'I want answers': Mother of man fatally shot 1 year ago by Sask. RCMP feasts and waits for inquest

Dorothy Laboucane and her extended family held a memorial feast and round dance Saturday in Onion Lake Cree Nation for her son Brydon Whitstone. He died in October 2017 after being shot by an RCMP officer under circumstances that remain unclear.

Brydon Whitstone died in October 2017 under circumstances that remain unclear

Dorothy Laboucane, the mother of Brydon Whitstone, who was fatally shot by a Saskatchewan RCMP officer in October 2017, sits inside Onion Lake Cree Nation's community memorialplex shortly after the one-year anniversary of her son's death. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

A year after her son was fatally shot by a Saskatchewan RCMP officer, Dorothy Laboucane still isn't any closer to knowing what led the officer to fire his weapon.

Brydon Whitstone, 22, was shot following a brief police chase in North Battleford on Oct. 21, 2017.

While justice officials recently confirmed no criminal charges will be laid against the officer, very little other information has been publicly released about what happened that night. 

A one-week coroner's inquest is scheduled to begin Dec. 3 in the Battleford Court of Queen's Bench. The RCMP says it expects to disclose "all investigative/enforcement steps that were taken with the ultimate goal of ensuring public and officer safety."

The inquiry will also test the account of that night given by Amanda Wahobin, Whitstone's girlfriend at the time and the front passenger of the SUV in which Whitstone was shot.

Laboucane said she just wants to hear the truth. 

"I want answers," she said of the autopsy results that have been shared with her. "I want to know, why did they have to shoot him twice? They didn't have to shoot him twice."

Reminders of the past

Laboucane spoke Saturday from the community hall in Onion Lake Cree Nation, located about 50 kilometres north of Lloydminster, Sask. 

As people came and went into the hall from the next-door rink, the sounds of hockey playing filtered in.

"It's kind of nice though," she said of the rink where Whitstone once skated with the Onion Lake Winter Hawks. "Well, it is nice. Because I feel like my son's just right next door, playing hockey."

Sounds from the hockey arena filtered into the hall played double duty Saturday as the site of a memorial feast for Whitstone and a post-meal round dance. Whitstone once played hockey at the arena, making it a nice fit for the day's events, said Laboucane. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

The rink brought another reminder. One of Whitstone's referees was Glenn Kelly Waskewitch, whose recent death investigation by the RCMP has sparked frustration in the community.

"Our feelings towards the RCMP are not feeling like we're being supported by them," she said. "[They're] not taking into consideration how close we are as a community."

Albert, Whitstone's father, couldn't be with Dorothy Saturday, but wrote about Whitstone, "It hurts so much when I think about him. I miss him and love him. I hope the cop that shot my son is happy. I wish I was."

Coming together to celebrate

The family's frustration took a backseat Saturday to a sacred ritual, however. Laboucane hosted a memorial feast at the hall in honour of Whitstone and Laboucane's late mother and sounding board, Agnes Naistus.

Feasts are typically held annually for the four years following the death of a Cree relative. This was the last feast for Naistus, the first for Whitstone. 

In Naistus's absence, a support network of family members and close friends has rallied around Laboucane.

Laboucane's next-door neighbour Sean Boechler, left, is married to Laboucane's close friend Caroline Chief, right. The two helped prepare the food, including a turkey, for Saturday's memorial feast. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

"They've kept me busy, they've talked to me. Tried keeping me calm," she said. "Having my family around me gives me strength."

Next-door neighbour Sean Boechler is married to Laboucane's close friend Caroline Chief. Boechler arrived at the kitchen Saturday with a turkey — filling for just one variety of sandwich meant to fuel the post-feast round dance that was expected to keep the hall hopping into the wee hours of Sunday morning.

The round dance began at around 9 p.m. Saturday and was expect to proceed into the wee hours of Sunday morning. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

"We have our morning coffees," Boechler said of Laboucane. "Just being there, letting her talk about her day, frustrations. I mean, it's a lot to get this feast going."

Laboucane rose Saturday at 9 a.m. to begin work on the mid-day meal. She didn't expect to leave the hall until 6 a.m. Sunday, after cleaning up.   

The menu, prepared fresh from the community hall kitchen, included healthy amounts of bannock, rice, mint tea, cake and moose meat soup.

Grade 8 student Cordell Chief shot the moose himself and later assisted during the feast. He also kept the fire going outside the hall. 

Grade 8 student Cordell Chief, left, assisted the lead elder during the feast and also helped keep a fire going outside the hall building. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

"I've noticed the community gathering together," said Boechler, who moved to Onion Lake from Saskatoon four years ago. "You don't find that so much [in] the hustle and bustle of city life."

'He is here in spirit'

Out of respect for the wishes of Laboucane and David Chief, the elder who led the feast, the ceremony will go undescribed here.

But Arlene Chief, Laboucane's half sister, spoke beforehand about the meal's general intent.

"Every year it's a celebration for the person that passed on," she said, adding of Whitstone, "He is here in spirit and that's what we're offering him is the food."

Whitstone's sister Tammy, left, looks over a memorial video for her late brother Brydon inside the community hall kitchen. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

"A lot of people, they have dreams, and the [deceased] come to their dreams, that they're hungry...." said Chief. "You dream of them again and they'll come to you and say thank you [for having] held this feast."

Laboucane made a similar offering to her son last Sunday — the one-year anniversary of Whitstone's death.

She went to her son's grave site, where Whitstone's ball cap rests among flowers at the bottom of his cross.  

"We gave my son what he liked to eat, which was McDonalds," Laboucane said. "And we sat and had a smoke with him and talked to him a bit. And we left.

"I felt good after that."

Laboucane visited Whitstone's grave site last Sunday - the one-year anniversary of his death. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

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