By Connie Samson, 1992 Windspeaker.com Archives
The inquiry into the shooting death of Native trapper Leo LaChance will continue despite an RCMP attempt to stop the hearings.
LaChance, 48, was shot to death by white supremacist Carney Nerland, at Nerland's gun and pawn shop in Prince Alberta, Saskatchewan on January 28, 1991. Nerland pleaded guilty to manslaughter and is serving a four-year prison term.
RCMP lawyer Martel Popescul has asked the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal
to order the commission to protect the identity of any police informants who testify at the hearings. Included in the request to the appeal court is a built-in court injunction to stop the public inquiry hearings.
The three-member commission told the RCMP on May 27 it could not guarantee to protect the police informants' privacy. They said they believe the public's need to know was more important than the RCMP's need to protect its sources.
Popescul fears questions from the commissioners or lawyers for the interested parties could force police to reveal names. He said informants reporting on white supremacist activities are important to protect minorities from such groups. However the invaluable system of informants would be lost if a single informant's name were revealed.
The hearings were scheduled to start again June 16 for four days. While he waits for the appeal court decision, commission lawyer Morris Bodnar will question friends and business partners of Nerland, instead of the police officers he had planned to call. That way, evidence touching on informants will not be shared.
Two men who were in Nerland's shop and talked with LaChance moments before he was shot will be first to testify.
Russ Yungwirth, a corrections worker at the Prince Albert jail, and Gar Brownbridge, a youth worker, are friends of Nerland's and were in his shop when LaChance entered. The Native mistook the store for the home of Arnold Katz, who owned a fur and hide business next door to Nerland's.
Brownbridge and Yungwirth have not spoken publicly but earlier testimony revealed the two did not look to see if LaChance was wounded by the bullet fired through the gun shop door. They were present when Prince Albert city employee Kim Korroll stopped to help the wounded LaChance. Korroll said he was not allowed to use Nerland's telephone to call for an ambulance and had to run down the block to a pay phone.
Also slated to be heard are Darwin Bear, a Native man who was Nerland's partner in the shop, and Roy McKnight, who planned to become a partner before the fatal shooting.
The commissioners are Ted Hughes, a former Saskatchewan Court of Queen's Bench judge, Delia Opekokew, a lawyer who has specialized in Native justice and Peter MacKinnon, Dean of Law at the University of Saskatchewan.