News / Calgary

'They don’t feel safe:' University gives students space to talk about Boushie decision

All MRU students are invited to drop in at the Iniskim Centre on Thursday for a talking circle about the controversial verdict

Kelli Morning Bull, Student Success Coordinator at Mount Royal's Iniskim Centre, has organized a talking circle on Thursday for students to discuss the acquittal of Gerald Stanley in the shooting death of Colten Boushie.

Jennifer Friesen / Calgary Freelance

Kelli Morning Bull, Student Success Coordinator at Mount Royal's Iniskim Centre, has organized a talking circle on Thursday for students to discuss the acquittal of Gerald Stanley in the shooting death of Colten Boushie.

Following Saskatchewan farmer Gerald Stanley’s acquittal, Mount Royal University’s (MRU) Iniskim Centre decided to give students a place to talk about the controversial verdict without the fear of online vitriol.

Last week, a jury acquitted Stanley, 56, in the shooting death of Colten Boushie, 22, a member of the Red Pheasant First Nation.

The trial heard that Boushie was shot in the head while he was sitting in an SUV that had been driven onto Stanley's farm near Biggar, Sask.

The verdict sent shockwaves through Indigenous communities across Canada, and sparked several ‘Justice for Colten’ rallies, including one in Calgary.

Iniskim Centre Student Success Coordinator Kelli Morning Bull said MRU’s campus was no exception.

“I think a lot of (our Indigenous students) are feeling angry, they’re confused … some are just overwhelmed,” Morning Bull told Metro. “A lot of them have been feeling really sad, because they think of Canada as their home – and now its a place where they don’t feel safe.”

Debbie Baptiste holds up a photo of her son Colten Boushie, as the family spoke to reporters in the Foyer of the House of Commons after a day of meetings on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Debbie Baptiste holds up a photo of her son Colten Boushie, as the family spoke to reporters in the Foyer of the House of Commons after a day of meetings on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018.

Morning Bull said she’s heard from students who have been the target of hateful or racist comments online after they expressed disappointment with the jury’s decision on social media.

“People come back with things like ‘We’ll kill you,” – it’s scary,” she said. “There are a lot of people in Canada and in Calgary who are expressing those feelings, around that idea that anyone can shoot somebody and get away with it, for something like trespassing.”

The university put out a statement earlier this week in response to the verdict, letting students know "Indigenous students, staff and faculty are valued as members of MRU's inclusive community.”

“Mount Royal University acknowledges the impact that a recent court decision may have on our campus community, and on Indigenous students, faculty and staff most of all, whose well-being is our first and foremost concern," the statement reads.

“We take this time to remind our campus that indigenization and reconciliation remain priorities for Mount Royal, though we have much that we still need to learn."

Morning Bull said support staff wanted to give students an opportunity to debrief in a safe space, so they set about organizing a talking circle.

All MRU students, Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike, are invited to drop in and join the circle at the Iniskim Centre on Thursday, from 2:30 p.m. until as late as is needed.

“We know it’s very important to make it open for anybody – as long as they’re going to contribute in a safe way – because it shows the Indigenous students that there are allies out there, and this is their community, and they can feel safe here,” Morning Bull said.

“But it also allows the non-Indigenous students to engage with and understand how the Indigenous students are feeling, and let them know they’re here for them.”

She said there will also be a couple of counsellors on hand, just in case.

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