More than 10 years after Leo LaChance was shot to death by white supremacist Carney Nerland, a sculpture of LaChance has been unveiled near the site where he fell.
The sculpture was unveiled Sept. 27 on the grounds of the new provincial courthouse on River Street in Prince Albert, on the same block where LaChance was killed.
LaChance, a Native trapper, died Jan. 28, 1991 after being shot by Nerland, then the Saskatchewan leader of the Church of Jesus Christ-Aryan Nations.
While LaChance's death at the hands of a white supremacist angered many in Prince Albert and elsewhere, that anger grew when Nerland was charged with manslaughter rather than murder, and received a four-year sentence. Despite Nerland's ties to the Aryan Nations, the police investigation found no link between his racist views and the killing of LaChance, which was viewed as an accident by investigators.
In April 1991, Nerland pleaded guilty to the manslaughter charge and was sent to Stoney Mountain Penitentiary. In December 1993 he was released from jail, and was put in the RCMP witness protection program.
Maxine Hodgson is director of the Aboriginal and Northern Justice Initiatives branch of Saskatchewan Justice. She said when the department found out the new courthouse was to be built on the site where LaChance had been shot, they consulted with some Elders, who decided a pipe ceremony was needed to clear the land.
Coming out of discussions between the department, the Elders and the LaChance family, Hodgson said, "was the whole idea of 'we need to talk, we need to move on.' The Elders talked about the importance of forgiveness, but not forgetting, and Mr. Dave LaChance (Leo LaChance's brother) talked about forgiveness and getting on, but needing something that would be a reminder to all people of what had happened, and that Leo not be forgotten as a person."
In addition to serving as a memorial for her brother, Roseanna Moses hopes the sculpture will help change attitudes of the people going into the courthouse every day.
"I hope this is what will change some of the attitude of the justice people-the lawyers, the judges, the RCMP and the police. The way they handle these Aboriginal people, the way they see them. Hopefully, this will help change their minds. Because this was what Leo was all about. If this thing comes through because of him, then that'll be something I would live with, and I could trust again, and live peacefully, without thinking back and saying, you know, being angry at the justice about what happened that day, the way the events turned out, because we weren't very satisfied, well we weren't satisfied at all. Nobody was," Moses said.
"I hope it comes up strong, and gives some hope for the Aboriginal people that this is something. That, at least, they don't go in there bowing their heads down, and going to court and say 'guilty.' I hope they'll be able to put their heads up and be proud of who they are, and hopefully because of who they are, that they'll be served by the justice in favor of them," Moses said.
"What happened to Leo was tragic, terribly tragic," said Hodgson. "So how do we take this horrible situation and turn it into something that reminds everyone that justice is a place that is for everyone, and everyone has to feel like they own justice; that justice is for them. And so we're hoping that by having Leo's sculpture there-there's a message on the sculpture from the family-that it certainly not only will remind Aboriginal people and make them feel better when they're walking into the system, but also to remind others that the system is about justice. It's supposed to be just and fair," Hodgson said.