Prominent Cree lawyer Don Worme's firm representing Brydon Whitstone family in RCMP shooting inquest

Worme says he expects at least 20 witnesses during a five-day coroner's inquest next week.

Don Worme said he expects 'upwards of 20 witnesses' during 5-day inquest next week

Brydon Whitstone, 22, was shot by an RCMP officer in North Battleford on Oct. 21, 2017. A coroner's inquest into his death will be held in Battleford Court of Queen's Bench next week. (Albert Whitstone)

The family of a Saskatchewan man who was shot by an RCMP member will be represented during an upcoming coroner's inquest by the firm of Don Worme, a prominent Cree lawyer in the province.

Lawyers working at Worme's Saskatoon firm will act as counsel to Dorothy Laboucane, the mother of Brydon Whitstone, whose death in October 2017 has remained shrouded in mystery.

Worme, a veteran of inquests, is known for representing the mother of Neil Stonechild during the Stonechild public inquiry.

Worme's firm was sought out by Whitstone's home community, Onion Lake Cree Nation, according to Jolene Carter, a justice co-ordinator at the First Nation.

What we know

An RCMP officer in North Battleford fatally shot Whitstone, 22, following a brief road chase on Oct. 21, 2017.

Authorities have said little about the altercation, except that the car Whitstone was in rammed a police vehicle and that the officer responded to Whitstone's actions that night.

Justice officials recently confirmed no criminal charges will be laid against the officer, paving the way for a one-week coroner's inquest to begin Monday at the Battleford Court of Queen's Bench building.

Critical of Sask. police probe system

Worme said his office has been pouring through "voluminous material," including the findings of Regina Police Service, which investigated the shooting.  

Saskatoon-based Cree lawyer Don Worme has been tapped to represent Whitstone's mother during the inquest. (Winnipeg Free Press)

Two days after the shooting, Worme criticized Saskatchewan for not having an independent body to investigate Saskatchewan police incidents.

Worme said that having Regina Police investigate Whitstone's shooting was a "good start" and that he welcomed the appointment of an investigation observer — typically a former cop with major crime experience.

But he added that standalone bodies to investigate police, like those in Ontario and Alberta, give "comfort to members of the public that it will be transparent, that there will be some accountability."

"We certainly have a different way of doing it in Saskatchewan. Is it the best way? I'm not convinced that it is," he said. 

'Upwards of 20' witnesses expected

Worme said he expected "upwards of 20" people to testify during the inquest, which will be run by the Saskatchewan Coroners Service and is not meant to assign legal responsibility for Whitstone's death. 

He said the officer who shot Whitstone is an "absolutely essential witness" that he expects will testify.

The RCMP has said it expects to disclose "all investigative and enforcement steps that were taken with the ultimate goal of ensuring public and officer safety."

What the passenger saw

Whitstone's passenger that night, Amanda Wahobin, has told CBC News her account of the shooting and what led up to it.

She said there was no gun in their vehicle but that Whitstone pretended to reach for something. She said a police officer shouted that Whitstone had a gun before police fired on Whitstone twice.  

It's unclear if Wahobin will testify during the inquest.

Saskatchewan's ministry of justice, which handles communication for the coroners service, wouldn't confirm if the coroner's counsel has called Wahobin to testify.

"As in a criminal trial, the media is not advised on who will be called as a witness before the inquest begins," said a spokesperson.

About the Author

Guy Quenneville

Reporter and web writer for CBC Saskatoon

Story tips, ideas, complaints, just want to say 'Hi'? Write me at guy.quenneville@cbc.ca