Investigative journalist Candis McLean analyzes the circumstances surrounding the hypothermic death in November 1990 of Neil Christopher Stonechild, 17, a First Nations youth. Initially, Saskatoon police – and the coroner – determined no foul play was involved in his death. Using a historian’s approach, McLean unravels the complicated and suspiciously murky story that arose 10 years later. In 2000, suspicions that police were somehow involved in Aboriginal freezing deaths ignited a firestorm of controversy, as tabloid-like media coverage fanned out, worldwide. McLean reveals that it became a cause célèbre rife with venomous muckrakers characterizing the Saskatoon Police Service as racist.
Faced with this out-of-control controversy, the Government of Saskatchewan created a Commission of Inquiry and appointed Justice David H. Wright as its commissioner to conduct an inquiry “into the circumstances that resulted in the death of Neil Stonechild, and the conduct of an investigation into the death of Neil Stonechild, for the purpose of making findings and recommendations with respect to the administration of criminal justice in the Province of Saskatchewan.” It was an inquiry merely to determine facts.
McLean takes dead aim at the commissioner’s conclusion, open to the inference that two Saskatoon police officers transported Stonechild to the outskirts of Saskatoon and abandoned him to the peril of hypothermia. In the Afterword to this book, I analyze that devastating report.
– Wallace Gilby Craig served 26 years as judge in Vancouver’s Provincial Criminal Court, followed by six years as adjudicator with the federal Human Rights Tribunal