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Roger Warren

Giant Mine bomber before Parole Board

Day parole was granted.

Roger Warren

The Parole Board of Canada is expected to decide today whether to release Roger Warren from prison, some 22 years after he was convicted of killing nine during a bitter dispute between workers and Giant Mine which began production in 1948 and ceased operations in 2004.

Warren, 70, has been in prison for 18 years. He has been eligible for day parole for almost four years, but this is the first time he has applied for it.

Day parole would allow Roger Warren to move from a minimum-security penitentiary to a halfway house. He would live under supervision, reporting to staff where he's going and when he will be back. It's not known where Warren hopes to live.

Members of the parole board will evaluate whether Warren poses a risk to reoffend. They're expected to question him about whether he has come to terms with past demons.

"They'll want to hear from him what are the things that allowed him to do what he did, both emotionally, psychologically. etc. He has to demonstrate that he knows what led him to commit this offence," says Patrick Storey, a spokesman for the parole board. "One of the things inmates have to demonstrate is significant and lasting change in attitude and behaviour," says Storey.

That means taking responsibility for murdering the men at Giant Mine, and convincing the parole board he has dealt with the issues that led him to set the bomb that killed them.

Storey says Warren has likely already spent time out of prison with a corrections officer on escorted visits to the community, or even unescorted temporary absences. The idea is inmates must build up their credibility to receive day parole. If day parole goes well, Warren could apply for full parole, for which he's already eligible.

Because he received a life sentence, Warren will be under some type of supervision for the rest of his life.

Families may speak at parole hearing either in person or through submitted audio or video - but the board says it cannot release whether anyone has applied.

Warren's wife, Helen, still lives in Yellowknife and works for the N.W.T. government. She declined an interview.

Warren's conviction has also been controversial because many believed he did not set the blast, or that he did not act alone. After confessing to police in 1993, Warren recanted. During his criminal trial, he maintained it was a false confession, that he had wanted to end the strike and struggled with depression.

However, nearly a decade after Warren's initial conviction, he confessed again in 2003. He said he underwent psychological testing because he hoped "to atone in some small way" and hoped the victims' families would understand their loved ones "were not targets of hate, but unfortunate victims of a reckless act."


Man thought of Warren after blast, trial hears

YELLOWKNIFE - The trial of the Giant mine civil suit continued Tuesday with evidence from the man who was Roger Warren's best friend.

Keith Murray told the trial he and Warren were long-time friends, but didn't agree on union issues Warren was convicted of murdering nine men in 1992, during the labour dispute at the mine.

The Workers' Compensation Board has filed a civil suit on behalf of the victims' families, looking for $18 million in damages.

Murray told the trial he met Roger Warren 30 years ago and they became good friends, hunting and fishing together.

In the late 1970s, Warren saved Murray from falling 200 meters into a mine shaft.

But while Warren was a loyal unionist, Murray wasn't. Murray worked through the labour dispute that started at Giant in May 1992.

He was at the mine around the clock during the first few days.

And when he tried to leave on a school bus, picketers attacked.

Murray's name appeared on lists of so-called scabs. He says his phone would ring and go dead in the middle of the night, and strikers watched his apartment.

The intimidation reached underground as well. One day he went into work and found "Stubble jumper go home" spray painted on a wall, a reference to his prairie upbringing.

Murray was one of the first at the scene of the fatal blast.

While guiding the RCMP underground, he noticed unusual boot prints near the powder magazine and followed them through the mine.

He says he thought of his friend Warren, his knowledge of the mine and of explosives.

Warren is serving a life sentence for murder.

Murray is now mining in Manitoba, deliberately choosing a mine without a union.

The civil trial is in its last week of hearing witnesses for the plaintiffs.


Legal-defence group drops Giant Mine bomber's case

A high-profile organization that supports the wrongly convicted has quietly dropped out of a case involving a man convicted in a 1992 explosion that killed nine miners in Yellowknife.

The Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted abandoned its year long investigation of Roger Warren's murder conviction without revealing specific reasons for doing so, a miners union official said yesterday.

AIDWYC helped prove David Milgaard was innocent.

Canadian Auto Workers union official Steve Peterson said that both Mr. Warren's supporters and his family were thrown for a loop by the move. "I think it's fair to say they weren't expecting AIDWYC to remove themselves so quickly," he said in an interview.

