Stonechild inquiry scrutinizes police preparations
SASKATOON - What Saskatoon City Police did to prepare for an inquiry into the death of Neil Stonechild was Tuesday's focus of the judicial examination into the 17-year-old's death more than 13 years ago.
Commissioner David Wright is being asked to decide whether Saskatoon police launched their own investigation to counter damaging evidence that would be revealed at the inquiry, or were they simply preparing for the hearings.
Deputy police chief Dan Wiks headed a so-called "issue team" within the police service that was set up to specifically prepare for the inquiry. However, there have been suggestions from a lawyer with the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) that the team's real mandate was damage control.
FSIN lawyer Sy Halyk asked Wiks why the team began its first meeting by discussing how it would gather information about Neil Stonechild's background and family?
"The reason you wanted to know about Neil Stonechild's parents and siblings and that he dropped out of Bedford Road School, was in preparation for your department to give evidence here today," he asked Wiks? The deputy chief responded yes.
Minutes of the team's meetings show police planned to offer paid leave to the two constables who are suspected of having been in contact with Stonechild the last night he was seen by anyone.
The plan was to send constables Brad Senger and Larry Hartwig home and tell the media and public that the two were reassigned to the community service branch. The two police officers were eventually put on paid leave.
Halyk's questioning was interrupted a half dozen times by lawyers for the police, the police union and those representing Senger and Hartwig.
It was argued that what police did to prepare for the inquiry is irrelevant, but the Commissioner disagreed and allowed the line of questioning to continue.
On Monday, Justice Wright asked to review unedited versions of the minutes from the so-called police "issues team" to determine what could be allowed into testimony.