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Inquiry into freezing death of Neil Stonechild

Lawyers poke holes in Roy's testimony

Neil Stonechild

The man who says he saw an aboriginal teenager being taken away in the back of a police car said under cross-examination Thursday it was too dark for him to see whether the driver wore glasses or had a mustache.

Police lawyers spent all of the fourth day of a public inquiry into the 1990 freezing death of Neil Stonechild trying to discredit the story of Stonechild's friend, Jason Roy, who maintains that he last saw Stonechild being taken away in the back of a police car, with blood on his face, handcuffs on his wrists and screaming that the police were going to kill him.

Roy has already testified he saw the driver on other occasions, once on a city bus, where the officer stared at him until he got off, and once at a youth centre, where Roy said he could see the man was over six feet tall, wore glasses and had a mustache.

When Jay Watson, lawyer for Const. Bradley Senger, who has standing at the inquiry, asked Roy what made him think the man he saw on the two subsequent occasions was the driver from the night Stonechild went missing, Roy replied: "Because I knew that person was an officer."

Senger was a suspect in the 2000 RCMP task force investigating the Stonechild death.

The task force also looked into the possibility police had abandoned other Native men on the outskirts of the city in freezing weather. Senger was never charged.

Another Saskatoon police constable who was a suspect in that investigation, Larry Hartwig, also has standing at the inquiry. He is represented by lawyer Aaron Fox.

Jason Roy

Watson questioned how Jason Roy (right) could see that Stonechild had a "deep gash" on his nose if he was in the same dark car as the police officer Roy couldn't see.

Roy said he paid more attention to Stonechild, who had his face so close to the car window his breath was fogging the glass, and that the officer remained behind the steering wheel, sometimes turning to the on-board computer.

Roy acknowledged he didn't actually see any handcuffs on Stonechild but assumed he was wearing them because he kept his hands behind his back.

He also acknowledged that he may have filled in the blanks in his memory in his efforts to remember details of that night.

He admitted he regularly abused alcohol at the time.

Roy also fielded questions for the second day about a statement he signed which appears to clear the police of wrongdoing. Roy has said the statement was made under duress and that the date which appears on the document is three weeks before the day he actually made the statement.

Watson grilled Roy on whether he dated the document and seized on what sounded like a slip of the tongue in which Roy said the officer asked him "to sign and date" it. Though Roy immediately corrected himself and declared he was simply told to sign the statement, Watson persisted in the questioning.

"So 20 seconds ago you were mistaken?" Watson demanded.

"You're making this up as you go along, aren't you?" Watson said. Stonechild's brother in the back of the room emitted an expression of indignation and left the room.

The statement is dated Nov. 30, 1990. Stonechild's frozen body was found Nov. 29.

Roy wrote in the statement that he last saw Stonechild walking around some apartment buildings. He made no mention of Stonechild being in a police cruiser.

Roy said he wrote it in an interview room at the police station after being arrested on another offence. He said an officer asked him if he wanted to reconsider an earlier statement about the night Stonechild disappeared, then left him alone with a blank form.

Roy said Thursday he had forgotten making that statement until it was brought to his attention during the 2000 RCMP investigation.

Roy has said he had previously given a statement to a plainclothes officer at a house in the days after Stonechild's funeral, which included the account of Stonechild in the police car. He said he never heard anything more from police about that statement until Dec. 20, 1990 when he was arrested and asked to reconsider.

Roy couldn't say if the officer at the police station was the same as the one who took the statement at the house, because, although the interview at the house lasted about two hours, he sat side by side with the officer as they talked.

The three police lawyers who cross-examined a weary-looking Roy also posed questions suggesting another youth may have played a role in Stonechild's death.

Stonechild had previously been subpoenaed to testify against the youth at a trial that fell through before he testified. Also, that fall, the youth had beaten Stonechild with the butt end of a shotgun in a dispute over stolen guns.

