Winnipeg Copwatch was formed in August 2006 to address the problem of police brutality in Winnipeg. The collectively-run group consists of volunteers who have witnessed, experienced or become concerned about police brutality, abuse of power and misconduct within the Winnipeg Police Service, the R.C.M.P., the various BIZ patrols in the city, private security forces, and CSIS. Our approach is multifaceted. We regularly patrol Winnipeg’s streets by car, bike and on foot, videotaping the police and their interactions with the public. We also organize “Know Your Rights” workshops and host film screenings and discussions. We organize and participate in panels on policing and related issues of systemic discrimination.
What follows is a select list of Copwatch events.
August 28 – First meeting, approximately 20 people attended and discussed the need for some form of safety/accountability from the police.
September 18 – First official Winnipeg Copwatch meeting. The group discussed how Copwatch groups had been formed in other cities and how one might be formed in Winnipeg.
January 17 & 20 – Invited the public to come out and share/record their stories of police misconduct or brutality. Approximately 45 people came out to record their accounts.
January 25 – Contacted the Chief of Police to inform the WPS about our group and our goals to monitor the police. Copwatch asked Chief Ewatski to acknowledge that this group is legal and it is within our rights to go on street patrols. The only response we received was from the Public Information Officer and read: “On behalf of Chief Ewatski, I am acknowledging receipt of your email regarding Copwatch Winnipeg.”
March 15 – International Day Against Police Brutality. Organized a march/rally, included speakers from communities affected by police brutality.
April 25 & 28 – Hosted two public workshops: “How to Use a Video Camera to Observe the Police.”
May 13 – Published an editorial in the local newspaper, titled “Become a Cop Watcher.”
June 23 – Fundraiser: movie screening of These Streets are Watching, a documentary on multiple Copwatch groups in the United States, followed by a discussion about Copwatch.
July 13-15 – National Copwatch Conference in Berkeley, California. Five members of Winnipeg Copwatch attended this conference.
August 26 – Hosted a public “Know Your Rights” workshop facilitated by the Pro-Bono Student Association of Canada.
September 20 – Filmmaker Tasha Hubbard screened her documentary Two Worlds Colliding on the Saskatoon freezing deaths to a crowd of approximately 50 people. A question and answer period with Tasha Hubbard followed the film. This was a collaborative event hosted with the Manitoba Aboriginal Justice and Equality Coalition (MAJEC).
October 22 – First Copwatch street patrol. Copwatch has since continued to patrol between 2-4 times per month and when invited to demonstrations.
Nov. 6 – Copwatch presented on a panel hosted by Winnipeg Anarchist Black Cross on the Justice System and related local organizations.
Jan. 12 – Hosted a public “Know Your Rights” workshop facilitated by defense lawyer Jeff Gindin.
February 9 – Sharing Circle on Police Violence and Community Issues organized by Copwatch and MAJEC.
March 15 – “Know Your Rights” workshop facilitated by Copwatch at DIY Fest. This was the first presentation of this workshop, which was developed in consultation with Pro Bono Students and lawyers, and with reference to the Criminal Code of Canada. Copwatch has since provided this workshop twice to youth at the Magnus Eliason Recreation Centre, as well as at Wolseley Family Place.
March 15 – International Day Against Police Brutality. Organized a march/rally. Approximately 100 people attended.
March 22 – Attended with cameras “He Would Have Been 19,” a memorial for Connie and Ty Jacobs, murdered by Alberta RCMP.
March 29 – Public Copwatch training session. The Copwatch training includes training on your rights and the law, video camera tips, deescalation techniques and how Copwatch patrols work.
June/September – Attended the Police Advisory Board Public Consultation, made recommendations and connections with other organizations doing similar work.
October 22 – Winnipeg Copwatch and the University of Winnipeg Institute of Women’s and Gender Studies presented a panel and discussion, “Whose Law and What Order,” at Crossways in Common. Copwatch welcomed three speakers: Tamar Hopkins (Melbourne, Australia), a lawyer who works on police violence issues faced by newly arrived immigrants; Nahanni Fontaine (Winnipeg/Sagkeeng Anishinaabe First Nation), the Director of Justice for the Southern Chiefs’ Organization; and Elizabeth Comack (Winnipeg), a Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Manitoba who has published in the areas of policing inner-city communities, social inequality and the law, the criminalization of women, and gender and violence.
October 25 – Tamar Hopkins, Australian community lawyer, joined a Copwatch patrol as an observer as part of her international research on police accountability mechanisms.
