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Sask. man at center of historic police brutality case ‘Starlight Tours’ has died

Sask. man at center of historic police brutality case ‘Starlight Tours’ has died
Sask. man at center of historic police brutality case ‘Starlight Tours’ has died

A man who spoke out more than 20 years ago after being taken on a “Starlight Tour” by Saskatoon police has died.

In January 2000, Darrell Night was chased out of town by two Saskatoon police officers and left without his winter clothing. He survived after a power plant worker heard him knocking on the door.

The frozen bodies of two other Native men—Rodney Naistus and Lawrence Wegner—were found in the same area around this time.

Night agreed to tell his story publicly to an officer who agreed to prosecute the case, sparking a wave of firings, criminal charges and protests against a police practice known as Starlight Tours.

“He felt a deep empathy for the men who died. He felt it was his responsibility to come forward,” said University of Alberta professor Tasha Hubbard, who featured Night in her film, Two colliding worlds.

“I think people need to understand how much courage it took for him to do that.”

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Hubbard said it was only 20 years ago, but attitudes were very different then. Canadians were just beginning to listen to the stories of boarding school survivors. Idle No More, Black Lives Matter and other movements didn’t exist. No one had cell phone recordings or social media posts.

Two officers were convicted in Night’s case. Investigations into the deaths of Naistus and Wegner were inconclusive.

“He was essentially kidnapped, taken and dropped off in the middle of an extremely cold winter night on the outskirts of Saskatoon. And despite surviving that trauma, he still had the wherewithal to come forward with his story. He showed extraordinary courage,” said Night’s former lawyer, Donald Worme.

Night died earlier this month at the age of 56. A wake and funeral were held at the Saulteaux First Nation, about 150 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon. The cause of death is unknown.

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According to Worme, overt racism within the police and the rest of society has decreased, but there is still much work to be done in the fight against institutional racism and other forms of injustice.

“I think there is no doubt that Darrell Night has made a difference in the city of Saskatoon. His name is synonymous with standing up to police misconduct in this city,” Worme said.

“His passing is a sad day, not only for his family, but for those who believed in the justice he stood for.”