Saskatoon writers' group pens concerns about racism in Saskatchewan
'We wanted to contribute to keeping the issue of racism in our province in the public consciousness': writer
A writers' group formed in response to provincial budget cuts in March turned its focus to racism on Saturday by penning letters to coincide with the anniversary of the Colten Boushie shooting.
The Democratic Writes! group was created by members of The Stand Community Organizing Centre in Saskatoon as a shared space to express concerns through writing on a different topic each week.
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This week the group chose the issue of racism in Saskatchewan, asking participants what conversations the province should be having one year after the shooting death of Colten Boushie.
On Aug. 9, 2016, Boushie, 22, was shot and killed on a farm near Biggar, Sask. Police charged Gerald Stanley with second-degree murder in Boushie's death.
Stanley, who is out on bail, pleaded not guilty. His trial will take place Jan. 29 to Feb. 15, 2018.
Following Boushie's death, anti-Indigenous online commentary brought national attention to the case and prompted Premier Brad Wall to call for calm.
'This matters to people'
Democratic Writes! organizer Bonnie Heilman, who is a board member with The Stand, said she feels racism is very present in Saskatchewan.
"We wanted to contribute to keeping the issue of racism in our province in the public consciousness, just, you know, putting our voices in there for what it's worth," she said.
"That this matters to people and that we have to do something about it."
When the writers' group met on Saturday, Heilman chose to address her letter to a journalist who expressed a controversial opinion on racism in Saskatchewan.
Participants write to politicians, journalists
She was joined by Marjorie Keyser, who attends the meeting every Saturday.
"I believe in democracy and I do think it's in trouble and has been for some time," said Keyser.
"So I believe that as a citizen it is up to me to do everything that I can within my power to address issues and to call to account elected officials."
This Saturday she wrote to Education Minister Don Morgan and to the NDP with questions about policies and plans to address racism through education.
Both Heilman and Keyser agreed that writing together was more empowering than doing so alone.
"We are realistic about the impact that a letter can have but I think for myself it's more about the solidarity of coming together with other people who share your concerns and our hopes," said Heilman.
"Because ultimately this is a hopeful act. We wouldn't be here if we didn't think that things could get better and things will get better."
The Democratic Writes! group meets on Saturdays at 1 p.m. CST at The Stand at 615 Main Street in Saskatoon.