First Nation Leaders are calling for accountability and immediate change – a week after a Prince Albert police officer was charged in relation to the in-custody death of Saul Laliberte.

Laliberte died at the Prince Albert Police Service detention area on November 7, 2021 – hours after being detained.

Last week, a police officer was charged with criminal negligence causing death and failing to provide the necessities of life. The officer is due in court on July 25.

At a press conference at Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Head office in Saskatoon Wednesday morning, FSIN Vice-Chief Dutch Lerat said Laliberte’s mother Amelia Bloomfield tried to warn police that her son may be in medical distress when he was taken into custody.

“She contacted the police service to request they take Saul to the hospital as she believed he was at risk,” said Lerat. “Her calls were ignored and hours later Saul was found dead in his cell.”

At the press conference, leaders from both the FSIN and the Prince Albert Grand Council called for continued accountability and change within the Prince Albert Police Service.

“Prince Albert police have once again failed in their duties to look after our people,” said FSIN Vice-Chief David Pratt. “We are calling for more accountability… we are calling for these important changes to hold police accountable.”

This week also saw the release of recommendations from an independent report into PAPS with the PAGC calling for the implementation of all 45 recommendations – something that was reiterated several times at Wednesday’s press event.

“This is another example of systemic racism that has lead to another in custody death,” said Dutch Lerat.

The leaders also called for the release of the full independent report along with the recommendations.

“We need the full report to properly evaluate the recommendations,” added Lerat, who also declined to comment on the recommendations specifically saying they want to go through them first with a “technical” and “legal” perspective.

Laliberte’s death was one of three in-custody deaths in Prince Albert over the course of a month in late 2021.

“We can’t go on like this,” said PAGC Grand Chief Brian Hardlotte. “We can’t continue to treat vulnerable people like this, that is all that we ask.”

The family of Saul Laliberte declined to comment, but Cumberland House Cree Nation Chief Rene Chaboyer, of whom Laliberte is a member, spoke on a question from a reporter about how the family would like to describe Saul to the public.

“Saul, like all of us, he was a son, a brother, a friend to all of us and a person that should have been treated fairly,” said Chaboyer. “It is a shame that something like this event takes away a mother’s baby because of the system we live in.”

(PHOTO: Saul Laliberte’s mother Amelia Bloomfield holds hands with a relative at a press conference in Saskatoon where First Nation leaders called for change following the death of her son. Photo by Joel Willick)