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Canada's Apartheid, by John Stackhouse
  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)


Sentencing bid sparks anger among natives


Wednesday, October 31, 2001
Saskatoon, SK

In a surprise move yesterday, the lawyers for two white ex-police officers convicted of dumping a native man in the freezing cold requested a native sentencing circle, to the dismay of many in Saskatoon's aboriginal community.

It's yet another twist in a protracted and acrimonious case. Native leaders say it breaches the spirit of sentencing circles, an aboriginal model of meting out justice, and puts them in the uncomfortable position of resisting a solution they often prefer for their own people.

"It actually blindsided us, we never considered it an option. I thought it was a joke, and somebody was trying to pull my leg," said Lawrence Joseph, vice-chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations. "I was shocked. . . I have some serious doubts as to whether their motives are honourable."

But the lawyer for Darrell Night, who was abandoned by constables Dan Hatchen and Ken Munson several kilometres from his Saskatoon home on a frigid evening in January, 2000, simply called it "curious." Donald Worme said yesterday that Mr. Night will consider working on a sentencing-circle plan with the officers and their lawyers.

"Darrell is tired of the notoriety and the stress that he has experienced. He wants healing, as much as these two individuals do, despite their failure to own up to their scandalous conduct," Mr. Worme said yesterday.

A sentencing circle is a form of restorative justice that brings together the victim, the offender and community members chosen by each side for a day-long session in which they must reach an agreement on what reparations the offender should make to the victim and the community and what other punishment is warranted. A judge mediates the circle and makes a final decision based on the circle's recommendations.

Yesterday, Mr. Justice Eugene Scheibel of the Court of Queen's Bench gave the officers' lawyers, Bill Roe and Morris Bodnar, until Nov. 23 to reach a consensus with the victim on a plan for the sentencing circle before he would agree to proceed.

According to Ross Green, a lawyer based in Melfort, Sask., and author of a book on aboriginal justice, sentencing circles have been used on a few other occasions to bring non-aboriginals to justice.

"The goal is changing somebody's life, rehabilitating them and turning them around," he said. "If there is no remorse on the part of the offender, it raises the question of whether it's the right way to go."

Yesterday, Mr. Bodnar said the officers would not give up their right to appeal the original conviction even if they go ahead with the sentencing circle. "We are saying we agree on particular facts of the case but that there was no crime committed," he said.

Yesterday's proposal by the officers' lawyers further delays closure in the case of the veteran Saskatoon police constables. They were convicted of unlawful confinement of Mr. Night by an all-white jury in September but acquitted of charges of assault against him. Both Mr. Hatchen and Mr. Munson were fired by Saskatoon Police Services on the day of the guilty verdict.

But that failed to fully repair the considerable rift between Saskatoon aboriginals and the police.

Within a week of Mr. Night's abandonment in the winter of 2000, two other natives -- Rodney Naistus and Lawrence Wegner -- were found in the same area frozen to death.

An 18-member RCMP task force investigation concluded that the two subsequent deaths were not related to police actions. But it is a version of events many in the native community do not buy.

And while the officers' lawyers argued to use the sentencing circle as a "healing tool" in one courtroom yesterday, an inquest into Mr. Naistus's death got under way in a larger courtroom upstairs. Yet another inquest, into Mr. Wegner's death, is scheduled for January, and a Saskatchewan provincial commission investigating how the justice system treats aboriginals is slated to begin soon.

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



photo essays
Two worlds - photo essay

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