Every few months in Saskatchewan, a racial incident blows up and captures national headlines. The incident is typically followed by public demonstrations, social media reactions and racist remarks.
This repeated friction is beginning to define Indigenous-white relations in the province.
Last month was no exception.
Kamao Cappo, an Indigenous man, was thrown out of a Canadian Tire store in Regina after being accused of theft — same old story. But something was different this time: Cellphone footage that Cappo shot himself and subsequently posted on Facebook showed the store employee roughing him up as he tried to get him out of the store after falsely accusing him of theft.
Fortunately, Cappo had the wherewithal in the moment to record the interaction on his phone, and Canadian Tire has since apologized.
However, had he not, would anyone have believed him?
Death of Colten Boushie
This is a particularly poignant question considering that Aug. 9 was the first anniversary of the death of Colten Boushie, who was shot and killed on a farm near Biggar, Sask. Gerald Stanley, who lives on a rural acreage southeast of the Red Pheasant First Nation where Boushie lived, has been charged with second-degree murder in his death.
No one beyond those who were actually there knows what happened on that fatal Tuesday night. There is no cellphone footage of that incident to pore over. Nevertheless, Stanley's first court appearances showed that the lines have already been drawn: First Nations people and their allies were there, as well as Stanley's backers.
The case has already polarized the First Nations community and the rural white population, and the trial — which starts in January — will surely be a lightning rod for more demonstrations. The atmosphere in the area is already tense: Last September, it got so heated that farmers armed themselves during harvest in response to rumours of Indigenous gangsters in the area. No arrests were confirmed, but fear and racism seemed to rule the day.
However, the landscape has started to change this year. Our people are no longer prepared to just stand by and take it. That's why things went sideways at Canadian Tire last month. Kamao Cappo is a well-educated and respected member of the First Nations community, and he refused to be portrayed as anything else.
Something is happening in Saskatchewan and it exists in various forms across the country. Indigenous people are growing in population, becoming urbanized and — equipped with new educational tools — fighting back against misconceptions.
Today our warriors are armed with cellphones, video cameras, laptops and law degrees. They can skate circles around white racists, as Kamao clearly demonstrated.
Indian Country is undergoing historic change. Our people are arguably more politically aware than ever. We understand colonialism and what it has done to us. White privilege is recognized for what it is and our people confront it daily.
For those who don't — or didn't — believe us, now we are starting to record the truth. To confront racism in Saskatchewan, a cellphone might be our best weapon.