That person's name cannot be published under provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Stonechild's and Roy's name can be used because the usual ban on their names was lifted for the inquiry.

Roy said he first talked to the other youth about Stonechild's death about eight years later.

Roy said the man wanted to know if Roy had said anything to anybody about him being involved.

"I said I had no reason to. . . . He seemed interested," Roy said.

Drew Plaxton, lawyer for the Saskatoon Police Association, pressed Roy on just how interested the man was in the topic, repeating the question until inquiry commissioner Justice David Wright stopped him, saying Roy had answered the question.

Roy "absolutely" denied being afraid of that youth. He said he never suspected that youth had been involved in the death.

He denied being influenced by the youth or his friends to say they weren't involved.

"I had no reason to. I never saw him that night," Roy said.

Plaxton also quizzed Roy about his fear of the police and drew attention to Roy's previous statement that he has never been afraid to talk about what happened to Stonechild.

"I'm not afraid to say what I have to say but that doesn't change the fact I'm afraid of the police," Roy said.

The day began with Silas Halyk, lawyer for the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, suggesting records about Roy police disclosed to the inquiry were incomplete because they inexplicably failed to mention an Oct. 24, 1990 probation order made by a provincial court judge.

Halyk said he had to go to background documents to find the order and suggested that Fox owed Roy an apology.

Fox retorted that the terms of the probation were included in the police document and said he took offence at Halyk's suggestion.

Wright said he would note that the two lawyers had "scolded each other" and asked if the hearing could continue. The remark was met with chuckles and the Fox resumed his questioning in a lighter, friendlier tone.


'I lied for my life': friend
Lawyer probes inconsistencies in 1990 statement

A signed statement that appears to clear police of wrongdoing in the 1990 freezing death of Neil Stonechild became the focus of questions at the commission of inquiry looking in the matter Wednesday.

Jason Roy, the man who wrote and signed the statement, said the document was full of half truths and lies written to appease the police because he was afraid of them.

Roy also said he made the false statement three weeks after the date which appears on the two-page, handwritten police document.

In cross-examination, lawyer Aaron Fox, who represents former suspect Const. Larry Hartwig, confronted Roy with the statement and grilled him on inconsistencies in details of his account.

Roy, who was 16 at the time, said he wrote the statement declaring he last saw Stonechild after they argued while trying to find a friend and that he blacked out until the next morning.

The statement makes no mention of seeing Stonechild in the back seat of a police cruiser with blood on his face and screaming, "they're gonna kill me."

Roy said he wrote that false statement on Dec. 20, three weeks after Stonechild's body was found in the city's remote north industrial area, not on Nov. 30, 1990, which is the date on the statement.

Roy said the first statement he actually gave to police did include the incident in which a police car stopped him as he returned to a house where he had been drinking with Stonechild earlier in the evening: that a police car pulled out of an alley and stopped him; that Stonechild was in the back seat with blood on his face, handcuffed and screaming that police were going to kill him.

Roy told commission lawyer Joel Hesje he had arranged to tell the real story shortly after to a police officer on the condition he not be arrested for being on the run from a community home for young offenders.

Roy met with an officer, whose name he doesn't remember, one evening shortly after Stonechild's funeral. He made sure two friends were present at the house on Avenue P and 11th Street because he was afraid to be alone with the police, he said.

The officer wrote the account as Roy talked. The interview lasted about two hours and resulted in a statement that Roy thought was three to six pages long.

The plainclothes officer said he would look into the matter and get back to him. He never did.

Roy said he was arrested three weeks later, taken to the police station and placed in an interview room. A police officer asked him if he wanted to reconsider his previous statement, gave him a blank form and told him to write what he remembered from the night Stonechild disappeared.

"My birthday was two days later. I wanted to see it," Roy said.

"I felt I was in a position, a place, I did not feel safe. I lied for my life," Roy said.

