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Jasmine Kabatay: Hoping for justice, bracing for heartbreak in Colten Boushie trial

I would love to believe the family has a fair shot at getting some justice. But I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t. And sadly, neither are they.

Debbie Baptiste, the mother of Colten Boushie, walks to court during the first day of the trial of Gerald Stanley, the farmer accused of killing the 22-year-old Indigenous man.

Liam Richards / The Canadian Press

Debbie Baptiste, the mother of Colten Boushie, walks to court during the first day of the trial of Gerald Stanley, the farmer accused of killing the 22-year-old Indigenous man.

From the moment Colten Boushie started making news, people on social media talked about him like he was the one on trial. But that overlooks one thing — he is dead.

Boushie, a 22-year-old Cree man from Red Pheasant First Nation, was shot and killed in August 2016 after the SUV he was travelling in drove onto a farm in Saskatchewan and an altercation ensued with the farmer.

The second-degree murder trial of Gerald Stanley started Monday with jury selection.

In the aftermath of his death, the relationship between non-Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous Peoples in Saskatchewan was in the national spotlight.

I feared how the conversation would go, in light of the comments on news stories, along with the actions of local residents, about Boushie and Indigenous Peoples in general.

After the shooting, a GoFundMe was started to help Stanley with legal fees. People online suggested the shooting was justified because Indigenous Peoples were responsible for rising crime in rural Saskatchewan. Boushie’s family alleged RCMP misconduct in the aftermath of the death (an allegation later cleared after an internal RCMP investigation.)

I felt the discomfort all the way from Toronto. I can’t imagine being in Saskatchewan at the time, or now as the trial begins.

I will follow with some hope, but mostly apprehension. After Romeo Wesley’s death — which came after being handcuffed, beaten and stepped on by police officers — was ruled accidental at an Ontario coroner’s inquest, I feel like cases involving Indigenous Peoples often end with a lingering sense of injustice.

And it’s already starting to look like this trial will be one of them.

Boushie’s family told reporters as much on Monday, adding they were disappointed to see the defence dismissing visibly Indigenous Peoples as potential jurors.

“It’s not surprising but extremely frustrating and it’s something that we feared has come true,” Jade Tootoosis, a family member of Boushie, told reporters after the selection.

Stanley’s lawyer has released a statement urging that the trial not be viewed as a “referendum on racism.”

"If jurors feel they have to pick a 'side,' then it will be very difficult for there to be a fair trial,” wrote Scott Spencer.

I would love to believe the family has a fair shot at getting some justice. But I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t. And sadly, neither are they.

"If it's an all-white jury, then I don't think we have a chance," Debbie Baptiste, Boushie’s mother, told the Globe and Mail.

Her statement is heartbreaking. But it’s also comes from a place of experience.

I hope they get justice. I hope the families are treated well. But mostly I hope the memory of Colten is treated with respect. He is the victim here.

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