Saskatoon community calls for change in response to death of 9-year-old girl

Dozens of people gathered in downtown Saskatoon on Thursday, chanting "Justice for Baeleigh." They want the police and the city to do more in response to the death of a nine-year-old girl who was killed while crossing a street in September.

Dozens call for change in the form of criminal charges and pedestrian safety

Community members of all ages braved the cold and snow on Thursday afternoon to show support for Rochelle Dubois and her late daughter Baeleigh. (Kendall Latimer/CBC)

Dozens of people walked together through downtown Saskatoon Thursday, holding signs and chanting "Justice for Baeleigh."

They gathered in memory of Baeleigh Maurice, a nine-year-old girl who died after a truck driver hit her while she was in a marked crosswalk on 33rd Street in Saskatoon on Sept. 9, 2021. The girl had been on her way to school, pushing along her scooter.

There have been no charges laid in the case. Baeleigh's mother Rochelle Dubois has been questioning for weeks how that's possible and calling for justice. 

It's only been in the last few days when community members have matched her frustration, pushed to care by a video clip of the fatal collision that was posted on social media. 

Community members came together on Thursday to amplify calls for criminal charges, and also to call on the city to put in more safety measures for pedestrians in the area where the girl was hit. 

Dubois was not able to attend the rally on Thursday, because she's become busy meeting with people and local organizations who have reached out about Baeleigh's case, but her close friend and coworker Sarah Smokeyday was there.

"Baeleigh looked both ways. She did everything that her mommy taught her, and just knowing that people are seeing that now.… I myself can let go of something, that anger toward the community for not speaking out," Smokeyday said at the rally.

Smokeyday sat with Dubois as she watched the video of Baeleigh's death. 

"Rochelle's been carrying all this weight on her own, and it's so good to see the community finally stepping up to take a little bit of that weight off of her shoulders," Smokeyday said. "I have felt a lot of anger. I've wondered where the anger from my community was." 

Dubois shared the video clip in an effort to push the investigation into her daughter's death forward and get answers. 

Smokeyday said it shouldn't have taken the video clip going viral to get people engaged in calls for change, but now it feels like people are starting to give Baeleigh's case the attention it deserves. 

Smokeyday said Dubois told her Wednesday that she would finally be able to have a good night's sleep for the first time since her daughter died. 

"I am so relieved that we're at this point that she can finally have a little bit of calm in her world and her faith and hope renewed," she said. "This rally was to show support for Rochelle and that she's not alone." 

Sarah Smokeyday speaks at a rally organized in support of her friend, Rochelle Dubois, and in memory of Dubois's daughter Baeleigh. (Kendall Latimer/CBC)

Dubois previously told CBC that she's felt in the dark about the investigation into her daughter's death. She wrote a letter to the police chief earlier this week, explaining her frustration about inadequate communication about the case from police officers. 

"She wants to grieve, and you can't grieve without any answers," Smokeday said.

Police responded to the video, saying the collision is still under investigation and they are waiting on a toxicology report on the driver.  On Wednesday, Dubois met with Chief Cooper and outlined her concerns. 

"She phoned me last night and felt really confident that justice will be served for her daughter," Smokeday said. 

Dozens of people marched from the police station to city hall on Thursday in Saskatoon as part of a 'Justice for Baeleigh' rally. It's been four months since Baeleigh Maurice died and people are questioning why no charges have been laid. (Kendall Latimer/CBC)

Police chief Troy Cooper spoke about Dubois's concerns at the board of police commissioners meeting on Thursday. 

"I think it was clear to us after our meeting that the structures for communication that we use in serious files like that did not serve her well for a number of reasons," Cooper said. 

He said the police force has established a better way for Dubois to remain updated on the investigation into her daughter's death. 

"We heard her concerns and got a chance to learn some of the challenges that she faced when she was trying to remain informed about the case," Cooper said.

He told the board the investigation is active and has "remained a priority." 

with files from David Shield