OTTAWA – Colten Boushie’s family is in Ottawa meeting federal ministers after a Saskatchewan farmer accused of fatally shooting him was acquitted late last week.
Boushie’s cousin, Jade Tootoosis, said Monday the family has no specific goal beyond building relationships with people who have the power to change the way First Nations people are treated in the criminal justice system.
“We’re not in a rush because we want things done right,” Tootoosis said shortly after meeting with Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett.
“We have little to no faith in the justice system. We’re here to talk about that.”
On Friday, a jury found Gerald Stanley, 56, not guilty of second-degree murder in the 2016 killing of Boushie, a 22-year-old member of the Red Pheasant First Nation.
Boushie’s relatives are expected to sit down with Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould on Tuesday.
Boushie’s mother, Debbie Baptiste, said justice for Colten would mean a change to the justice system.
Chris Murphy, a family friend and lawyer, said the family discussed the issue of jury selection with Bennett.
The apparent all-white makeup of the jury has been widely criticized, along with so-called peremptory challenges, which allow lawyers to reject jury candidates without needing to provide a justification.
Tootoosis said she would like to see the government do away with peremptory challenges.
Wilson-Raybould, who is the country’s first Indigenous justice minister, tweeted Saturday in the wake of the Stanley verdict that Canada “can and must do better.”
Aboriginal Sen. Murray Sinclair posted a poem online saying he grieves for First Nations youth “who now see no hope,” and says Indigenous Canadians have been grieving for so long it has become part of their DNA.
“I grieve for a family that has not yet seen justice from the moment a handgunned farmer (why does a farmer need such a gun?) pulled the trigger and killed their son,” Sinclair wrote.
Kevin Seesequasis, a Cree Nation councillor in Saskatchewan, said both Indigenous and non-Indigenous residents are reeling from what he describes as a horrible failure of the criminal justice system.
“Colten Boushie was not just the victim of a senseless murder,” Seesequasis said.
“If we cannot find some way toward real change for Indigenous people in the criminal justice system, Colten Boushie will also be the victim of a criminal justice system that was stacked against him from the start and a government indifferent to that reality.”
Indigenous faculty members and allies sent an open letter to heads of universities across Canada describing the Stanley verdict as “yet another iteration of the systemic violence that Indigenous peoples in this country have faced for over 150 years.”
The letter, signed by more than 20 faculty members from schools as far afield as Australia and New Zealand, calls for universities to support anti-oppressive education and enhance institutional accountability towards First Nations communities.
‘We must and we can do better,’ Trudeau says in wake of Boushie murder trial
Justin Trudeau says much needs to be done to fix the way First Nations people are treated within Canada’s criminal justice system.
Trudeau was answering a question from NDP member Charlie Angus, who pointed out that Indigenous people have suffered injustices in Canada throughout modern history.
“When Indigenous adults make up three per cent of our population but 26 per cent of our incarcerated population, there is a problem. When Indigenous Canadians are significantly underrepresented on juries and in jury selectin pools, we have a problem. We have much we need to do together to fix the system, in the spirit of reconciliation.”
“We understand that there are systemic issues in our criminal justice system that we must address. We are committed to broadbased reform to address these issues as a country. We must and we can do better. Our government is committed to working hard every day to ensure justice for all Canadians,” he adds.
But the prime minister says it would be “completely inappropriate” to comment on the specifics of last week’s acquittal.
With many calls for an appeal, we’re asking our legal analyst what one could look like, if the Crown pursued that option.
“It’s a question that will need to be examined by the prosecutors over the next 30 days,” says NEWS 1130 legal analyst Michael Shapray. “Because it’s a jury verdict, the jury doesn’t have to explain the reason for their verdict. The issue on an appeal will be whether or not the trial judge who directed the jury on the facts of the case and the legal principles they had to consider made any errors.
“Any appeal will be based on an examination of the trial judge’s… ‘charge’ to the jury, and whether or not any errors were made in that charge. It won’t be about the jury’s verdict particularly, although there is one ground of appeal called an ‘unreasonable verdict,’ which could examine the actual facts and whether the verdict was unreasonable. But more likely, it’s going to be an examination of what the judge told the jury their job was, and how the law was reviewed and the facts were reviewed in the case.”
But what about the legal concerns about the prime minister or other cabinet ministers commenting on this case?
“It’s unusual and we generally let these cases play out before the courts,” says Shapray, who highlights the line politicians have to walk in these scenarios. “Expressing sympathy for someone who’s lost a loved one and who’s just been through the justice system is one thing, but commenting on the system may be failing, without really having more information about the case may be premature.”