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Canada's Apartheid, by John Stackhouse
Stories
Introduction
  Nov. 3

Welcome to Harlem on the Prairies
  Nov. 3 (Saskatoon, SK)

Crystal's choice: The best of both worlds
  Nov. 5 (Mississauga, ON)

How the Mi'kmaq profit from fear
  Nov. 6 (Cape Breton, NS)

The healing power of hockey
  Nov. 7 (The Pas, MB)

Norma Rae of the Okanagan
  Nov. 8 (Westbank, BC)

Comic genius or 'niggers in red face'?
  Nov. 9 (Regina, SK)

Praying for a miracle
  Nov. 10 (Lac Ste. Anne, AB)

To have and to have not
  Nov. 12 (Moosonee, ON)

Trouble in paradise
  Nov. 19 (Tofino, BC)

A cut of the action
  Nov. 26 (Wabigoon, ON)

The young and the restless
  Dec. 3 (Ashern, MB)

The wireless warrior's digital dream
  Dec. 10 (Ottawa,ON)

'Everyone thought we were stupid'
  Dec. 14 (Salluit, QC)

First step: End the segregation
  Dec. 15 (Last in the series)

 

The Saskatoon Police and the frozen bodies
Officers suspended after deaths of native men


RELATED STORY

By DAVID ROBERTS
The Globe and Mail; With a report from Canadian Press
Thursday, February 17, 2000
Saskatoon, SK

It was starless and Bible black the night Lawrence Wegner disappeared, but cold enough over the next couple of days -- minus 18 degrees -- that his body was frozen solid when it was found in a stubble field on the outskirts of Saskatoon.

Depending on whom you talk to, no footprints led to the body when workers near the Queen Elizabeth II power plant found it on the morning of Feb. 3. Or there were footprints, just as there were footprints leading to the body of another aboriginal man, Rodney Naistus, whose frozen corpse was found near the power plant on Jan. 29.

Yesterday, Saskatchewan's Justice Minister ordered the RCMP to probe allegations that Saskatoon Police officers may be involved in the deaths. Two veteran Saskatoon officers have been suspended.

The developments follow a complaint Feb. 3 -- the day Mr. Wegner was found dead -- from a third aboriginal man, Darrell Night. He said officers stripped him of his jacket, threw him out of their cruiser and told him to walk back to the city in freezing temperatures.
Don Worme, Mr. Night's lawyer, said his client alleges the policemen repeatedly made racial slurs.

Saskatoon Police Chief David Scott said Mr. Night came forward "because he'd heard that a body had been found.

"There's no link at all yet," the police chief said. "We're trying to figure out if there is a link or if it's just a coincidence."

Chief Scott said he cannot identify the suspended policemen. However, sources say they are constables Ken Munson and Dan Hatchen, uniformed officers with about 18 years' experience each.

Chief Scott said the officers deny any involvement in the deaths of the two native men.

"They can understand the perception that they might have had something to do with this, but at this point we have no indication that the two events [the discovery of the bodies and the complaint of the third man] are related," Chief Scott said in an interview.

Aboriginal leaders had demanded an independent probe by the RCMP after the frozen bodies of Mr. Wegner, 30, and Mr. Naistus, 25, were found near the North Saskatchewan River south of Saskatoon.

Several police sources told The Globe and Mail yesterday that it was common knowledge among the force that some members would take unruly suspects out near the power plant and abandon them in the cold. The area is about a 10-minute walk from the outskirts of Saskatoon.

"They've been doing that for years," one source with close links to the force said. "I've never done it," that person said. "But I know of people who have. If the guy pissed them off or if they didn't have enough to lock them up, they'd take him for a drive."

Chief Scott reiterated that the officers accused by the third man were "very forthright" and that there is nothing to link them to the deaths. "I suspended these members simply because I want to maintain public trust and the trust of our aboriginal community," he told a news conference.

The police chief said prosecutors will review the facts to see whether charges are warranted. He said the officers came forward voluntarily, have been co-operative and have offered to take polygraph tests.

A source inside the department said colleagues who worked the same shifts urged the officers to come forward because suspicion had been cast on others. "The department was fingering two other guys. But the shifts got together and said you'd better fess up. The 'blue wall' went down," the source said.

Asked about this, Chief Scott said: "That's true. There was a lot of talk around the station. The two officers didn't want somebody else's name linked to this. They came in on their days off. They were very forthright."

Another police source confirmed it was known that some officers would take suspects to the outskirts of town and force them out in the cold.

"It's been going on for years. Unfortunately, this time two guys ended up dead. If it's those guys who did it, let them fry," he said. "Who I feel sorry for is the rest of the guys; it gives the whole department a bad name."

The police chief promised to keep aboriginal leaders informed of developments.

"My assurance is that if at the end of this investigation [native leaders] feel in any way that I jeopardized or neglected my duty, I will tender my resignation immediately."

Aboriginal leaders applauded Chief Scott's decision to ask for outside RCMP and Justice Department involvement.

"That's very positive," said George Lafond, vice-chief of the Saskatoon Tribal Council. "We're hoping this process gets us some answers."

Mr. Lafond said he will await developments.

"Our chiefs were very distressed to hear of the incident where a man was taken out of town and left in the cold," he said.


THIS STORY AT A GLANCE (Parts 1 to 9 plus related stories and links):


Photo Essay
On the beat


1. Welcome to Harlem on the Prairies
Ride along with Constables Jim Louttits and Dean Hoover as they arrest a regular

2. A city divided
Allegations of rampant police abuse and complaints from the force about the native community

3. To serve and protect
Two Saskatoon police officers find themselves caught between cultures and responsible to both

Reader feedback
Check out what readers had to say about Welcome to Harlem on the Prairies.
4. The Indian's cop and the cowboy
A partnership restricted to work and focused on the task at hand

5. Keeping the peace
At 3 a.m., the shift gets busy

6. The stereotypes of 20th Street
Social agencies fight against the economics of poverty
7. Division among the Chiefs
Some leaders see police as problem, others look to the system
8. Changing the face of Saskatoon's force
Recruiting natives isn't easy - they see police as 'the enemy'
9. Daylight breaks
'Policing by its very nature means force because you're making people comply'

Related stories and links
Background information and surfing opportunities


 
 

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