Stonechild inquiry halted
The inquiry into the freezing death of aboriginal teenager Neil Stonechild outside Saskatoon 13 years ago has run into a legal problem.
The inquiry has been adjourned and may be stopped for days or weeks after the commissioner denied a request from a key witness for full standing at the hearing.
The inquiry was called after allegations Stonechild was taken by Saskatoon police to a remote field north of the city in freezing weather, possibly beaten, then left to die.
Jason Roy, the man who says he last saw Neil Stonechild in the back of a police cruiser, bleeding, handcuffed and pleading for his life, has only been allowed legal representation while he's actually on the witness stand.
His testimony has been key to the inquiry.
Last week Justice David Wright granted full standing to a retired Saskatoon police sergeant scheduled to testify this week. That prompted Roy's lawyers to ask for the same status.
Full standing means Roy's lawyers would be allowed to question all witnesses. It would also mean the inquiry would pay his legal fees.
But on Wednesday Justice Wright turned down that request.
Roy's lawyers asked that the inquiry stop until they can appeal the ruling. However Wright rejected that request. He also adjourned the inquiry so he could prepare written reasons for his ruling.
John Parsons, one of Roy's lawyers, says he will appeal both rulings in an attempt to stop the inquiry. "We would be seeking a writ of prohibition to stop the proceedings and another writ of mandamus that would order this proceeding to grant Jason Roy full standing and funding," he said.
Parsons says Roy's testimony has already been questioned and denied by a number of police witnesses and his credibility is at risk. He says if police witnesses continue to testify while Roy waits for the outcome of an appeal his reputation could be damaged beyond repair.