AIDWYC represents convicts it strongly feels are likely to be innocent. As part of its investigation of the Warren case, its lawyers travelled to Yellowknife, went through voluminous case files and interviewed Mr. Warren in Manitoba's Stoney Mountain penitentiary.

James Lockyer, an AIDWYC director, was close-mouthed yesterday about the reasons for dropping the case.

"We are simply saying that we didn't feel his case came within our mandate, and we are unable to help him," Mr. Lockyer said in an interview. "We investigated the case, and we have notified the Department of Justice that we are no longer involved in it."

Mr. Lockyer said the Justice Department will now resume considering whether Mr. Warren's application to have his case reopened under Section 690 of the Criminal Code is warranted.

The blast at Royal Oak Mines Inc.'s Giant Mine happened in the middle of a poisonous strike-lockout characterized by a riot and the hiring of replacement workers.

The explosion occurred 250 metres below ground in the predawn hours of Sept. 19, 1992, killing three replacement workers and six union members who had crossed the picket line.

After a lengthy investigation was conducted, Mr. Warren confessed to the crime. However, he later recanted, saying he had been clinically depressed. He claimed to have lied because it was clear that nobody would be going back to work until the killer was found.

AIDWYC's probe made headlines for weeks after it was revealed in The Globe and Mail last year, leading some to conclude that Mr. Warren's conviction was on the way to becoming one of the most notorious miscarriages of justice in Canadian history.

"AIDWYC will only deal with someone who is clearly innocent," Mr. Peterson said yesterday. "If they were to think that Roger even spoke to the people who [set the explosion], they won't deal with him at all."

When AIDWYC began its probe, Mr. Lockyer said that while confessions are popularly believed to be incontrovertible evidence, they are nowhere near that reliable.

"The fact that there is considerable detail in Mr. Warren's confession is not, itself, that significant," he said at the time. "The details were well-known, and he was an expert in explosives. He was also put under considerable police pressure."


Chronicle of nine deaths foretold

A Montreal journalist digs deep into a labour dispute that quickly turned to murder

Yellowknife Giant Mine strike

After completing his master's degree in journalism from Ottawa's Carleton University in 1991, Francis Thompson found himself banished to reporter's Siberia. His job hunt led him to Yellowknife, located about as far as you can get from big cities, big politics and, one imagines, the big story. He never would have imagined that Yellowknife, of all places, would be the setting for Canada's most acrimonious labour strike in the last 40 years--a dispute that would ultimately lead to nine deaths, a botched RCMP investigation and quite possibly the conviction of an innocent man.

On September 18, 1992 a bomb blast deep down in the tunnels of Yellowknife's Giant gold mine killed nine replacement workers. The blast was the final escalation of an extremely bitter four-month-old dispute between Giant's owner, Royal Oak Mines Inc., and the union representing Giant's 250 miners. But it was also an event that could easily have been avoided. Thompson, who now lives in Montreal, recently co-authored (with fellow Yellowknife journalist Lee Selleck) Dying for Gold: The True Story of the Giant Mine Murders, published by Harper Collins.

Once the blast occurred, the national media descended upon Yellowknife in hordes--with no idea of what they were really covering. "The national media portrayed it as a 'true crime' story--against a background of hostility that was difficult to explain, there was a psychotic individual who went on a killing rampage. It was like a cop story on TV, where the police come in and make everything right."

For the people who lived in Yellowknife, though, nothing could have been farther from the truth--and there was no mystery whatsoever to the hostility. "We [reporters in Yellowknife] had watched the situation unfold from the start," Thompson says, "and it had been predictable for a long time. No one predicted a bomb, but it was clear that the dispute was going to lead to violence.

Police began returning more and more frequently to one striker, Roger Warren. Warren had originally told them he saw two men leaving the site of the mine in the hours prior to the blast. The RCMP brought in an outside investigator to give Warren the shakedown; under pressure, he confessed to planting the explosives himself.

But as time wore on, Warren's confession was thrown into doubt; among other things, it simply didn't jibe with most of the other evidence presented at the trial. According to Dying for Gold, "the police were not interested in inconsistencies and didn't ask many questions about them. They had someone willing to take the rap and that's all they wanted." Many believe Warren sacrificed himself for the greater good in order to put an end to the dispute; it's a theory Thompson isn't willing to discard.

So who set the bomb, then? Thompson has his own suspicions, but says you'll have to piece it together from the book. For Thompson, the main issue at this point is not who did it, but how it ever happened in the first place. "If this dispute had occurred in Toronto," he insists, "it would have been over in a month."