Opinion: Stanley acquittal demonstrates systemic injustice for brown people facing Canada’s courts

Gerald Stanley, a Saskatchewan farmer held that gun that killed Colten Boushie.

This is a perspective on what happened the day Colten Boushie died. Colten was asleep or passed out in the front seat of a car.

Colten’s friends, who were the other car occupants drove onto a farm, did whatever they did and then ran from the scene when shots were fired. Gerald Stanley got a gun and loaded “some” rounds into his pistol. Stanley said he fired off warning shots, but the people running believed shots flew close to them.

The trial of Gerald Stanley then heard this fantastic story. Stanley walked to the car that had driven into another vehicle on the farm and placed his pistol in his right hand while he reached with his left hand, over the steering wheel, to turn off the ignition. The awkward situation and a pistol malfunction called “hangfire” resulted in the accidental death of the young man sleeping in the front seat.

After this “accidental shooting” did Stanley fall down, or react with anxiety by calling for an ambulance or have an admissible 911 frantic call admitted into evidence? No.

After this “accidental shooting” Stanley, his wife and his son were able to gather themselves enough to return to their home, make coffee and wait for the arrival of police.

Approximately two hours later, a point never made clear at trial; the police moseyed over to the Stanley farm and “secured” the area. The RCMP arrested the living car occupants on theft charges and released a controversial update to the media that several First Nations later spoke out against.

The RCMP then stormed the home of Colten Boushie’s mother, Debbie Baptiste and in the ensuing raid informed Baptiste that her son Colten was dead. Baptiste and her family were upset at the raid, the police insensitivity and made a complaint about RCMP treatment. A quick internal inquiry within the RCMP quickly exonerated the RCMP of any wrongdoing in searching the home of the mother of a deceased young man.

The family of Colten Boushie’s hired Chris Murphy, a lawyer, who attempted to work with the Crown prosecutor charged with bringing Gerald Stanley to justice. Murphy stated that he was shocked when he learned that the police had failed to secure the vehicle. Blood spatter and other forensic analysis are scientific tools that assist the system in coming to an impartial decision. This was not possible in the Gerald Stanley trial because the police allowed rain and other elements to disturb the vehicle contents. There is a greater likelihood of doubt if the judge and jury lack scientific or forensic evidence.

Did the judge chastise the police for their failure? No.

Instead, the judge cautioned the family of Colten Boushie against wearing clothing that visibly stated: “Justice for Colten”. This judge, Martel Popescul, was also the RCMP lawyer in the Nerland shooting of Cree trapper Leo Lechance where Popescul fought against an inquiry of circumstances very similar to the Stanley shooting.

This is the perspective that has not been written. Many comments have talked about the allegations of theft and trespass. Social media has unleashed indigenous anger and racist comments including the statement of one Ben Kautz, a now ex-councillor, from Browning, Saskatchewan who stated on a Facebook for farmers page that: “Stanley’s only mistake was leaving three witnesses”.

This is the Canada where Indigenous people are to blindly trust and seek reconciliation. This is the Canada where the legal system has the highest number of indigenous inmates in their prisons. This is the Canada where an indigenous mother, Cindy Gladue, died from blood loss and suffered the ultimate indignity when her vagina was put on display in an Alberta courtroom. Gladue’s accused was also found “not guilty”. This is the Canada where Adam Capay, an Ojibwe man was held in solitary confinement for four years.

Is there such as thing as “justice” for indigenous people in this state? Writers discussing the Colten Boushie case will tell you that the system is broken, that jury selection needs tinkering, or that there has to be “justice for all Canadians”. This talk does not address the real issue.

The real issue is that there is justice in Canada and it is white justice. There is a justice system that talks about equality for all but this can only be applied to white people. When an indigenous person goes into a Canadian courtroom, the judge will likely be white, the lawyers will be white, the court reporter will be white, the security or police guard will be white and if there is a jury, they will be white. People of color are aware of this because they are alert and guarded waiting to be treated differently, based on their colour and life experience.

There is no deferential treatment when you are a person of colour. There is suspicion, barely concealed hostility and sometimes, outright hatred. How many Canadian parents must caution their children about being treated differently in schools, on teams, in playgrounds, at sporting facilities or in everyday life situations?

The family of Colten Boushie patiently waited for the Canadian justice system to answer for the death of a beloved son, brother, nephew, and friend. The family of Colten Boushie did so while snipers sat atop North Battleford buildings and court proceedings were heavily policed to protect the accused
Why do the RCMP and policing services feel it is necessary to take up arms as though they are fighting some historic “Indian uprising”? Is this to give society, and this is specific to white society, some peace of mind?

Colten Boushie was a member of the Red Pheasant First Nation. He was a young Nehiyew man who came to this place and time because his ancestors survived genocidal tactics like germ warfare, starvation and the apartheid pass system of reserves.

The Nehiyew are renowned language speakers, spiritual or traditional people, song makers, hunters, craftspeople and leaders. It is this narrative that is missing from the discussions surrounding Boushie. This world will never know what gifts Boushie was given, but he will forever be remembered as an innocent young man who was killed for no more than being Indian. #JusticeForColtenBoushie

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