‘The right fit:’ Patrick Nogier sworn in as Prince Albert police chief

When Janet Carriere witnessed Patrick Nogier’s natural leadership abilities, she knew Prince Albert’s Board of Police Commissioners would offer him the critical role of chief.

“He walked into the police service and he could already see a lot of the things that could be made better,” said Carriere, the commission’s chair.

“Almost immediately, he brought the morale of the officers up, and that was key because their morale was very low.”

Nogier was sworn in as Prince Albert’s police chief on Wednesday.

He was appointed in the interim position on a six-month contract that ended in November. After months of weighing the pros and cons, Nogier said he decided to accept the position permanently.

“I can work out of my comfort zone and really try and contribute to a community that needs it, or I could’ve stayed somewhere where I would’ve been more comfortable. I just felt that this was the right fit,” he said.

Prince Albert police Chief Patrick Nogier speaks at his swearing in ceremony on Nov. 29, 2023. – Jayda Taylor, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter/Daily Herald

Nogier previously served as the superintendent for the Criminal Investigations Division in Saskatoon.

He said he never envisioned transferring to a smaller force that receives less funding and less resources. Yet, especially in Prince Albert, the police service is still tackling “big city issues” such as addictions, gang activity and high rates of violence.

At his swearing in ceremony, Nogier spoke about earning the trust of the community through as much transparency as possible. That can be difficult, he said, since the police service is often bound by confidentiality and due process.

“There’s no template about how to be a chief. All I can bring is sincerity and honesty about what I want to bring to the job,” he said.

“I won’t ask for that trust. I’ll show them that trust. It will be through the dialogue; it will be through communication; it will be through a willingness to listen to perspective. That’s the only way.”

Police Chief Patrick Nogier recites an oath from Justice Meschishnick at his swearing in ceremony on Nov. 29, 2023. – Jayda Taylor, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter/Daily Herald

The relationship between the Prince Albert Police Service and the Indigenous community has been a point of tension in recent years.

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) and the Prince Albert Grand Council (PAGC) voiced the need for change after Sgt. Tyson Morash was criminally charged in the in-custody death of Saul Laliberte.

Another officer, Cst. Dillon Husky, is facing three counts of common assault in separate cases.

Although Nogier was not part of the police service during the incidents in question, he was responsible for re-assigning Husky to administrative duties and relieving Morash from duty completely.

That was one of the reasons that former Chief Jon Bergen said he needed to step down. After allegedly receiving harassment from members, he said his decisions involving officers could be viewed as biased.

Nogier said he’s trying to mend relationships with local Indigenous peoples by taking part in traditional ceremonies, such as sweats.

“You have to know the past before you can move forward with the future, and you have to know what wasn’t working. You have to know why certain people have certain perceptions of police and get a better understanding for that,” he said.

Several Indigenous leaders welcomed Nogier at the ceremony.

Elder Liz Settee gifted Nogier a yellow cloth representing her traditional name, Yellow Calf. Glen McCallum, president of the Metis Nation – Saskatchewan, invited him to participate in Back to Batoche Days in the summer.

Settee and Elder Leonard Ermine also gifted Nogier a starblanket.

Board of Police Commissioners Chair Janet Carriere speaks at Chief Patrick Nogier’s swearing in ceremony on Nov. 29, 2023. – Jayda Taylor, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter/Daily Herald

Carriere said if Nogier hadn’t accepted the offer, the board would have had to find a headhunter to search for candidates. She said that option would have been “scary,” not knowing exactly who they were bringing in.

She was relieved that wasn’t the case.

“I already see that he looks at his staff as his family and that he’s the leader of that family and that he needs to pull them in and pull them all together and make sure that they’re all okay,” said Carriere about Nogier.

“He’s not a boss; he’s a leader.”

CUPE 882 set to vote on latest tentative agreement reached with City of Prince Albert

The City of Prince Albert and the union representing inside workers have reached a tentative agreement that could end its months-long strike.

Last week, CUPE 882 announced it had secured a bargaining date with the city on Friday – now, this upcoming Thursday, membership will vote on whether or not to ratify the agreement.

The union said it would release more information after the vote.

Because a tentative agreement was reached, CUPE 882 cancelled a rally that was scheduled to take place Monday evening in conjunction with the City Council meeting.

