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Canada's Apartheid, by John Stackhouse
Stories
Introduction
  Nov. 3

Welcome to Harlem on the Prairies
  Nov. 3 (Saskatoon, SK)

Crystal's choice: The best of both worlds
  Nov. 5 (Mississauga, ON)

How the Mi'kmaq profit from fear
  Nov. 6 (Cape Breton, NS)

The healing power of hockey
  Nov. 7 (The Pas, MB)

Norma Rae of the Okanagan
  Nov. 8 (Westbank, BC)

Comic genius or 'niggers in red face'?
  Nov. 9 (Regina, SK)

Praying for a miracle
  Nov. 10 (Lac Ste. Anne, AB)

To have and to have not
  Nov. 12 (Moosonee, ON)

Trouble in paradise
  Nov. 19 (Tofino, BC)

A cut of the action
  Nov. 26 (Wabigoon, ON)

The young and the restless
  Dec. 3 (Ashern, MB)

The wireless warrior's digital dream
  Dec. 10 (Ottawa,ON)

'Everyone thought we were stupid'
  Dec. 14 (Salluit, QC)

First step: End the segregation
  Dec. 15 (Last in the series)

 

Welcome to Harlem on the Prairies

Story by John Stackhouse. Photos by John Morstad
The Globe and Mail, November 3, 2001
Part 1 of 9


Saskatoon, SK The toughest cops on the Indian beat know what they will find even before they kick in the door. Hair Spray Jerry is there, slouched against a wall, and in the basement apartment's bedroom is his girlfriend, Diane, on a bare mattress, contorted in pain. Her face is bruised, her mouth badly swollen, her blood moist on the floor.

Diane is often in this state on "payday Friday," the day Saskatoon is flooded with welfare cheques and its jagged-edged native neighbourhood on the west side turns violent. "I called 911 because he was being a shit," she says as tears stream across her cuts.

Nearby sit a half-finished bottle of Extra Gold beer (9 per cent alcohol) and a 7-Eleven Big Gulp container. Constables Ernie Louttit and Dean Hoover know that it holds the last of the couple's preferred cocktail: one part hair spray to six parts water.

The scene makes their blood boil. They have helped Diane into an ambulance more times than they can recall. And they have spent just as many nights wrestling her wiry, 40-year-old boyfriend into cruisers and drunk tanks.

Jerry just did six months for assaulting Diane, adding to a record that covers more than half his life.

"Diane, I never hit ya," he shouts as he is led once again into the hall from the apartment.

As Louttit yanks Jerry's right arm behind his back and shoves him against the wall, he whispers one word: "Asshole." Then he begins to read the man his rights.

The big policeman has seen this act played out for as long as he can remember because he, like Hair Spray Jerry, is an Indian. His partner is a real cowboy. While Louttit was growing up with a Cree father and francophone mother in a hard-drinking Northern Ontario railway town, Hoover, who raises horses and rides in rodeos on his days off, was watching his Mountie father chase Indians across northern Saskatchewan.

The two clearly are frustrated by another encounter with Jerry, and joke that they would like to do something different tonight, rather than take him downtown to the drunk tank. They are both fed up with it all - with Indian women bloodied and bruised, with little children abandoned in the dead of night, with native organizations that want to handcuff the cops who are paid to keep the lid on a ghetto of chronic abuse.

But then Louttit stops himself, knowing better than to throw oil on a fire smouldering beneath this troubled Prairie city, where the largely white police force and fast-growing native population are struggling to come to terms with each other. He knows that even a native cop shouldn't joke about beating up natives.
THIS STORY AT A GLANCE (Parts 1 to 9 plus related stories and links):


Photo Essay
On the beat


1. Welcome to Harlem on the Prairies
Ride along with Constables Jim Louttits and Dean Hoover as they arrest a regular

2. A city divided
Allegations of rampant police abuse and complaints from the force about the native community

3. To serve and protect
Two Saskatoon police officers find themselves caught between cultures and responsible to both

Reader feedback
Check out what readers had to say about Welcome to Harlem on the Prairies.
4. The Indian's cop and the cowboy
A partnership restricted to work and focused on the task at hand

5. Keeping the peace
At 3 a.m., the shift gets busy

6. The stereotypes of 20th Street
Social agencies fight against the economics of poverty
7. Division among the Chiefs
Some leaders see police as problem, others look to the system
8. Changing the face of Saskatoon's force
Recruiting natives isn't easy - they see police as 'the enemy'
9. Daylight breaks
'Policing by its very nature means force because you're making people comply'

Related stories and links
Background information and surfing opportunities


 
 

interactives
interactives

photo essays
Two worlds - photo essay


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