Saskatoon freezing deaths

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The Saskatoon freezing deaths were a series of deaths amongst Canadian aboriginal people in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. These deaths may have been caused by members of the Saskatoon Police Service, officers of which allegedly arrested aboriginal men (usually for drunkenness and/or disorderly behavior), drove them out of the city in the dead of winter, and abandoned them. The practice was known as starlight tours.[1]

Victims, who died from hypothermia, include Rodney Naistus, Lawrence Wegner and Neil Stonechild. Rodney Naistus and Lawrence Wegner died in 2000 and their bodies were discovered on the outskirts of Saskatoon. However, inquests in 2001 and 2002 into their deaths were unable to determine the circumstances. The inquest jury's recommendations all related to police policies and police/Aboriginal relations.[2] Neil Stonechild's body was found in 1990 in a field outside Saskatoon. A 2003 inquest was not able to determine the circumstances that led to his death.[3][4] In January 2000, Darrel Night was dropped off on the outskirts of Saskatoon but was able to survive. The two officers involved were convicted of unlawful confinement in September 2001 and sentenced to eight months in prison.[5]

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 a Native woman to the outskirts of the city and abandoning her there.[6]


These incidents have been addressed in two films. Darrel Night's experiences were documented in Tasha Hubbard's 2004 National Film Board of Canada documentary Two Worlds Colliding, winner of the Canada Award.[4][7] A fictional incident was also portrayed in the half-hour drama Out In The Cold, directed by Colleen Murphy and starring Gordon Tootoosis.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "New film renews community discussion about Aboriginal freezing deaths in Saskatoon". Dispatch (University of Regina). Retrieved 15 February 2010. 
  2. ^ Excerpts from Third Report of Canada on the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
  3. ^ "Who was Neil Stonechild?". CBC News (CBC). November 3, 2005. Retrieved 15 February 2010. 
  4. ^ a b Thrall, Christopher (April 7, 2005). "Justice of the police". Vue Weekly. Retrieved 15 February 2010. 
  5. ^ Brown, DeNeen L. (November 22, 2003). "Left for dead in a Saskatchewan winter". MSN. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Archived from the original on Sep 15, 2005. Retrieved 27 November 2010. 
  6. ^ "Saskatoon police chief admits starlight cruises are not new". Windspeaker (Aboriginal Multimedia Society of Alberta). July 1, 2003. Retrieved 15 February 2010. 
  7. ^ "Two Worlds Colliding" (REQUIRES ADOBE FLASH). Online film. National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved 15 September 2011. 

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