Header Image Sources:
Other Images: Neil Stonechild (via The Starphoenix)
"The Saskatoon freezing deaths were a series of at least three deaths of Indigenous Canadians in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in the early 2000s. Their deaths were allegedly caused by members of the Saskatoon Police Service who would arrest Indigenous people, usually men, for alleged drunkenness and/or disorderly behaviour, without cause at times. They'd then drive them to the outskirts of the city at night in the winter where they would take their clothing, abandon them, leaving them to walk home.
The practice was known as taking Indigenous people for "starlight tours" and dates back to at least 1976. As of 2020, despite convictions for related offences, no Saskatoon police officer has been convicted specifically for having caused freezing deaths.
Victims who died from hypothermia include Rodney Naistus, Lawrence Wegner, and Neil Stonechild. Naistus and Wegner died in 2000, and their bodies were discovered on the outskirts of Saskatoon. Inquests in 2001 and 2002 into their deaths determined they were due to hypothermia. The inquest jury's recommendations all related to police policies and indigenous-police relations. Neil Stonechild's body was found on November 29, 1990 in a field outside Saskatoon, which had led to an Inquiry Into Matters Relating to the Death of Neil Stonechild. The 2003 inquest could not determine the circumstances that led to his death.
In January 2000, Darrell Night was dropped off on the outskirts of Saskatoon but was able to call a taxi from the nearby Queen Elizabeth Power Station and suffered no ill effects. The two officers involved, constables Dan Hatchen and Ken Munson of the Saskatoon Police Service, claimed that they had simply given Night a ride home and dropped him off at his own request, but were convicted of unlawful confinement in September 2001 and sentenced to eight months in prison. The incident was the subject of the National Film Board of Canada documentary Two Worlds Colliding by Tasha Hubbard.
The Saskatoon police initially insisted these were isolated incidents. But in 2003, police chief Russell Sabo admitted that there was a possibility that the force had been dumping First Nations people outside the city for years, after revealing that in 1976 an officer was disciplined for taking an indigenous woman to the outskirts of the city and abandoning her there.
Between 2012 and 2016, the "Starlight tours" section of the Saskatoon Police Service's Wikipedia article was deleted several times. An internal investigation revealed that two of the edits originated from a computer within the police service. A spokesperson for the force denied that the removal of content was officially approved by the force. On March 31, 2016, the Saskatoon Star Phoenix reported that "Saskatoon police have confirmed that someone from inside the police department deleted references to "Starlight tours" from the Wikipedia web page about the police force." According to the report, a "...police spokeswoman acknowledged that the section on starlight tours had been deleted using a computer within the department, but said investigators were unable to pinpoint who did it."[ The police spokeswoman stated that the force is working to “move forward with all of the positive work that has been done, and continues to be done that came out of the Stonechild inquiry..."
— Source: The Saskatoon Freezing Deaths Wikipedia
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