This is the second time the two parties have reached a tentative agreement.

After the last agreement was reached in late September, the union decided to halt the vote after learning that the city planned on continuing with a call centre system that had been established during the strike.

The vote eventually proceeded, with about 81 per cent of members rejecting the city’s proposal.

CUPE 882 represents employees at City Hall, the Alfred Jenkins Field House, Art Hauser Centre, Arts Centre, EA Rawlinson Centre, and Frank Dunn Pool.

Workers have been on the picket line since Sept. 11. They began job action, though, on Aug. 10 by refusing to train others and not following dress codes.

They were at impasse over a one per cent offer difference in general wage increases.

CUPE 882 was seeking a 12 per cent increase, while the city said it wouldn’t let tax payers foot the bill for more than 11 per cent, with 11.5 per cent for the lowest paid employees.

Tom Cochrane cancels sold-out Prince Albert show due to CUPE 882 strike

The sold-out Tom Cochrane show scheduled to take place at the EA Rawlinson Centre this week has been cancelled due to the CUPE 882 strike.

“The Rawlinson Centre here in Prince Albert was ready to host the show, but the decision of the artist given the ongoing strike was to cancel. Of course, we respect that decision, but it is deeply disappointing,” said the city’s Director of Corporate Services Kiley Bear.

In a statement posted on social media, Cochrane said his team is working on finding another date.

“We have continuously worked with the folks at the EA Rawlinson theatre, hoping for a resolution, but currently find ourselves at an impasse,” reads the statement.

“Being union members, we cannot in good faith cross the picket line to the venue.”

CUPE 882 also represents employees at City Hall, the Alfred Jenkins Field House, Frank Dunn Pool, Art Hauser Centre and the Arts Centre. The union has been on strike since Sept. 11.

According to a news release, the city and the union set a tentative bargaining date for Tuesday following discussions with a provincial conciliator last week. The city agreed to meet on that date, but the union said they wouldn’t be “available or prepared” until the end of the month.

“That was unfortunate. You know, we got the impression that there was some urgency and some willingness and interest to settle this soon so that employees were back to work before Christmas – that did not transpire,” said Bear.

She added that tickets for Tom Cochrane will be refunded in the coming days. The show was set to take place on Friday as part of The Duo Songs and Stories Tour.

This is not the first act that has chosen to cancel or postpone because of the strike. Other performers, including the Bear Grease theatre company and comedy duo Middle Raged, have opted not to cross the picket line.

At the beginning of November, the acapella group Countermeasure performed at the Union Centre instead.

Bear said the Rawlinson Centre has lots of capacity to re-book shows in the new year.

Meanwhile, the union representing the city’s outside workers has voted in favour of joining CUPE 882 on the picket line – however, it’s not in a legal strike position yet.

Bear said the city and CUPE 160 must first determine which services will be deemed essential under the Employment Act. 

“We can come to a mutual agreement amongst ourselves, and if we can’t agree, we have to take it to the labour board for a determination on our behalf,” she said.

Bear said, so far, those discussions have not occurred.

CUPE 160 represents employees at the water treatment plant, waste water treatment plant, sanitation department, parks and recreation, roadways, rink operation staff, janitors in city facilities, fleet mechanics, airport maintenance workers and cemetery staff.

Wastewater stats affirm Prince Albert’s growing drug crisis, says police chief

Nogier says regular analytics needed to shift enforcement strategies

A new report based on wastewater testing paints a staggering picture of drug use in Prince Albert.

Data from the Canadian Wastewater Survey shows the city has the highest daily load per capita of cocaine, methamphetamine and prescription amphetamines among seven Canadian cities – also including Saskatoon, Halifax, Montreal, Edmonton, Metro Vancouver and Toronto.

The Canadian Wastewater Survey conducted tests for various drugs between January 2022 and May 2023, which was compiled into a Statistics Canada report released on Nov. 1.

“In the context of an ongoing drug crisis in some parts of Canada, wastewater data can provide nearly real-time information, which contributes to a better understanding of current drug use and emerging trends,” reads the report.

“This information can help inform more targeted public health responses and law enforcement activities.”

