about all the people against the government.
I am making changes in my life right now and it is important I have people in my life who are supportive in what I’m trying to do.
KC: What do you like most/least about Saskatoon?
I like the river, the scenery, monuments, architecture like White Buffalo Youth Lodge. I like wandering the streets and talking to people.
I like spending time with the homeless people. I lived that lifestyle myself. Even though I had a job and income I still couldn’t afford a home, so I would go to the shelters and that’s where I became friends with people. I found the homeless were such honest, caring people and that’s what attracts me to people. They have a heart like me and I guess I can see that. I like helping others too. Even if I don’t have too much to offer, I can say “Can I buy you a coffee or something?” and I’ll just sit down with them, and talk to them, and let them know I’ve been there too, when they’re feeling alone. That’s what I like to do.
What I like least about Saskatoon is the gang violence, and the police and how they treat minorities.
KC: What is your impression of Regina?
I have lived in Regina on and off for the last 20 years. It’s pretty much got the same issues with gangs and police violence as Saskatoon.
KC: How do you survive the winters?
Usually I just try to keep busy and motivated by keeping up with my responsibilities. Since the court case it’s been harder because of my anxiety. Beading helps.
From the Proust Questionnaire: What is your most favourite occupation?
Fashion and design. I love to work with my hands, creating new things. I love colours and combining colours. I like to see the finished product, and it makes me feel happy that I made something beautiful.
My brother is an artist, and my cousin. Art, to me, is a passion. I took an art workshop in Calgary when I was there. Once I get settled I hope to get into some kind of art program.