Publication Date: November 23, 2005:
On November 29, 1990, two construction workers found the body of 17 year old Saulteaux First Nations tribe member, Neil Stonechild. His friend, Jason Roy, last saw him in the back of a police car on November 25, 1990. The initial inquiry into his death by the Saksatoon police ruled it to be accidental and not as a result of foul play. When a surviving victim of a Starlight Tour came forward, it led to the reopening of the case in 2000 and would shine a horrible and cruel light on the practices of certain Saskatoon Police Officers and the full coverage they received of the “Blue Curtain,” a practice in which a police officer doesn’t inform on his fellow officer.
In the wake of police brutality in the United States, I see a lot of people from other countries saying “We feel for you but we can’t relate.” In Canada, we sit atop the United States and look down our noses at our seemingly less evolved neighbors. What we completely ignore when doing that is the treatment of First Nations people in Canada which, frankly, is what allowed the Saskatoon Police to go unchecked as long as they did and, maybe still do. Our First Nations people don’t have potable drinking water and scores of women go missing without the authorities taking their disappearance seriously (Go to this website for information about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls).
Starlight Tour refers to the Saskatoon Police taking mostly male member of the Indigeous community, often intoxicated, and dropping them off in the middle of nowhere. They would sometimes take their clothing, abandoning them in extremely cold temperatures. The first documented “tour” was in 1976 and continued until recently and, considering that no officer has been convicted of this offense, may still go on to this day. Indigenous people often don’t come forward probably due to the troubled relationship with the police and the knowledge that these members of the community have gone unchecked so what stops them from coming back after the person makes a report? If they do, as one man found out, there’s a good deal of victim shaming.
On that November night in 1990, Stonechild and his friend, Jason Roy, were drinking together. They parted ways and in the initial inquiry in which Roy gave a false name, he said that he didn’t remember what happened after that event. In a secondary inquiry in 2000, he said that he last saw Stonechild in the back of a police car bleeding profusely from a cut on his face and crying out to his friend for help.
The authors of Starlight Tour are not looking for cheap sentimentality. The case of Neil Stonechild, and the others who died and suffered at the hands of the Saskatoon Police, in it’s facts will inspire the reader. The authors wrote the book with cooperation from the Stonechild family and their lawyer, Donald Worme. Starlight Tour chronicles their struggle, frustration and sorrow. The goal was to expose the horror of the events and the injustice served to Neil Stonechild and other members of the indigenous community and Starlight Tour delivers.
I am delighted to report that this book was curriculum in my daughter’s Grade 11 English class. The light is shining on this subject and we can only hope that attitudes change and that events long covered by shadows and ignored come to light. We can only hope for a day where those in authority won’t victimize a marginalized community and ignore the crimes to which they’re subject. There’s a reason that serial killers tend to prey on the vulnerable and marginalized. Our hope is that one day every crime will be investigated no matter race, creed or the criminal history of the victim. And, as this book will show, even when the horrible cruelty comes to light and those responsible pinpointed, it doesn’t mean that any actual justice will be meted out.
Pick Starlight Tour up today. If you’re in Canada, this should be required reading. Value your fellow human and be aware of what is going on in your world.
Read an excerpt and buy Starlight Tour; the Last, Lonely Night of Neil Stonechild by Robert Renaud and Susanne Reber on