Freezing Deaths of Indigenous People in Saskatchewan

The freezing deaths of Indigenous men in Saskatchewan resulted from an unethical and illegal practice by the Saskatoon Police Service in which Indigenous men were picked up at night and dropped off outside of the city limits. This was often done in winter, and the men were left with inadequate clothing for the sub-zero temperatures. This practice came to light after one man, Darryl Night, survived being dropped off and filed a complaint. It was only after Darryl Night came forward that the deaths of Neil Stonechild, Rodney Naistus, and Lawrence Wegner were deemed suspicious. Because of existing prejudice within the police force against Indigenous people, it was assumed that these men had gotten drunk and wandered off into the night, resulting in their freezing deaths. When Darryl Night came forward with his complaint, it triggered a public outcry for an independent inquiry into the deaths of Stonechild, Naistus, and Wegner. The two officers implicated in the Darryl Night case ultimate were found guilty of unlawful confinement and were fired from the police force and sent to jail for a minimal sentence. The Wright Inquiry into the death of Neil Stonechild turned out to be damning for the Saskatoon Police Service. It found that their initial investigation was superficial and completely inadequate. Justice Wright also determined that Stonechild was in fact in the care of the police the night of his death and they were ultimately at fault for his death, though no officers were formally charged. The inquiries into the deaths of Naistus and Wegner were not as telling, as there was no evidence to prove that they had in fact been in the care of the police on the nights of their deaths.

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The freezing deaths of Indigenous men in Saskatoon highlights the strained relationship that existed between the Saskatoon Police Service and the Indigenous community. Many Indigenous people reported to the special investigator appointed by the FSIN that they were fearful of the police and did not feel comfortable reporting any concerns out of fear that their claims would not be taken seriously. The relationship between the Saskatoon Police Service and the Indigenous people of Saskatoon was extremely problematic because a large portion of the population was becoming skeptical and untrusting of those who are tasked with their protection. This is a direct result of colonial ideologies of racial superiority. Many Indigenous people in Saskatoon are centralized to one location and the area in which they live is associated with poverty. They are viewed as troublemakers within the community, creating frustration within the police force. This is a problematic view because it perpetuates the colonial stereotype that caused Indigenous people to fall into situations of poverty in the first place.
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