Roy said he didn't have any other contact with police until months later, after he had told Stella Bignell he had seen her son in a police car the night he disappeared.

Days after telling Bignell the account, Roy said he went to the police station and asked to speak to two homicide detectives. He said he gave two men in plain clothes his story, that "they took a couple notes" and said they would get back to him.

Roy never heard from them again, either, he said.

In July 2000, when an RCMP task force was investigating the possibility police had that winter abandoned several aboriginal men on the city's outskirts, Roy repeated his story to RCMP Const. Jack Warner.

In that account he said Stonechild was angry at him when Stonechild was in the police car. He said he made no mention of Stonechild being afraid, as he has testified at the inquiry, because he was skeptical about police investigation techniques.

"I've been scared for a long time," he said.

"The minute I knew Neil was dead, the circumstances just didn't sit well with me."

Roy said his fear was fuelled by incidents in which he thought he saw the driver of the police car watching him and other incidents in which people he could not identify seemed to be following him.

One time when he went to meet a reporter at a restaurant, two men watched him go in and then sat at the table directly behind him in the otherwise empty restaurant. When he left, the two men also left minutes later.

On another occasion, his common-law wife was arrested but released without any charges being laid, Roy said.

Further details of that arrest will be described by the woman, who is scheduled to testify later in the inquiry.

In cross-examination, Fox asked Roy how long he had had an alcohol problem.

"Since before I was born," he said with a resigned tone.

He said he was born into an alcoholic family and had been drinking since he was about 13.

In 1990 Roy, who is 5-foot-9, weighed about 120 pounds.

He said he and Stonechild drank most of a 26-ounce or 40-ounce bottle of vodka before they went out in a blizzard to try to visit a friend at a nearby apartment complex.

Fox questioned Roy on his time estimates of events of Nov. 24, zeroed in on inconsistencies in details and pumped him on the solidity of an answer qualified by a "probably."

He grilled Roy on why he only recently began describing Stonechild as looking scared in the police car when he used to say Stonechild looked angry.

And though Roy had so far only told the inquiry he and Stonechild went out that night to find Lucille Horse at a nearby apartment, he admitted to Fox that they could also have intended to commit a break-in to obtain more alcohol.

At one point, Fox used Justice Department documents to demonstrate that Roy was not unlawfully at large from a community home for young offenders as he has said. Roy has said he lied to police about his identity when Stonechild was in their car because he didn't want to be picked up too.

When FSIN lawyer Silas Halyk stood up and pointed out that Roy was in breach of a probation order, which would have given him reason to give a false name to police, people in the hotel meeting room where the inquiry is being held murmured expressions of satisfaction.

Fox also showed that Roy was arrested again on Dec. 28 of that year and twice in January 1991, contrary to his previous statements.

Fox will continue to cross-examine Roy today.

Roy could also be cross-examined by lawyers for another former suspect -- Const. Bradley Raymond Senger, the Saskatoon Police Service, the Saskatoon Police Association, the Bignell family and his own lawyer.


Bloodied teen seen in cop car: inquiry

When Jason Roy saw his friend Neil Stonechild in the back seat of a Saskatoon police cruiser on a snowy night 13 years ago, it never occurred to him his friend was in any danger, Roy told the commission of inquiry looking into Stonechild's 1990 freezing death.

"He was very irate. He was freaking out, saying 'Jay, help me. These guys are gonna kill me.'

"He had fresh blood on his face, across his nose . . . he had his face to the window, asking me to help him. Not for one minute did I think he was in any danger," Roy told the inquiry Tuesday.

"I thought, 'he'll go back to Kilburn Hall. I'll see him when he gets out,' " Roy said.

Roy began his testimony late in the second day of the public inquiry created to find answers to nagging questions about how Stonechild, 17, got to a field in the remote north industrial area of Saskatoon on a November night during an early winter blizzard.

