There was a gentle tone but this was not about "forgive and forget." Rather it was remember and change. Honour the memory of the victims Saskatoon Police failed to serve and protect while holding accountable the cops responsible for their deaths.
Family members and elders were present, although some elders failed to show up when they learned this was not a paid engagement. No leaders of the FSIN were present at his event in the heart of the neighbourhood the Globe and Mail dubbed "The Harlem of the Prairies". We didn't see the two members of Platoon C, Dean Hoover and Ernie Louttit, who guided reporter John Stackhouse on his tour. A composite photo provided by those who last saw Lawrence Wegner looks amazingly like Ernie.
The parking lot of the old nurses' residence is walking distance for many people and they came, either by foot or in old cars, as we did.
More than two years ago, the FSIN provided a bus to this same parking lot and we walked in the street all the way to the police station to hear speeches and assurances that such demonstrations would be held every two weeks until justice was done. That was the last vigil, until this one, which marks the beginning of poor people asserting themselves in spite of the "leadership."
A "healing" event to remember the aboriginal men found on the outskirts of Saskatoon, as well as recent victims of violence, was scheduled to take place Thursday evening on the city's west side.
The event, which was to include a candlelight vigil, drumming and prayer, was billed as "a grassroots event in the hood" by its organisers. Elders were also invited to attend.
"We call it the healing process. The victims' families will be here, and everybody will have a chance to say something in regards to the family members that were left for so long with no answered questions," said Diane Bignell, one of the organisers, in an interview prior to the event's 9 p.m. start time.
"We said it was time to start our healing journey."
In 2000, Darrell Night complained he was ejected from a police cruiser on the outskirts of the city in January, when the temperature had dipped to a frigid -22 C.
Soon after, the bodies of two other aboriginal men who had frozen to death were discovered in the same area.
Night's complaint sparked the creation of an RCMP task force and led to unlawful confinement convictions against constables Dan Hatchen and Ken Munson, who later lost their jobs.
They began serving eight-month sentences earlier this year.
This February, the province also announced a public inquiry into the death of 17-year-old Neil Stonechild -- Bignell's nephew -- who was found frozen to death in a field in the city's north industrial area in 1990. That inquiry will be held this fall.
"We are hoping that we would get justice, I guess, but we don't have (anything) against the police whatsoever," Bignell said.
"It's just that we are looking for answers and, since we're not getting any, we've decided just to move on with the future and leave it all behind us now."
Bignell said she is also looking forward to the upcoming Stonechild inquiry, "because maybe I'll get some piece of mind and some answers."
She added that the public response to Thursday's event was positive, with ceremonial tobacco, a PA system and candles being donated.
"I think people need to do this maybe every second or third month," she said.
Bignell said Thursday's event, which was to take place at 20th Street West and Avenue R South, was also held in memory of a young woman who was recently killed on Avenue H.
Last month, 21-year-old Karen Lafond was stabbed in the alley behind her home in the 500 block of Avenue H South. She was the mother of a six-month-old girl.