November 3 – Copwatch spoke critically on a panel at the University of Winnipeg Global College symposium, Two Faces of Poverty: Making the Law Work for Indigenous Peoples and Women.
November 20 – Copwatch attended the Trans Day of Remembrance vigil at the Red Road Lodge.
January 17, 2009 – Patrol at the Gaza Solidarity Rally. Federal Building, Water Avenue and Main Street.
February 24 – Copwatch presented to the Jane and Finch community in Toronto. Residents and community workers invited Copwatch to present about the work we do and to help facilitate a conversation about starting a Copwatch, or something similar, in Jane and Finch. About 20 people were in attendance.
March 3 & 5 – Copwatch attended the Community Forum for the Provincial Police Act and submitted recommendations for changes to the Police Act.
March 15 – International Day Against Police Brutality – March/Rally. Approximately 75 people attended. Speakers included Nahanni Fontaine (SCO), Roanna Hepburn and Copwatch Volunteer Alex DP. We also held a dinner and film screening of Two Worlds Colliding followed by a sharing circle/discussion. Approximately 50 people attended the movie and 15 stayed for the discussion.
March 20 & 21 – Tabled at the Propagandhi shows at the Garrick Theatre.
April – Winnipeg Copwatch promoted a petition organized by Roanna Hepburn, a resident of Winnipeg, community activist, grandmother and great grandmother who campaigned the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba for a full and independent investigation into an act of violence committed against her granddaughter by members of the Winnipeg Police Service.
April 22 – Black Mask, a radio show broadcast on CKUW community radio, aired an interview with Roanna Hepburn conducted by a Winnipeg Copwatch volunteer.
April 30, 2009 – Facilitated a Know Your Rights workshop at the Southern Chiefs Organization.
May 1, 2009 – Patrolled at the annual May Day march, which gathered at Joe Zuken Park.
May 29, 2009 – Copwatch was invited to patrol in Roseau River for the National Aboriginal Day of Action called by the Assembly of First Nations.
June 6, 2009 – Copwatch participated in the Run for Rights, a community-organized and supported fundraising and awareness initiative that is the source of the majority of Copwatch’s funds.
August 14, 2009 – In partnership with Ndinawe Youth Resource Centre, Winnipeg Copwatch organized a free community barbeque hosted at the Centre on Selkirk Avenue. Over 200 people attended.
August 29, 2009 – Fundraising social for Wilfred Asham organized with support and solidarity from Winnipeg Copwatch. Wilfred Asham died while being held by the Winnipeg police in the Public Safety Building on September 2, 2007. His family organized the social at Northwood Community Centre to raise funds to cover legal costs.
September 2009 – Tamar Hopkins, an Australian community lawyer whose international research on police accountability mechanisms brought her to Winnipeg from October 22 – 26, 2008, reported that police accountability groups like Copwatch had formed in Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney and Perth since her visit to Winnipeg. While in Winnipeg, Tamar went on a patrol with Copwatch, spoke on a public panel, and interviewed members of the collective about how to start a copwatch group.
September 2009 – First Winnipeg Copwatch newsletter published and distributed as a two-sided broadsheet.
September 2, 2009 – Vigil for Wilfred Asham. Copwatch attended this evening vigil outside of the Public Safety Building in solidarity with the family of Wilfred Asham, who died while being held by the Winnipeg Police in the PSB on September 2, 2007.
September 12, 2009 – Tabled at the Sherbrook Street Festival.
September 17, 2009 – Patrolled at the Take Back the Night walk, which gathered at the Orioles Community Centre.
October 25 – 31, 2009 – Tabled at Winnipeg’s Indigenous Sovereignty Week, which promotes Indigenous Rights, self-determination, and justice.
October 29, 2009 – Facilitated a Know Your Rights workshop and De-escalation workshop for youth through Gilbert Park Going Places, Nor’West Co-op Community Health Centre.
November 7, 2009 – Copwatch travelled to and tabled at the Saskatoon Anarchist Bookfair.
November 20, 2009 – Copwatch attended the Trans Day of Remembrance vigil at the Rainbow Resource Centre.
November 20, 2009 – Inquest called into death of Wilfred Asham in the Public Safety Building. Family, friends, and supporters, including Winnipeg Copwatch, raised the profile of Wilfred Asham’s death in custody of the Winnipeg Police Service in 2007 to the level that an inquest was called by Manitoba’s Chief Medical Examiner.
January 30, 2010 – First session of the Copwatch reading group.
February 3, 2010 – Copwatch facilitated a Know Your Rights workshop for young people upon invitation by IRCOM, the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba.