In February of 2000, Darrell Night was taken on a &#0147starlight tour&#0148 bySaskatoon City police officers Ken Munson and Dan Hatchen. Wearing only a jean jacket, Night was dropped off at the outskirts oftown in minus 40-degree weather. He would have frozen to death if notfound by an employee at a power plant.

Lawrence Wegner and Rodney Naistus were two Aboriginal men found deadnear the outskirts of town, weeks before Nightâe(TM)s incident. Further investigations have now found that other Aboriginal men were also victims of the police force.

The Saskatoon Police Force was accused of racism and the relationshipbetween the Aboriginal community and the police has been severely tarnished.

Munson and Hatchen were sentenced to eight-month prisonterms.

Joy Desjarlais is Nightâe(TM)s aunt and she recently wrote the self-publishedbook, The Right To Remain Silent: A Night To Remember. rabbleinterviewer, Leisha Grebinski spoke with Desjarlais about her familyâe(TM)shealing journey.

Grebinski: Why did you decide to write the book?

Desjarlais: There was a lot of things that were said about the situation. In the end, I wanted to put some truth to it. I wanted to be able to say exactly what happened. I think that sometimes people get misconceptions about what a person is like and I wanted to just bring Darrellâe(TM)s personality to life and what kind of person he is. I also wanted to leave a legacy behind for Lawrence Wegner and Rodney Naistus so that people wouldnâe(TM)t forget about them.

Grebinski: Before Darrell was taken to the outskirts of town, what was your opinion of Aboriginal/police relations?

Desjarlais: I had heard stories about police abusing their position of authority. From my own experiences, I always felt that in some situations it must be really hard for them to deal with people who are drunk or on drugs, or violent and aggressive. I kind of have to look at their side too and how they deal with things. But, you know, what happened to Darrell was way beyond that. It was definitely police brutality. I guess I kind of distanced myself from all of the rumours

Grebinski: What is the relationship between Aboriginals and the police now?

Desjarlais: Because Iâe(TM)m more in the public eye now, people are more willing to talk to me. Iâe(TM)m hearing the same thing from a lot of different people that thereâe(TM)s still a lot of fear. When they see police drive by, their heart starts to beat real fast. But what I was trying to get across in my book is that that fear shouldnâe(TM)t be there. Because there are so many police officers doing their jobs and they are doing them well. And I think that the feelings within the Native community are that they will never change until justice has been done.

Grebinski: Do you think Darrellâe(TM)s story would have been told if the other two bodies had not been found?

Desjarlais: I think that the publicity about the case would have been the same because it was just a really horrible, horrible act. And he could have still died out there. That was the question that I asked in my book&#0151whether it would have made a difference. And I really believe it wouldnâe(TM)t have. I believe that the story would still have made the impact that it did and made the headlines so to speak. And I think that the other two bodies that were found out there were just a confirmation&#0151a proof of the seriousness of the situation.

Grebinski: What action was taken after Darrellâe(TM)s case was made public?

Desjarlais: What was decided was that a commission would be formed to talk about justice issues. Itâe(TM)s a three-year project and it is coming up with recommendations on what should happen in the future with situations like this. And also to document all cases that have been happening. They have been dealing with cases on an ongoing basis since this happened to Darrell.

The RCMP had set up a hotline, but hardly anybody called. I mean, why would you call and report something to the RCMP when things are happening by the police? As soon as the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) started the hotline, they were just flooded with calls. Just hundreds and hundred of calls. They had it for a year but it was stopped due to a lack of funding.

Grebinski: Did the family receive any support from the FSIN?

Desjarlais: Darrell received quite a bit of support. Immediately after the story came out, there were a lot of death threats and he was hidden away in a hotel for a while. So, his court appearance and things like that were taken care of. Fourth Vice-Chief Lawrence Josef was the main speaker from the FSIN. He wanted the two police officers fired immediately. However, our leaders were not in court and that is something that I need to confront the FSIN about.

Grebinski: When the two officers asked for the sentencing circle, what was your reaction to that?

Desjarlais: I was appalled. A sentencing circle is meant for healing and reconciling. And your heart has to be in the right place. You have to want to be reconciled; you accepted responsibility for what youâe(TM)ve done and youâe(TM)ve admitted to what youâe(TM)ve done. And these police officers never did that. It was like they were making a mockery of the ceremony.

They were doing the jury selection, and I think there had been a few Native people that had been selected, but they were let go immediately and it was an all-white jury. Just before the sentencing circle request, they brought that up, but they werenâe(TM)t concerned the day of the jury selection. But it was a little too late to be bringing that up. I think they could have tried a little bit harder to get some Native people on the jury.

Grebinski: What type of reform do you hope to see in the justice system for aboriginal people?

Desjarlais: Well, this whole thing seemed to be expected. You canâe(TM)t get upset about anything anymore because we just are like, âe~well we should have expected that from them, from the justice department.âe(TM) Everything, right from having the police officers on the force. How come they weren’t weeded out long ago? How did they ever get into the force if they had that kind of attitude and that kind of ability to do something like that?

And then, with the way things were run in the courts. It just seemed like we were all there watching a show and we werenâe(TM)t a part of it. We werenâe(TM)t able to do anything about it. In the end we just had to sit and accept whatever they decided, which was eight months.

Nobody is surprised about the eight months. Thatâe(TM)s just the way it is. A lot of people say that if it had been two Native guys that did it to a police officer, it would have been a different story.

Another reason why I wrote this book is, I hope people will start writing and phoning to give me ideas so I can go and take them to our leaders and say, here are some suggestions and I hope you can follow up on them.

What we are doing right now is talking about it, making people aware of how it has affected us and how much it has hurt us and that Darrell didnâe(TM)t deserve this. He wasnâe(TM)t in a position where he was calling this on himself or anything. I think the more we talk about it, the faster our healing process is going to start. And I think our Native people need to be more unified and more supportive and I think that we can stand by each other when things like this are happening.

Maybe we need to have people where their job is to sit in court alongside the family or to have someone sit in court and make sure things are done in a proper manner.

Grebinski: What kind of conclusion did you reach by writing the book?

Desjarlais: I donâe(TM)t think there will ever be closure until Munson and Hatchen are given what they deserve for what theyâe(TM)ve done. With them walking around free, and working, itâe(TM)s hard to see that. They should be behind bars and an example should be set of what happened. I can imagine their fear of having to go to jail because they will be going to a jail full of Native people. And I know they have received jail threats from inside jail. I hope they donâe(TM)t get hurt but I still think they need to experience what jail is like.

I feel that Darrell and I, and our family were chosen for a reason, despite all the hurt and the anger. We come from a really outspoken family and now we have to direct all that energy into something positive. I believe God allowed this to happen to our family so that we could turn it around and make something good of it, to be able to speak out on behalf of Native people and to forgive Munson and Hatchen.

Grebinski: Do you have any future projects in mind?

Desjarlais: I am planning on going to Manitoba to do a book on Helen Betty Osbourne. She was walking home from a party when five non-native men gang raped her and killed her. They sought council from a lawyer who told them to take an oath of silence, so they did for years even though everyone in the town knew who did it. They were eventually tried and sentenced and there was a movie done and a book, but the one I am doing is from her familyâe(TM)s eyes. It will be more of a legacy for Helen Betty Osbourne and her family.

I am also planning on going to Vancouver regarding the five Native women who were killed, again by a white man. They even had a picture of this man lying in bed with a dead woman, smoking a cigarette, and it was the police who took the picture. But then a white woman was killed by him, in the same way, and he was charged and is now sitting in jail. But, to this day, he has never been charged for the other womenâe(TM)s deaths.