'It needs to stop': Colten Boushie’s family calls for government to tackle online hate
SASKATOON -- For nearly five years since Colten Boushie’s shooting death, his family says they have been the target of online hate.
Eleanore Sunchild, the Boushie family lawyer, is calling for the government to better tackle hate speech on social media.
“The family is feeling and reading all of that hatred on a daily basis,” Sunchild says.
“It needs to stop and someone needs to tell them to stop.”
Boushie was shot and killed in an SUV that crossed onto Gerald Stanley’s farm in August 2016.
A jury found Stanley not guilty of second-degree murder.
Boushie’s death caused racial tensions in Saskatchewan to flare, and sparked debate on systemic racism towards Indigenous people and rural crime.
About a week after the shooting, former premier Brad Wall called for an end to the racist comments made about the case.
The family says nearly five years later, the hateful remarks online continue.
“Racism and hate have no place in Saskatchewan,” Gordon Wyant, Saskatchewan’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General told CTV News in a statement.
“We urge anyone who believes a hate crime has taken place to contact police. Public Prosecutions will review any evidence that is brought forward by police.”
But in February, a document released to The Canadian Press under Freedom of Information legislation showed the prosecutions office chose not to recommend hate speech charges “because there was no reasonable likelihood of conviction.”
The document, dated last November, was prepared for Wyant.
“Some people made comments online approving of the violence done to Mr. Boushie, and lamenting that more of his group had not been killed that day,” it reads.
“A number of people who made comments like this were themselves subjected to an online shaming campaign.”
Sunchild says public shame is “not enough.” She wants authorities to investigate hate speech comments, and lay appropriate charges.
Mohammed Hashim, executive director of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, says hate has always existed, but it used to be more subtle and quiet.
With social media and its algorithms, he says racism is amplified.
“Social media has created the largest megaphone for online hate that’s ever existed,” Hashim tells CTV News.
Hashim says something needs to change — either social media companies need to better manage content, police need to lay more charges or there needs to be a third party organization similar to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission that regulates harmful content.
“I just hope that policymakers understand that there are real people who are impacted by hate. It’s not something that just happens, and that people can turn off — it actually impacts the way that they live,” Hashim says.