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Sask. man at centre of historic ‘Starlight Tours’ police misconduct case 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 of 2000, Darrell Night was driven out of the city by two Saskatoon police officers and abandoned without winter clothing. He survived after a power plant worker heard him knocking on the door.

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

Night agreed to tell his story publicly and to an officer who agreed to pursue the case. It ignited 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 that it was his responsibility to come forward,” said University of Alberta professor Tasha Hubbard, who featured Night in her film, Two Worlds Colliding.

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

University of Alberta professor Tasha Hubbard featured Darrell Night in her film, Two Worlds Colliding. She says it took immense courage for Night to speak publicly after he was abandoned outside Saskatoon by two police officers in January 2000. (Hot Docs)

Hubbard said it was only two decades ago, but attitudes were far different. Canadians were only beginning to listen to the stories of residential school survivors. Idle No More, Black Lives Matter and other movements didn’t exist. No one had cell phone recordings or posts on social media.

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

“He was essentially kidnapped, taken away and dropped off in the middle of an extremely cold winter night on the outskirts of Saskatoon. And having survived that trauma, he had nonetheless the wherewithal to to come forward with his story. He displayed some exceptional courage,” said Night’s former lawyer, Donald Worme.

Night died earlier this month at age 56. A wake and funeral were held at the Saulteaux First Nation located approximately 150 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon. The cause of death is not known.

Saskatoon lawyer Donald Worme says true justice for Indigenous people means much more than adding Indigenous jurors or police. It will require a complete overhaul of power structures, cultures and attitudes.
Darrell Night’s former lawyer Donald Worme says Night’s name is ‘synonymous with pushback against police misconduct in this city.’ (Jason Warick/CBC)

Worme said the overt racism within the police force and the rest of society has diminished, but there’s still a lot of work to do combating institutional racism and other forms of injustice.

“I think there’s no question that Darrell Night made a difference in the city of Saskatoon. His name is synonymous with pushback against police misconduct in this city,” Worme said.

“His passing is a sad day for, you know, not just for his family, but I think for those who who believe in the kind of justice that he advocated.”

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