Prince Albert police Chief Patrick Nogier said the numbers “validated what we were always concerned with” when it comes to drug activity, particularly methamphetamine. 

What remains unknown, though, is why exactly Prince Albert has such an alarming drug problem.

“What we’re trying to figure out is what is it about Prince Albert that makes it an attractive place to either purchase, consume, or sell drugs,” said Nogier.

“Is it the geographic location? Is it the fact that we’re one of those main gateways to the north where you have an influx of individuals that come from rural areas into the community – because it is one of the major communities in the northern part of the province – where there can be a gathering for the sale and distribution of drugs?” he questioned.

Currently, he said, the police service is largely reactive to crime. Nogier said the first step to more preventative measures is investing in analytics to gain a deeper understanding of why particular crimes are occurring.

“It’s trying to get a better comprehension of that so that we can maybe intervene with enforcement strategies,” he said.

The numbers

Cocaine, methamphetamine and other amphetamines are stimulants, which speed up the body’s system. Methamphetamine is an illicit drug, while other amphetamines are prescription drugs used to treat conditions such as ADHD.

About half of accidental opioid toxicity deaths across the country also involved a stimulant, according to a recent report from the Public Health Agency of Canada.

The wastewater results indicate that Prince Albert had 1,633 mg of cocaine per 1,000 people per day in 2023, with a standard error of plus or minus 204 mg in early 2023.

Saskatoon’s wastewater showed a daily load per capita of 1,081 mg of cocaine during that same time, and Toronto’s sat at 1,001 mg.

Prince Albert had the highest average per capita load of cocaine among seven Canadian cities in 2022 and early 2023. – Statistics Canada

The methamphetamine numbers show a much larger difference.

Prince Albert had 1,459 mg of methamphetamine per 1,000 people per day, with a standard error of plus or minus 98 milligrams in early 2023. It was slightly lower in 2022, at 1,447 mg.

Saskatoon’s wastewater showed a daily load per capita of 893 mg of methamphetamine in 2023.

In Halifax, though, testing in 2023 showed a daily load per capita of only 33 mg of methamphetamine.

Both methamphetamine and amphetamine levels were highest in participating cities in the prairies, according to the report.

This chart shows the load per capita of methamphetamine in Prince Albert in recent years in comparison to six other Canadian cities. – Statistics Canada

Prince Albert also had the highest numbers for prescription amphetamine use, with 178 mg per 1,000 people per day in 2023, slightly higher than in Saskatoon at 145 mg.

Statistics Canada’s observations showed that overall jumps in methamphetamine and amphetamine use did not align, implying there was an increase in amphetamines. However, more research is needed to determine if this is due to illicit amphetamine use or increased prescriptions.

‘A one-to-one correlation between violence and the drug trade’

Nogier said drug use fuels other types of crime related to weapons, theft and violence – posing a threat to frontline officers and public safety.

“There’s a certain amount of traumatization and victimization that comes as a result of the drug culture. Whether that is one drug rival working against another, using violence to try and take over a certain area of the community, using violence to try and intimidate, force other…drug entrepreneurs out of the community,” he said.

“There’s definitely a one-to-one correlation between violence and the drug trade.”

Prince Albert’s new police chief, Patrick Nogier, speaks to media at City Hall on Oct. 23, 2023. – Jayda Taylor, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter/Daily Herald

Nogier said the police service has been looking at how other countries have applied wastewater data to law enforcement.

He said Australia is noticing significant decreases in per capita loads a few months following a major drug bust.

“A decrease can be representative of inability to purchase product. If the product is not available, whether it’s a disruption of supply or the supply is just not accessible, drugs will become more expensive,” explained Nogier.

“When drugs become more expensive, you don’t have people that are going through substance abuse issues that have the ability to say ‘I can’t afford it, therefore I won’t use it’ – They still have that because it’s a very biological, physiological dependency.”

This leads to crimes like theft, property violence, and robberies to fuel their drug habits.

Nogier said targeted policing initiatives, such as the Crime Reduction Team, play a major role in seizing weapons related to drug activity. 

Enforcement is “only one side of that complete triangle” to reduce, alter or prohibit someone’s drug habits. Nogier said another important step to reducing drug activity is working within the community through outreach or education.

