Commentary & Forums

Thinking about Tina Fontaine Murder(s): The Role of the Police, Inquiries, and Settlers in Canada

This will be the first in a series of blogs by Michelle Stewart who will be exploring the issues raised in this blog by thinking about the anthropology of policing in the context of a settler state. Michelle is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Justice Studies at the University of Regina where she teaches the social justice stream and investigates health disparities, often racialized, in relationship to the justice system and the state.



In the past week and a half there has been a wave of stories out of Winnipeg that shine a spotlight not only on police practices but larger questions about the ongoing legacies of colonialism, structural violence and institutional racism that play out in this settler nation. More specifically, I am talking about Tina Fontaine as her case returned to the headlines last week with the sentencing of her father’s killers; and an admission by Winnipeg police that officers saw the missing teen and did not take her into protective custody—it is believed she was murdered shortly thereafter.

I will state here, at the outset, that I am not writing this article to blame these police officers for Tina’s death. On the contrary, I am writing this to join many other voices that are pointing out the need for systemic change in Canada.

Continue reading

In the Journals

In the Journals, Spring 2014

Welcome back to In the Journals, a round-up of some of the latest publications tackling questions of crime, law and order, justice, policing, surveillance and the state. Should you find yourself with some reading time over the summer, here is a selection of some recent articles and reviews from recent months that grapple with these themes from different perspectives.


Continue reading

In the Journals

Michelle Stewart on the erasure of labour in the production of police experts

Our own Michelle Stewart has a fascinating article online over at M/C Journal using an ethnographic eye to attend to the labour (since it’s an Australian journal it has that extra ‘u’) that gets hidden in the production of police technologies.  Or, as she concludes:

Continue reading

Book Reviews

Of Police, Provinces, and Professionalization

Came across this today via H-Net Reviews:

Zhiqiu Lin. Policing the Wild North-West: A Sociological Study of the Provinvial Police in Alberta and Saskatchewan, 1905-1932. Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2006. 210 pp. $34.95 (paper), ISBN 978-1-55238-171-7.

Reviewed by Joel Kropf (Carleton University)

Published on H-Canada (September, 2009)

Commissioned by Stephanie Bangarth

For the most part, it’s a thoroughly well-written review on what seems like a responsible piece of scholarship.  In other words, I can’t see why it might be interesting at all (maybe Michelle, our resident Canada expert, can help me see more of what’s at stake here?).

One thing that did pop out at me, though, was this:

…he intends the term “professionalization” to evoke “rationalization” and Max Weber’s ideas concerning the latter.  “Calculable and predictable rules and procedures” have tended more and more to infuse organizations and enterprises in many nineteenth- and twentieth-century societies, and this holds true, Lin believes, in the case of policing in Western Canada (p. 203n7).  By no means does Lin claim that the patterns and approaches emerging among Canadian police during the period of his study always possessed a more professionalized flavor than their previous practices had.  Sometimes the provincial police went with the less professionalized alternative from among the options that they might potentially have pursued.  On the whole, however, the police found it attractive to incorporate new doses of professionalism into their patterns of work.  After all, citizens who noted a police force’s proclivity for professionalized dealings became less likely to worry that they might suffer from prejudiced actions or capricious responses on the part of officers.  And this, in turn, tended to reduce the chances that police would find their efforts impeded by distrust or recalcitrance on the part of the people among whom they worked.

There’s something that seems a bit off there; i’m still trying to put my finger on exactly what it is.  It’s in the reading of Weber, for one (I love Max, but whatever… I can let that slide), but also in the portrait it offers of Canadians as fundamentally rational actors in search of a government worthy of them.  Maybe that’s more accurate than I think, but something smells off there, to me…  to be continued after some reflection.