Two police constables who were questioned by RCMP in 2000 as possible suspects in Stonechild's death, Larry Hartwig and Brian Senger, arrived at the hearing shortly after Roy took the stand. It was the officers' first appearance at the inquiry, which began Monday.

Family and friends have flatly rejected the police theory that the Cree youth had died from hypothermia while trying to turn himself in at the adult correctional centre a few blocks from the place where his body was found.

Stonechild was unlawfully at large from a community home for young offenders where he was serving a six-month sentence for break and enter.

Roy and Stonechild, who had known each other since serving time together in a youth detention facility four years earlier, met downtown and decided to drink together that night.

They took a bus to visit someone on the east side of the city and then returned to more familiar locations on the west side.

They took a pair of stolen leather gloves to Stonechild's older brother, Marcel, who said Tuesday he bought Neil a bottle of vodka in exchange.

The teens went to the nearby house of Flora Binning, where they drank and played Kaiser with her, her boyfriend Eddie Rushton and a half dozen other people.

Sometime between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m., Roy and Stonechild left to walk the three blocks to an apartment complex where a girlfriend of Stonechild's was babysitting.

They stopped to warm up at the 7-Eleven across the street from their destination, and then went to the apartment complex where they buzzed various suites looking for the girl.

Roy said he and Stonechild were separated in the dark snowstorm as they walked between the buildings and he went back to the convenience store to warm up before returning to the Binning residence.

A block from the house, a police cruiser with Stonechild in the back seat pulled in front of him from an alley.

As Stonechild screamed at him to help him, Roy answered the police questions by lying about his identity. While police waited for a computer check on the fake identity, the officer driving asked Roy if he knew the guy in the back seat.

"I said 'no.' I didn't want to be in that car with them," Roy said.

As police drove away, southbound on Confederation Drive, Roy saw Stonechild looking out the back window of the cruiser.

"He was staring at me. He just looked scared. He just looked very, very scared. I thought, he'll go back to Kilburn. I'll see him when he gets out."

Roy returned to the Binning house. He never saw Stonechild alive again.

Roy's testimony will continue today.

Earlier in the day, Marcel Stonechild told the inquiry he has long blamed himself for his brother's death because he had provided the alcohol for the youth that night.

Stonechild said two parallel cuts on his brother's face at the funeral home looked like they'd been caused by handcuffs and the scrapes on his wrists were consistent with that.

Stonechild said he immediately declared his suspicion to his mother and other family members.

Lawyers for Hartwig and Senger questioned Stonechild's assertion, highlighting contradictory information from his mother, Stella Bignell, who said she didn't have reason to suspect police until months later when Roy came and told her what he had seen.

The family focused on Neil's fear of another youth who had beaten him up in previous weeks over some stolen firearms.

Stonechild downplayed the possibility of that youth's involvement. After hearing of a rumour that the youth may have been responsible, Marcel Stonechild said he sought out the youth.

"I wanted him to tell me himself that he didn't do it," Stonechild said.

Senger's lawyer, Jay Watson, also focused on an inconsistency in Stonechild's description of the beating the youth had inflicted on Neil. In an earlier statement to RCMP, Marcel had described a "pretty bad" beating with the butt end of a shotgun.

Stonechild maintained he believes the youth's denial of involvement because the youth was a longtime friend of the Stonechild brothers and loved Neil despite the fight over stolen property.

The youth, whose name has not been included on a list of witnesses may yet be called to testify, said commission lawyer Joel Hesje. His name is protected by the Criminal Youth Justice Act.

Ernie Louttit

Stonechild had high praise for Const. Ernie Louttit, an aboriginal officer with the Saskatoon Police Service, who had tried to help the family find out more about Neil's death.

"He's like a guidance counsellor with a badge," Stonechild said.

When Louttit stopped coming to visit the family, he said he had been warned he would be reprimanded if he continued to investigate the case, which was closed.

