B.C. Indigenous groups react after Colten Boushie shooting verdict
Outrage over not-guilty verdict for Saskatchewan farmer who killed Boushie spreads to West Coast—as B.C. Tory opposes the criticisms
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Indigenous leaders in British Columbia have added their cries to a chorus of outrage across the country after a white farmer was acquitted Friday in the killing of a young Cree man near Battleford, Sask.
On Saturday, hundreds protested in downtown Vancouver against a jury finding Gerald Stanley not guilty in the 2016 shooting of Colten Boushie on Stanley's farm. But a Conservative MP in B.C. lambasted several political leaders' criticisms of the verdict.
The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, which represents most First Nations in the province, said it was "shocked and outraged" by the verdict from a jury with no Indigenous members, as a result of Stanley's defence lawyer vetoing any Indigenous jury members before trial.
Boushie's homicide, and the RCMP's aggressive treatment of his family and First Nation following the killing, has inflamed tensions across Canada.
"Stanley shot Boushie in the back of the head," the UBCIC stated in a release Monday. "… His legal counsel convinced the seemingly all-white jury that his semi-automatic hand-gun went off accidentally — an extremely rare 'hang-fire.'"
UBCIC president Stewart Phillip said he is "totally and completely infuriated at the absolute injustice" in the case.
"Colten Boushie did nothing to deserve being shot by Stanley," Phillip stated. "His mother did nothing to deserve having her home raided shortly after Colten was shot — she had just lost a son.
"The disturbing facts of this case shine a glaringly harsh light on the sheer and blatant racism that exists both in Canadian society and in the Canadian justice system."
Canada's Attorney General expressed concern about the low numbers of Indigenous people on juries and said reforms will be considered.
"The underrepresentation of Indigenous jurors is an issue in several provinces," Vancouver-Granville MP Jody Wilson-Raybould said in a statement, "and it is a reality I find concerning."
And she tweeted Friday her thoughts for Boushie's family, "As a country we can and must do better — I am committed to working every day to ensure justice for all Canadians."
Her comments sparked rebuke from the federal Conservatives — who frequently lambast court ruling deemed too "soft on crime." The opposition party's Indigenous affairs critic called the remarks "political interference" in the justice system.
"We need to let the many steps of an independent judicial process unfold without political interference," Cathy McLeod, who represents B.C.'s Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo riding, tweeted on Friday.
Meanwhile, B.C. Aboriginal Justice Council criminal justice co-chair Doug White said the case reveals the need for fundamental reforms to address long-standing Indigenous concerns.
"The trial began with a jury selection process that reportedly excluded all potential Indigenous jurors by peremptory challenges," White stated Monday. "The reality of this verdict drags Canada’s justice system out from behind the window dressing of reconciliation rhetoric and exposes real problems that we must urgently address together.
"… The verdict makes clear that there are two systems of justice in this country — one system that sends a disproportionate number of Indigenous people to jail and another that sends people like Gerald Stanley home to his family and community under police escort and protection. This cannot continue."
White added that Canadians as a whole, because of Friday's verdict, "are doubting whether this system, that clearly discounts the lives of Indigenous peoples, has anything at all to do with justice."