you ever had the displeasure of experiencing -40° weather? That’s Celsius and Fahrenheit,
because -40° is the point where the two converge. It’s a temperature so cold
that it’s impossible for snow to fall. If you’ve never felt it, allow me to
explain what it’s like.
Your eyelashes turn white with frost. They’ll start
collecting humidity from your breath, forming icicles that make each lash stick
to the other. Every time you blink, it’s a struggle to re-open your eyes. Even
if you try not to blink, the air is so dry that you have to,
otherwise your eyeballs start to hurt. With each inhale, your nose hairs freeze
and shoot needles of pain up your nasal canals. Your coat – no matter how thick
or expensive – stiffens like a pair of jeans forgotten to dry at the bottom of
the washer. You’ll hear your clothes crackle like a down comforter with every
move you make. Any exposed skin starts to burn. Your extremities freeze, and no
matter how much you rub your hands, your fingers go numb.
You feel compelled to
move around to try and warm up, but moving lets more cold air through the
openings in your clothes. If you’re lucky, moving will warm you up a bit. If
you’re not, you’ll start feeling very hot. Too hot.
A burning sensation will run up your spine, and you’ll start to sweat. This
means you’ve reached the danger zone: the point where cold no longer feels
cold, and where you start shedding your clothes to avoid
“overheating”. That’s how you wind up dead. No matter how thin your
gloves, how little your coat seems to help, in -40° weather, they’re essential.
They’re a barrier between you and the biting chill. They’re the only things
that can help keep you alive.
So, why am I saying this? Well, I want to tell you about
something that’s been going on for decades in Saskatoon: gruesome cases of
human rights violations come to be known as “The Saskatoon Freezing
Deaths”. Before I started my story, I wanted you to understand how truly
horrible it must be for its victims.
You see, officers in Saskatoon have a very
“original” way of dealing with drunken Native Americans. In the
middle of winter, they’ve been known to arrest drunkards, drive them outside of
town, strip them to their underwear, and tell them to “walk it off”.
The police call this the “Midnight Blue Tour”. As you might expect,
the victims die of hypothermia long before they can make it back home. It’s not
known how many have died in this way – a quick search of “missing
sisters”, an unrelated issue where aboriginal women have gone missing,
assumed dead –, will show you just how little the police and authorities care
about the plight of Native Americans.
“Participants” of the Midnight
Blue Tour have allegedly been found frozen on the side of the road, and their
deaths swept under the rug. However, from time to time, victims’ bodies won’t
be found at all. Their footprints turn to drag marks leading to the forest, but
no blood or animal tracks are ever left to explain what was doing the dragging.
The officers never investigate these cases further.
You might be wondering where I fit in to all of this. See,
my friend’s uncle went “missing” this winter. A few people came
forward saying they’d seen a cop throwing him in his squad car and driving off,
but there are no records of him getting booked. Here in Saskatoon, we’d all
heard the rumors of the “Midnight Blue Tour”, but it was one of those
things we never talked about. No one wanted to blab about the abuse of power,
because we didn’t want to be the next victims of it, you know? In any case, let
me take you back to when Paul first knocked on my door with the news.
That morning, I was getting ready to go to work when my
friend Paul knocked on my door. As soon as I opened it, a wave of cold air came
rushing over my bare feet. I was quick to let Paul in and close the door. My
friend shuffled from foot to foot, rubbing his arms furiously to try and warm