The inquiry also heard from community home operator Patricia Pickard, who said she was never satisfied with the police investigation into the death. She had voiced her concerns to her superiors in the Department of Social Services but was strongly advised to remain silent on the matter.

Though she was frustrated by the "gag order" in 1991, Pickard dared not violate the rule for fear of losing her job keeping custody of young offenders.

Pickard threw caution to the wind in 2000, however, when she learned the RCMP intended to exclude Stonechild's death from their task force looking into the deaths of two other aboriginal men, Lawrence Wegner and Rodney Naistus, who had frozen to death on the outskirts of the city after possible contact with police.

The matter had attracted great attention because another aboriginal man, Darrell Night, said he had been abandoned by police on the city's outskirts on a January night while intoxicated.

"This is too coincidental. The pattern is too similar to Neil's. . . . Was it possible this had happened 10 years ago?" Pickard said.

Two Saskatoon police constables, Dan Hatchen and Ken Munson were convicted of forcible confinement in the case and sentence to eight month jail terms.

Public inquests were held in the other cases but no charges were laid in either case.

Pickard said she called aboriginal lawyer Don Worme to talk about her concerns instead of the police or the RCMP because she didn't know who she could trust.

Pickard took Worme's advice and talked to the RCMP task force.


Mom saw bruising: Stonechild inquiry hears tearful testimony during first day

The first day of a long-awaited commission of inquiry into the 1990 freezing death of a Cree teenager quickly focused on the oddities of the case that have caused many to wonder whether Saskatoon police played a role in the death.

Neil Stonechild's frozen body was discovered in a field in the remote, north industrial area of Saskatoon on Nov. 29, 1990, five days after he'd gone missing. He was wearing jeans, a jacket and just one running shoe.

Stonechild's mother, Stella Bignell, wept as she recalled the shock of seeing the condition of his body at the funeral home. His handsome face was marred by a gash across his nose that cut toward his left cheekbone and which looked to some like a broken nose. There were bruises on his cheeks and when his sister ran her fingers through his thick, black hair, which had been inexplicably cut short, she discovered bumps on his skull.

Both wrists had skin scraped off them near the thumbs, leading Stonechild's uncle, Gerry Mason, to secretly suspect the youth had been handcuffed before his death.

During the spring following the youth's death, Stonechild's friend, Jason Roy, sought Bignell out and told her he had last seen Stonechild being taken away in the back seat of a police cruiser, bloodied and screaming that the police were going to kill him.

After the discovery of the body, the behaviour of one police officer was puzzling to Bignell. She told the inquiry that Const. Ernie Louttit, who is aboriginal, came to see her and told her he agreed with her that Stonechild did not take himself to the remote location.

According to Bignell, Louttit offered to investigate the death independently. He was not assigned to the case by his superior officers but came to Bignell's house more than once to visit.

Then one day, Bignell received a call at work from her daughter, who said Louttit had contacted her. He had wanted to talk to the two of them that afternoon at Stella's house.

Louttit never showed up for the meeting. He never returned any phone calls Bignell made to him after that. She never heard from him again.

Louttit is among the 62 witnesses who will be called during the anticipated six weeks of testimony at the inquiry.

Stonechild had been unlawfully at large from a community home for young offenders at the time he went missing, serving a six-month sentence for break and enter.

Police had theorized that Stonechild may have been intoxicated and attempting to turn himself in to authorities at the Saskatoon Correctional Centre, which is located a few blocks north of the spot where he was found.

Community home operator Patricia Pickard said she came forward in March 1991 to dispute that theory because Stonechild had phoned her earlier in the evening of Nov. 24. She had tried to convince him to return to her Sutherland home. Although he refused to turn himself in that night, he agreed to go with her if she would pick him up at his mother's house the next afternoon.

Stonechild knew guards at the adult jail would not accept him if he turned himself in there, Pickard said. He also knew he would probably not spend any time in jail if he turned himself in to her, Pickard said.

