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Night's cousin tells his story

Article Origin


Graham Stone, Sage Writer, Moose Jaw







Page 5

When Joy Desjarlais decided to self-publish her latest book it wasn't because she couldn't find a corporate publisher. It was because the material was so important to her that she couldn't stand the thought of an editor changing it.

The Right to Remain Silent: A Night to Remember is so important to her because it's about her nephew Darrell Night. It's about the two-year ordeal that followed one cold night in January 2000 when Night was abandoned on the outskirts of Saskatoon by two city police officers.

It's about the frustration of dealing with a justice system that seems to discriminate against Aboriginal people, and it's about the sadness of the deaths of Rodney Naistus and Lawrence Wegner-two more Aboriginal men who were found frozen to death near the spot where Night had been abandoned.

For Desjarlais, the issue of injustice to Aboriginal people has been a life long personal experience. When she was six months old, the RCMP took her and her nine brothers from their home in Montreal Lake and sent them to foster homes around the province. And for years, Desjarlais had heard stories of Aboriginal friends being driven by police to the outskirts of towns and cities where they were beaten and abandoned.

So when she heard what happened to her nephew Darrell, she was compelled to write a book.

"These kinds of things have been going on for so long to my people and police officers have been denying this for so long," she said. "I just wrote about it. I'm just bringing out the truth."

To bring out the truth without the help of a corporate publisher, Desjarlais supported herself by teaching shorthand classes while writing the book and taking out a loan to have it printed.

The Right to Remain Silent is an emotional journey, raw in its voice. At issue is the relationship between Aboriginal people in Saskatchewan and the power and authority of two generally white dominated institutions: the police and the justice system. It is at times written with outrage and at times has a conciliatory tone.

"Our goal is to eventually heal. We want to be able to shake hands with (police officers) and we want to be able to wave back when they wave," she said. "I know that there are good police officers out there."

The Right to Remain Silent is Desjarlais' first full-length book. She is the author of two children's books called Meet My Friends and Trust and Respect, which were also self-published.

The Right to Remain Silent can be ordered from Eagle Publishing, Box 722 Station Main, Moose Jaw, SK, S6H 4P4. It is also available from McNally Robinson Booksellers in Saskatoon.