Family, supporters of Colten Boushie still seeking 'radical change' to justice system
SASKATOON -- It’s been three years since Saskatchewan farmer Gerald Stanley was acquitted in the shooting death of Colten Boushie, a 22-year-old Indigenous man.
Boushie’s family and supporters say they’re still seeking justice.
“The justice system is not working for Indigenous people and there needs to be radical change,” said Eleanore Sunchild, the Boushie family’s lawyer.
Boushie’s mother, Debbie Baptiste, agreed, saying, “Enough is enough, we’re tired of waiting. It’s discouraging as Indigenous people.”
During the trial in early 2018, court heard Boushie, from the Red Pheasant First Nation, was shot in the head with a handgun while he was in the driver’s seat of an SUV that had been driven onto Stanley’s farm near Biggar.
The driver testified the group had been drinking during the day and tried to break into a truck on a neighbouring farm, but went to the Stanley property to get help with a flat tire.
Stanley told court he thought they were trying to steal an all-terrain vehicle and his gun accidentally went off, firing a bullet into the back of Boushie’s head.
A jury found Stanley not guilty of second-degree murder.
This week, both Sunchild and Baptiste took part in an annual day of action to commemorate the anniversary of the verdict.
This year’s event included a virtual panel on the impact the case has had on the justice system, including the introduction of Bill C-75, which eliminated the right of lawyers to dismiss a proposed juror with no explanation.
The jury weighing Stanley’s fate had no visibly Indigenous members. The federal government said the changes in Bill C-75 aim to make juries more representative.
“Hopefully we don’t see an all white jury ever again in Canadian law or especially in Saskatchewan, where this injustice occurred,” Sunchild said.
The bill came into effect in September 2019, but was recently challenged by an Ontario man who was convicted of first-degree murder.
He said the changes to jury selection were unconstitutional and shouldn’t have been retroactively applied to his case.
However, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the jury selection process is constitutional and is purely a procedural change.
Baptiste intervened in the case and stood in favour of the bill.
While she feels the bill is a step in the right direction, Baptiste is calling for more change in the courtroom.
“That people would be able to go in there and be treated fairly, not based on your race. We need this change really bad,” she said.
Sunchild said Indigenous people have to move towards a return to their own systems of justice.
“We’re overrepresented in incarceration, we’re overrepresented in jails and we’re underrepresented in juries and we’re underrepresented in the justice system,” she said.
In a statement to CTV News, Noel Busse, a spokesperson for the Saskatchewan Ministry of Justice, said the provincial government is committed to advancing reconciliation with First Nations and Métis people and communities.
“Saskatchewan believes strongly in ensuring our judiciary is representative of the people it serves. Since January 2018, the province has appointed five judges who have self-declared as Indigenous to the Provincial Court of Saskatchewan,” Busse said.
Baptiste and Sunchild are still calling for a public inquiry into the case.
“All of Canada needs to know the full story. There’s so much racism and stereotypes surrounding Colten’s story and surrounding Colten Boushie himself. And it’s going to take some sort of inquiry or commission to have the full story told,” Sunchild said.
However, the province said the conditions for an inquest have already been fulfilled and there is nothing further to establish in this case that has not been covered in the public criminal trial.
With files from the Canadian Press