Survey shows Prince Albert residents split on speed bumps in Barton Drive area

A survey from the City of Prince Albert suggested that residents in the Barton Drive area are split on whether or not the street needs speed bumps.

Traffic and Transportation Manager Evan Hastings presented the report at the city’s executive committee meeting on Tuesday. The report showed results of a six-month trial of temporary speed bumps between May and October.

While the numbers showed little impact on speeding, Hastings said the survey was crucial.

“The most important part of this trial, though, was the community consultation, making sure everybody was heard in this area who was impacted by the speed cushion,” said Hastings.

The city received a 46 per cent response rate on the surveys.

Forty-seven responses said permanent speed bumps weren’t needed, while 42 felt they were necessary to slow people down.

“The speed cushion, it did have a good impact of where it was located, and then all the way east on Barton Drive, not so much of an impact to the west,” Hastings said about the results.

The city collected data at three locations before, during and after installation.

The Traffic Calming Policy requires an 85th percentile speed of at least 10 km/hr over the limit to warrant “traffic calming” measures, such as speed bumps, raised crosswalks and speed monitoring radar. The 85th percentile speed is the speed where 85 per cent of drivers travel below, and 15 per cent above.

The bump had no impact near Coombe Drive, with the 85th percentile speed at 44 km/hr.

At the mid-block location, Hastings said “traffic slowed substantially” while the speed bump was in place, at 30 km/hr for the 85th percentile speed. Once it was removed, that number increased to 43 km/hr.

Lastly, near Eagle Street, the speed bump showed an 85th percentile speed of 37 km/hr. After, the 85th percentile speed saw a minor increase to 39 km/hr.

“In total, during this one-week study, five vehicles exceeded 65 km/hr, all near Coombe Drive, and the maximum speed recorded was 77 to 80 km/hr,” Hastings explained.

Barton Drive is located in Ward 6, represented by Coun. Blake Edwards.

“There is a speeding problem on Barton. Not the average speed, but some of the speeds captured are near criminal,” he said.

“It’s a real shame that 118 km, I think, was the fasted captured on our speed sign. That’s crazy.”

Edwards said he’s seen videos of people driving on to the curb to avoid the speed bumps, “or sit in front of the speed hump and burn rubber just to harass the families that have tried to curb the speed.”

Hastings said the city began receiving complaints of speeding on Barton Drive in 2020.

Studies by police and public works showed an 85th percentile speed of 42 to 44 km/hr – meaning traffic calming measures were not warranted. Still, in 2022, city council decided to conduct a speed bump trial.

As one CUPE local continues to picket, another conducts a strike vote against City of Prince Albert’s contract offer

City says union’s proposal is ‘well beyond the realm of possibility’

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include comment from the City of Prince Albert.

The City of Prince Albert could see another strike in the near future.

The union representing outside workers – CUPE 160 – conducted a strike vote on Thursday. Meanwhile, CUPE 882 continues to picket after voting down the city’s offer three times.

CUPE 160 includes employees at the water treatment plant, waste water treatment plant, sanitation department, parks and recreation, roadways, rink operation staff, janitors in city facilities, fleet mechanics, airport maintenance workers, and cemetery staff.

“The city continues to seek numerous concessions, and the current wage mandate is well below inflation,” said Leslie Mourot Bartley, CUPE 160’s president.

“We believe that a strong strike mandate is needed to motivate our employer to settle.”

The union will not be in a legal strike position “for some time,” however, with several steps ahead before job action can commence.

“The City of Prince Albert needs to realize that their current approach to labour relations is failing,” said Mourot Bartley.

CUPE 882 represents workers at City Hall and recreation facilities, such as the Alfred Jenkins Field House, Art Hauser Centre and EA Rawlinson Centre. While it’s been picketing since Sept. 11, workers began job action a month prior by refusing to train others or follow dress codes.

Kiley Bear, the city’s director of corporate services, said many CUPE 160 departments are covered under essential service legislation.

“We have already started planning for the potential outcome of a strike and we can assure residents that disruptions will be limited,” she said.

According to the city, CUPE 160’s most recent proposal includes a 22 per cent general wage increase over four years. The union has requested an extra eight per cent in other monetary asks, including three more sick days per year, for a total of 18.