All of Monday's witnesses described Stonechild as a happy, personable youth. He had a close relationship with his mother.

Bignell and her sister, Debbie Mason, testified they were visiting at Bignell's house the night Stonechild was last seen. Both said Stonechild came to Bignell and promised her he would turn himself in to authorities after the weekend. Bignell warned him to stay inside because there was a snowstorm and the weather was very cold.

Stonechild hugged and kissed his mother before he left to join a friend who was waiting in a car outside. His family never saw him again.

Those who knew Stonechild well never believed he had walked to the field where he died.

Initial speculation involved two brothers with whom Stonechild had had an altercation a few weeks earlier, when Stonechild was trying to sell to the brothers guns stolen in a break-in.

Their names cannot be published under provisions of the Criminal Youth Justice Act.

Stonechild was afraid of one of the youths and was relieved when he was excused from having to testify against him at a trial that fell through, Pickard said.

After Bignell was quoted in a newspaper article saying she suspected a gang had been involved, the youth, whom Bignell had known for years, came to see her and promised her he had had nothing to do with Neil's death. She believed him.

Stonechild's family didn't really suspect police involvement in the early months after his death, although the possibility had been tossed around in a discussion at his wake, Pickard said.

In the days before the news of Stonechild's death, his brother had come to Bignell with a report from a friend, Eddie Rushton, that Neil had been picked up by police. Bignell said she followed up that report with a phone call to the police station. A woman there told Bignell a car had been sent out to look for Neil. The woman transferred Bignell to detention, where staff said the youth was not in custody.

In the first months after her son's death, Bignell gave no thought to that early report. She guessed that Neil had gone with a friend to visit the friend's home reserve, as he had mentioned he would like to do.

A television news report on Nov. 29 revealed a frozen body had been found, but when Bignell heard it was a man in his 30s she dismissed the possibility it could be her son. Hours later, a plainclothes officer came and told her the body found was her son.

The family still wonders why they were unable to retrieve Neil's clothing. Although police told the media in March the investigation was closed, they told the family the investigation was ongoing.

During one visit to the police station, an officer Bignell knew from her church, Eli Tarasoff, told her he believed Neil did not go to the field on his own.

Inquiry lawyer Joel Hesje advised each of the day's four witnesses that their testimony cannot be used against them in any future criminal or civil matters although they could be charged with perjury if they are found to contradict themselves.

While the commission cannot punish wrongdoing uncovered at the inquiry, the door remains open for the "proper authorities" to lay charges, said Justice David Wright, who is the commissioner of the inquiry.

Hesje outlined the case he intends to present, laying out the evidence in chronological order, including testimony from people who last had contact with Stonechild and police records showing possible police contact on Nov. 24, 1990.

Examination of the events around the discovery of the body will include interviews with police, the coroner and pathologist. Review of the police investigation will look at the chain of command and will include the testimony of numerous current and former police officers.

Their evidence will describe the policies, procedures and practices of the police service and will outline any changes that have been made.


62 people scheduled to testify at inquiry

The following is a list of witnesses scheduled to testify at the commission of inquiry into the 1990 death of Neil Stonechild.

Additional witnesses could be called to testify.


Stonechild vigil sets tone for inquiry
Vigil also remembers other aboriginal people who have gone missing

With the Neil Stonechild inquiry about to get under way, friends and supporters rallied around the dead youth's family to share their grief and anger.

The emotion was palpable at a candlelight vigil held Saturday in memory of the 17-year-old Stonechild -- who succumbed to hypothermia on the outskirts of Saskatoon in November 1990 -- and in memory of dozens of aboriginal people who have gone missing or were murdered over recent decades. Among the 175 or so people gathered in the parking lot of St. Paul's Hospital, there were many tears and raised voices. There was little laughter.

