The Freezing cold air of Saskatoon

Posted: November 19, 2011 by gossal91 in Starlight Tours

Starlight tours is a term used to describe a police practice whereby police officers pick up individuals – usually first nation citizens – in urban settings, drive them to remote rural areas, and drop them off, regardless of freezing temperatures. This practice has taken place in and around Saskatoon. The police allegedly do this because they are frustrated with the First Nations men who constantly are under the influence and instead of booking them they find it easier to just drop them off in a secluded area without shelter or any regard for how cold the temperature is. So far, there have been 76 reported cases of First Nations men being dropped off and two deaths because of the Starlight tours according to . Starlight tours are an example of police corruption because, the police are abusing their power by using disciplinary matters which is dropping off the native men in the cold to “discipline” them.

Lawrence Wagner was last seen by people in downtown running on the streets causing a disturbance to the citizens in downtown as he was doped up on cocaine. Later that night, a man saw Lawrence Wegner getting into an argument with a police officer and was put into the police car and drove away. That was the last time Lawrence was seen alive and was found dead on the outskirts of Saskatoon. Another death that resulted from the Starlight tours was seventeen year-old Neil Stonechild who disappeared from his family about three or four blocks away from his mothers home. Three days later, he was found frozen to death about eight kilometres from where he was seen in downtown Saskatoon just by his mothers house. No one noticed that he had gashes on his wrist and plenty of scrapes on his face and the fact that he was missing a shoe. The police did not follow through with this investigation and police stated that “He had died from a misadventure” because he was out drunk walking. Neil was known to police and the fact that his mother wanted answers the police ignored Neil’s mother because she was Native. Sixteen year-old Jason Roy was a witness to the brutal beating that Neil Stonehouse took from the alleged police officers. After Neil’s death, the Native community gossiped and rumours speculated that the Saskatoon police officers were dropping off Native men in cold, deserted areas of Saskatoon and left to die. After January 2000, with two more native men found frozen to death, the Native community finally realized that the starlight tours were becoming more believable. The two Native men whose deaths caused speculations was Lloyd Dustyhorn, age 53 who was found frozen to death in Saskatoon. The other Native man was Rodney Naistus, age 25, who was also found frozen to death without a shirt on in the southwest industrial area of Saskatoon. Oddly enough Lawerene Wegner was also found frozen to death in the same exact area as Rodney Naistus in the southwest industrial region of Saskatoon. These deaths brought a lot of attention to the Saskatoon police department and the Native community wanted answers to these tragic deaths.

A huge breakthrough into the Starlight tours case was when Darrell Night who was a Native man who survived and was a victim of the starlight tours. The night that Darrell was picked up by the officers was -20 C which is extremely cold. He was wearing a jean jacket but was not wearing any gloves or even a hat. On Feb.4, 2000 Darrell Night alleges that the police officers through him out of the police car and left him in the cold for dead. Night identified the two police officers as Ken Munson and Dan Hatchen who were both veteran officers who left Night in the freezing cold. Ken Munson and Dan Hatchen were both suspended with pay for admitting to dropping off Night on the outer areas of Saskatoon. On March 10,2000, Ken Munson and Dan Hatchen were charged of forcible confinement and the assault of Darrell Night and on Sept 20th, 2001, they were both found guilty. After a lengthy investigation by the RCMP into the Darrell Night case, on March 13, 2003 Dan Hatchen and Ken Munson were sentenced to eight months at the Saskatoon Correctional Centre. The sentencing of Munson and Hatchen brought some justice and peace to the aboriginal community but it was still not enough justice that the aboriginals wanted. The Stonechild case was not brought to justice and the police officers who left Stonechild in the cold were not found by investigators. Keith Jarvis, who was in charge of the investigation, concluded that he got no support or co-operation from Stonechild’s family and friends.  On November 12, 2004, Saskatoon police chief Russ Sabo terminates two officers, Larry Hartwig and Bradley Sager, the officers still say that they had no contact with Neil Stonechild. On November 12, 2005, Neil Stonechild’s family sues the Saskatoon police and other officers involved including Bradely Sager and Larry Hartwig.

Starlight Tours are closely linked with systemic racisim in the sense that the police have differentiated treatment of a racialized group which is the aboriginals. Having said that, because the aborignals are a different race, they are treated differently by the police and are seen differently as well. In systemic racism the police officers are using racial profiling when dealing with an aboriginal man. For example: if an aborginal man is walking down the street, a police officer is more likely to stop and search the aboriginal man because of his racial background. Starlight tours also reflects on Punch’s theory of the “Dirty Harry” phenomenon where police use an aggressive or unruly approach when targeting native men. The police will use “tough guy” actions like, dumping off an aboriginal man in a secluded, rural area of Saskatoon to “teach” the native man a lesson. Those actions are connected to the “Dirty Harry”  typology of police attitudes. As to the government report of Neil Stonechild, the Commission of Inquiry heard testimonies from 64 witnesses over 43 days. The Commission finally brought a final report to the table containing its findings and recommendations to the Minister of Justice and also to the Attorney General.

Since February 3, 2000, which was the last reported death from the Starlight tours which was Lawrenece Wegner there has not been any other reports of Native men being dropped off outside in the cold. But that still does not mean that the tours have stopped, it only means that that was the last reported tour. I wouldn’t doubt the fact that tours still might be going on unreported. Other than that there hasn’t been any significant improvement in the Starlight tours for the simple reason that, aboriginals are not treated with respect from other Canadians and are seen as “lower class” people which is wrong since Canada is supposed to be the most multicultural and accepting country of all nationalities.


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