“CUPE 160’s bargaining team continues to put forward unreasonable monetary demands that are well beyond the realm of possibility. It is clear they are not motivated to find a resolve and keep their members at work,” said Bear.

The city said its offer includes an 11 per cent wage increase – the same as CUPE 882.

The lowest paid employees would also get an increase, bringing their wages up to $19.44 from $15.83, and airport maintenance workers would see an increase during the winter to $28.29 from $27.68. The offer also includes a shift differential increase for water treatment plant employees.

In return, the city is requesting employees contribute one of 15 sick days to a “sick bank” for short-term disability. Additionally, it’s asking that when an employee is sick, they cannot take an overtime shift within 24 hours unless the callback list has been exhausted.

Other requests are adding weekends to the standard hours of work at the airport to meet the needs of airlines, and to determine if non-permanent positions should be made permanent if they have not been laid off for three consecutive years.

Prince Albert inmates on hunger strike for long-term concerns, including poor water quality

Strike began as a fast in solidarity with Saskatoon inmate unable to visit daughter

A group of women in Pine Grove Correctional Centre are on hunger strike due to alleged poor living conditions at the jail.

Faith Eagle said she initially began the strike on Oct. 31 as a ceremonial fast for an inmate in the Saskatoon Correctional Centre, who she says can’t visit his daughter in hospital. The fast escalated to a hunger strike against poor conditions, she said, including the quality of drinking water.

“It smells like sewer water,” said Eagle in a phone interview.

“You get sick from it. I’ve got to say this bluntly, you get diarrhea, stomach aches, bloating. In our cells, sometimes it’s yellow, it’s brown. I have a sample of it. I had to keep it because nobody was believing me.”

Pine Grove, located in Prince Albert, is the only women’s jail in Saskatchewan. Eagle has been remanded there for 18 months, and said the water quality has been a concern the whole time.

She went on hunger strike a year ago for the same reason.

An emailed statement from SaskBuilds and Procurement said it’s not aware of any concerns or issues with the water quality at Pine Grove. 

“The ministry is actioning supplementary water testing as a precautionary measure to confirm the water quality,” reads the statement.

“Government’s priority is ensuring the safety and well-being of staff and inmates.”

According to SaskBuilds and Procurement, the City of Prince Albert provides potable water to the jail. Testing is only required after completion, alteration, extension or repair of water distribution works, when it’s shut off, or after a water main break.

Another concern, according to Eagle, is a lack of time outside – something she says is important for physical, mental, and spiritual health.

“Our courtyard is nothing but black dirt and it smells like sewer. Our benches are right by the manhole, you can’t even get to enjoy fresh air. It’s not a proper courtyard,” explained Eagle.

She added that, many days, “it would be by luck” that they’re able to go outside. For two or three hours at a time, Eagle said inmates are allowed into a common area to watch TV.

“We get treated like kids, like you can’t talk to us like adults. When we do speak up, they just get mad at us and they just lock us right away.”

Eagle said five inmates are refusing meals, but are still drinking juice, milk and coffee.

The Ministry of Corrections, Policing and Public Safety said it’s aware that the group is refusing meals “for personal and cultural reasons.”

“Pine Grove staff will continue to monitor and meet with the inmates to ensure their health and safety and discuss any concerns they may have,” said the ministry.

Sherri Gordon said she’s been speaking with Eagle weekly for about a year through her advocacy organization Beyond Prison Walls Canada.

She said another concern at Pine Grove is a lack of cultural services. For example, Gordon said she spoke with a man in the Prince Albert Correctional Centre who was provided with ingredients to make bannock, but that the women aren’t given the same opportunity.

Gordon also highlighted not addressing grievances.

“One girl sent me a huge two envelopes full of grievances that they put through, they never get dealt with. Sometimes they don’t even make it to the director,” she said.

She emphasized that the inmates aren’t saying they shouldn’t be in jail.

“Most of them, they know they did something wrong and they have a moral, legal obligation they need to fulfill and they just want dignity and respect,” said Gordon.

Eagle agreed.

“We want to be treated equally, we want to be treated like human beings without discrimination or being taken advantage of,” she said.

“We want our voices to be able to be heard.”

Prince Albert City Council turns down budget discussion on homeless transportation program

Prince Albert City Council has decided not to move forward with a proposed pilot project to transport people living on the streets back to their home communities.

