The Starlight Tours

Posted: October 5, 2011 by cassy99 in Starlight Tours

The starlight tours refers to thepractice of  police taking Aboriginals to the outskirts of the city, and leaving them there in the freezing winter nights with instructions to walk home. This is known as a starlight tours or drive. There have been more than 80 victims affected by the starlight tours, all aboriginal citizens. These tours were happening in Winnipeg and Saskatchewan.

One of the first starlight tours happened in Winnipeg, Manitoba during the winter of 1971. The victim was 19-year-old Helen Betty Osborne she was brought to a field outside the city of Winnipeg, and was left there to die by police. It took 16 years for the officers involved to go to trail. All of the aboriginals affected by this were wearing very little clothing when abandoned in the snow far from home. For example, two men that I know about  are Neil Stonechild and Darryl Night. At the time that they were abandoned they were wearing only a t-shirt, jeans, running shoes and a jean jacket. Since the temperatures in Saskatchewan and Manitoba could go down to -40 in the winter, the chance of their survival was very slim. The starlight tours are still happening in Winnipeg,and the latest one reported was in 2008. There might be even more tours that have happened since then, but none have been reported.

It was a bit difficult finding many articles on the starlight tours. When you do a Google search articles that are posted about the starlight tours are mostly about Neil Stonechild. Some other articles that appeared were about starlight concerts, houses for sell in Saskatchewan, and news about a Lady Gaga concert. There needs to be more information and awareness on this topic for everyone to understand what is happening to these innocent people.

When you do a Google search for the starlight tours or drive the search will include articles from, CBC news in-depth, Wikipedia, WPG police operating starlight tours: study, and more.  Each article provides information about certain aspects of the starlight tours. For instance, when you click on the page for it will tell you about the poisoning relationship between the aboriginals and the police. This article goes on to say that indeed aboriginals were brought to the outside of town on a freezing night. February is known to be the coldest month in the prairie provinces. Also in this article they talk to Greg, an aboriginal who was lucky to have survived the starlight tour he was taken on three different “tours”. Greg says that the police told him that he can cool down his temper and to sober up while he walks home, it took Greg seven hours to walk home in -22 degree weather. When asked about this incident The police chief in responded ” I would ask first that you have confidence in me as the chief of police and leader of this police service”. The only punishment that these two officers received was a suspension.

When looking at the Wikipedia link it gives you a description of the starlight tours. In the description given, it is a non-sanctioned police practice whereby aboriginals, usually drug addicted or homeless, are taken and abandoned outside of the town or city that they live. The case of Neil Stonechild, a seventeen year old who died of hypothermia from being abandoned in the freezing cold, is also discussed. In the Stonechild case the two officers involved were fired, and only received eight months in jail.

The final article I will be discussing at this time will be the article from the Winnipeg national news. This article says that seventy-six people were abandoned outside of their town in Winnipeg. One man says that the police told him that they are going to take him home, but when he woke up the police were taking him out of the car, and left him in the middle of nowhere. It is a form of racism. Even though men are dying the police in question are not getting harsh enough sentences for their actions.

  1. Mike Larsen says:

    For your next post, it would be helpful to situate this practice within a broader socio-historical context. In other words, how do Starlight Tours fit into the broader history of police-first nations relations in Canada? What gave rise to ‘the drive’ being seen by police as an appropriate way of dealing with members of a particular community?

    Also, consider Punch’s remarks about the differences between thinking about rotten apples and thinking about rotten orchards. Can we understand the Starlight Tour as a form of deviance committed by individual officers (and therefore best dealt with through individualized responses)? Or should we consider this practice to be a symptom of organizational deviance?

  2. […] Another article talking about Starlight tours, in particular, how difficult it is to find legit information on them – […]

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