Stella Bignell, Stonechild's mother, seemed nearly overcome with grief at times during the day. With her relatives propping her up on either side, Bignell told The StarPhoenix she hopes the inquiry will mean that justice will finally be done.

"One way or another they've gotta find out. One way or another they're gonna have proof," she said, before breaking into tears.

Neil Stonechild's sister, Erica Stonechild, said although the weeks ahead will be difficult for her mother, the inquiry is nothing compared to the feelings of sorrow and helplessness her mother has felt during the last 13 years.

Bignell had long felt there was something suspicious with her son's death. Stonechild's body was found in a field in the north industrial area of town after he had gone missing for five days.

A police investigation at the time concluded an intoxicated Stonechild had died while trying to walk across the city to turn himself in at the correctional centre, because he had unlawfully left a group home where he was serving a sentence for break and enter.

In 2000, an allegation by Darrell Night, another Cree man, that he had been picked up by police while intoxicated and abandoned in a field by the Queen Elizabeth power station on the outskirts of Saskatoon led to an RCMP task force looking into other complaints.

Rodney Naistus and Lawrence Wegner, two other aboriginal men with histories of substance abuse, were found frozen to death in the same area around the same time as Night.

Constables Dan Hatchen and Ken Munson were found guilty of forcible confinement in the Night case, but no charges have been laid in any of the other cases.

Mark Ewart, who supplied water to Saturday's memorial and candlelight vigil from his neighbouring home, said Stonechild's inquiry should only be the beginning.

"The inquiry needs to get at the whole system," he said while helping to light more than a dozen tiny candles on his deck Saturday evening.

Ewart said he was disappointed he hadn't seen any police officers at the event, which was organized by activists John Melenchuk and Richard Klassen.

Years of unequal social conditions and racial tension have led to a "them-against-us" mentality between Natives and the police, said Equal Justice For All founder Mildred Kerr. Both sides have tried to make scapegoats of each other and it needs to stop, she said.

Jason Roy, who may have been one of the last people to see Stonechild alive, attended the vigil and said there should be more events like it to expose the "government whitewash.

"No one listens and no one wants to listen," he said in an interview.

Neil Stonechild has become a rallying point over all unsolved deaths involving aboriginal people, like Quentin Ermine's father Robin Ermine, who was murdered in 1987. Quentin Ermine joined members of the Naistus and Wegner families Saturday to remember their dead.

Amid the grief and anger, Stonechild's cousin Angel Cloud was able to find hope that the teen's death will bring justice for others.

"His death wasn't in vain. Something is going to come out of it," she said in an interview. "It's going to change Native people from here on in for the rest of our lives. We can't turn a blind eye to it anymore."

Shelley Cote, who attended the vigil with her nine-month-old son John, was also looking to the future.

"What's happening here with the cops . . . I hope this comes to a stop because this could happen to our children, too," she said.

The inquiry begins today at the Radisson Hotel and is scheduled to take place in various Saskatoon locations until Oct. 23.

POLYGRAPH RESULTS RULED INADMISSIBLE:

The results of a polygraph test are inadmissible in the Stonechild inquiry, a judge ruled last week.

Inquiry commissioner Justice David Wright was asked to rule whether testimony obtained using a lie detector, or polygraph machine, would be heard during the inquiry into the 1990 freezing death of Neil Stonechild, a 17-year-old Cree teen. It will hear evidence from 62 witnesses, including at least one who took a polygraph test.

Wright said results of a polygraph test are not relevant when determining a witness's credibility, particularly when the person who took the test is already testifying at the inquiry. Similarly, Wright ruled that a witness's refusal to take a polygraph test should not be used as evidence against his or her credibility.

"In the final analysis I must determine the credibility of the witnesses," he wrote in his Thursday ruling.

However, Wright mentioned that polygraph testing is a widely used investigative tool and his ruling should not be taken as a comment on the conduct of the Neil Stonechild police investigation.

continued > > > Coverage of Neil Stonechild Inquiry