On Monday, Ward 6 Coun. Blake Edwards motioned that council discuss allocating $25,000 to a transportation program at an upcoming budget meeting.

“People come for court and there’s no way home. Release from institutions, correctional centres, out the door. See ya later, no way to get home – and that’s a problem,” said Edwards.

Edwards said Chad Nilson, who the city hired to compile a report on homelessness, identified transportation as a barrier. When the province axed the Saskatchewan Transportation Company in 2017, Edwards said it left a lot of people stranded in larger municipalities.

About two weeks ago, Edwards said he approached a man who was digging through a garbage bin. He said he came to Prince Albert for more opportunities, but that he couldn’t find housing.

The man said he likely would have the supports back in his home community if he had a way to get there, Edwards explained.

“This is a small amount to deal with a growing issue in this city,” Edwards told council. “(It’s) pretty evident by the amount of people on the street asking for money every single day.”

Ward 3 Coun. Tony Head said he’s gotten a lot of negative feedback on the idea.

“There’s a lot wrong with this motion, I have to say,” said Head. 

“I don’t think this is the way to go. This is passing the buck and/or passing off the problem to potentially other communities.”

Head said the project would require consultation with chief and councils in surrounding First Nations. He added that some come to Prince Albert because they’ve been kicked out of their home communities.

Instead, Head said he would support investing in downtown public washrooms or warmup shelters.

“It doesn’t change the situation, but it does offer at least people some dignity in our community, and I think that’s what’s lacking here.”

Other concerns raised included picking up the responsibilities of the federal and provincial governments with limited funds. Several councillors said to push for more support from other levels of government, but Edwards said that approach comes with a “snail pace.”

Other councillors said they couldn’t support the motion without more detail.

Ward 4 Coun. Don Cody said details would come, and that “what we’re trying to do here is get something started.”

“Certainly, this resolution is not perfect. We know that, everybody knows that…Let’s help out a wee bit.”

Edwards’ motion was defeated.

The City of Prince Albert recently hired a community safety and well-being coordinator as the point of contact for its Chronic Risk Solutions Forum. The overall goal is to develop new programming and prevention strategies for social issues.

Prince Albert City Council votes to discuss labour dispute in private

Prince Albert City Council has voted in favour of discussing a labour dispute with CUPE 882 in private – something one union member voiced as “shameful.”

Council’s meeting on Monday evening included a motion from Ward 2 Coun. Terra Lennox-Zepp to schedule a bargaining meeting to discuss outstanding issues with the union.

CUPE 882, which represents inside workers for the City of Prince Albert, has been on the picket line for nearly two months.

Ward 6 Coun. Blake Edwards stepped in to move that council have a discussion in private. This would include concerns brought forward from one resident that Lennox-Zepp is at a conflict of interest, since her husband has been a CUPE 882 representative in the past.

“Coun. Lennox-Zepp knows that labour relation matters are, for good reason, legislated to be discussed and decided in camera, confidential from the union and not in public,” said Edwards.

Ward 5 Coun. Dennis Ogrodnick agreed, saying her motion is “totally out of order.”

Lennox-Zepp said she simply wanted to set a date for a bargaining meeting.

“Is that something that we can debate publicly? Is it appropriate to debate publicly? Of course it is because it’s a governance issue,” she said.

“I would urge this council that we should not fear discussing this publicly in front of our workers, in front of the public, in front of taxpayers.”

Tensions between union members and the city have escalated since the start of the strike.

Striking CUPE 882 members use horns and bells to make noise outside of Prince Albert City Hall on Nov. 7, 2023. – Jayda Taylor, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter/Daily Herald

In mid-October, a video posted on CUPE 882’s Facebook page alleged that Mayor Greg Dionne bumped two picketers with his truck as he was attempting to leave the City Hall parking lot.

At Monday’s council meeting, Ogrodnick said he was called a “nerdy little bastard” in a Facebook comment, and that CUPE 882 “liked” it. The Herald has not been able to verify this comment on social media.

“Do we want to get into all this bashing and all of this publicly? No,” he said.

Edward’s motion to have Lennox-Zepp’s proposal removed from the public agenda passed. At this time, a CUPE 882 member shouted “shameful, absolutely shameful.”

