REGINA — First Nations leaders and relatives of a young Indigenous man shot and killed on a Saskatchewan farm are expected to address findings today from a watchdog’s review that concluded RCMP racially discriminated against his mother.
Colten Boushie died in August 2016 when the SUV he was riding in drove onto farmer Gerald Stanley’s property near Biggar, Sask.
A jury delivered acquitted Stanley after he testified that he had fired warning shots and the gun “just went off.”
Concerns had been raised about how police handled Boushie’s death and the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission studied the RCMP investigation.
It outlined several missteps by police, saying that officers treated his mother so insensitively when they notified her of her son’s death that it amounted to discrimination.
The commission says officers told Debbie Baptiste to “get it together,” questioned whether she had been drinking, smelled her breath and searched her home without permission.
“After spending the evening fearing that something had happened to her son and just seeing her worst fears realized, Ms. Baptiste saw her home encircled by a large number of armed police officers and had to endure this treatment from the RCMP members who remained in her home for about 20 minutes,” the commission wrote.
It also found two officers inappropriately showed up to Boushie’s wake to update her on the criminal case.
The commission says the way police notified the public about the shooting caused suffering to the young man’s family because it allowed people to form an inaccurate picture of what happened,
It said the initial press release by RCMP focused mostly on alleged property crimes and failed to mention someone had been arrested for murder in Boushie’s death.
The commission says the 22-year-old didn’t leave the vehicle or touch any of the belongings on Stanley’s farm.
Despite issuing other releases updating the public about the progress of the investigation, the watchdog concluded RCMP communications gave the public piecemeal information, fuelling racial tensions online and in the community.
At one point, former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall called for calm after a deluge of racist and hate-filled messages had been posted online about Boushie’s death.
The commission also found RCMP didn’t properly protect the SUV Boushie had been riding in, resulting in the loss of blood spatter and other evidence.
“It is not known, and will never be known, what difference this evidence, as well as any other evidence lost as a result of the failure to protect the vehicle, could have had on the outcome of the case,” it wrote.
The National Police Federation representing front-line officers took issue with the finding of discrimination, and says the review showed police generally carried out a professional investigation.