Dionne told the member to leave the gallery.

CUPE 882 Vice-President Cara Stelmaschuk said while fair wages are at the forefront, a lack of respect plays a large part in the strike.

CUPE 882 Vice-President Cara Stelmaschuk (centre) pickets outside of Prince Albert City Hall on Nov. 7, 2023. – Jayda Taylor, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter/Daily Herald

“There is absolutely no willingness on the part of the employer to even bargain. They just keep saying ‘give us a new proposal.’ No, it actually has to be a conversation,” she said.

“Maybe the citizens don’t need to know all of the details before they’re finalized or hashed out, but the discussion to say ‘this is how it’s supposed to work,’ that can happen in public. That doesn’t have to be a big, heavy, dark secret.”

CUPE 882 and the City of Prince Albert were initially at impasse over a one per cent difference in wage increases. Stelmashuck said a one per cent increase would cost the city an additional $48,000.

Last month, union members voted against a tentative deal that included an 11 per cent general wage increase, including adjustments to bring the lowest paid employees above minimum wage, vision coverage and expanded EFAP coverage to include non-permanent employees.

‘Heartbreaking:’ Mother responds to inquest that detailed moments leading up to son’s death

The mother of a man who died in Prince Albert nearly three years ago is responding to the evidence and recommendations presented at an inquest last week.

Jordan Norfield was 30 years old when he died at the Victoria Hospital on Dec. 5, 2020.

The inquest heard that Norfield was arrested on Dec. 1 for breaching his COVID-19 self-isolation orders.

He was held in police detention cells overnight. Video evidence showed Norfield appearing to seize on and off and hit his head on the concrete walls.

The lawyers who represented Norfield’s mother, Sandy Pitzel, provided a statement with her response to the inquest.

“This process has allowed Sandy and her family some closure, and they are deeply grateful to have some of the answers they needed to continue healing from Jordan’s death,” it reads.

“Hearing the evidence of her beloved Jordan’s 14 hours in Prince Albert police cells was heartbreaking.”

Sgt. Tyson Morash testified that he did not call an ambulance to the cells when Norfield began seizing.

He did, however, call the hospital earlier in the night when Norfield said he had chest pain. A nurse said Norfield had been to the hospital twice that day and was medically cleared.

Norfield ultimately died from a condition called rhabdomyolisis, when damaged muscle tissue releases its proteins and electrolytes into the blood. In severe cases, like Norfield’s, this causes kidney failure.

Norfield had several risk factors for rhabdomyolisis, including seizures.

“Learning this information would have been difficult in any circumstance. However, learning that Jordan’s death might have been prevented if an ambulance been called earlier in the evening made hearing this evidence even more difficult,” reads the statement.

Norfield’s family thanked the witnesses for their transparency throughout the inquest. They also thanked the jury, who provided “practical and helpful” recommendations in hopes of preventing similar deaths in the future.

The six-person jury recommended that staff in the detention cells review policies annually, and that the force conduct frequent and random audits to ensure policies are being followed.

Additionally, the jury suggested that the sergeant have limited ability to play back the live video footage that’s used to monitor prisoners.

Pitzel and her family said the police service could improve operations further. This includes having a paramedic available in the cells 24 hours a day – rather than just overnight – and providing medical training to sergeants.

The family still has questions about the lawfulness of Norfield’s arrest, the statement said.

The inquest heard that Norfield was detained before his detention order was completed with a signature from a medical health officer.

Inquests are not civil or criminal proceedings. They’re intended to determine the facts surrounding someone’s death to improve operations for relevant parties in the future.

Norfield’s inquest was not mandatory, but was requested by Saskatchewan’s chief coroner.

The Prince Albert Daily Herald wrote stories each day of Jordan Norfield’s inquest. For these articles, click the links below:

Day 1 – First day of inquest shows Jordan Norfield ‘disoriented’ in detention cell, says PA officer

Day 2 – ‘He was messed up:’ Police cell guard describes Jordan Norfield’s abnormal behaviour at PA inquest

Day 3 – ‘It was the wrong decision,’ testifies PA police sergeant about not calling an ambulance for prisoner who later died

Day 4 – Inquest hears Prince Albert man died of complications from muscle damage condition