Making Peace Vigil

Standing up for peace

JUSTICE FOR COLTEN BOUSHIE

Posted by strattof on August 8, 2019

Tomorrow will mark the third anniversary of the shooting death of Colten Boushie. On August 9, 2016, Boushie, a 22 year-old member of the Red Pheasant Cree Nation, died from a gunshot to his head after the vehicle in which he was travelling pulled into a farmyard near Biggar. Gerald Stanley, a 56-year-old white farmer, fatally shot Boushie, at point-blank range, in the back of the head.

On February 9 2018, an all-white jury found Stanley not guilty in the shooting death of Boushie—a verdict that highlighted the systemic racism in the Canadian justice system. Since that date, Boushie’s family have been seeking justice.

Has anything changed in the 18 months since Stanley’s acquittal? Not much—at least not for the better.

Those of us who are settler Canadians must take responsibility for the failure of our justice system and stand with Indigenous Peoples in their calls for justice.

THERE WILL BE NO RECONCILIATION UNTIL THERE IS JUSTICE!

INJUSTICE IN SASKATCHEWAN

The tragic death of Colten Boushie continues to shine a light on racism and injustice in our society. For example:

AN ALL WHITE JURY

It was an all-white jury that found Gerald Stanley not guilty. How did this happen? Indigenous Peoples make up over 25% of the population of the Battlefords where the trial was held.

The answer is peremptory challenges. During jury selection, lawyers can dismiss potential jurors without giving any reason. In the case of the Stanley trial, Stanley’s lawyers dismissed all visibly Indigenous potential jurors.

The Canadian government is in the process of abolishing peremptory challenges. It is the only positive step that has been taken toward justice since Stanley was found not guilty. England, the birthplace of peremptory challenges, abolished them in 1988.

CANADIAN COLONIALISM 1.0

This is what Canadian colonialism looks like.

  • When, on August 9, 2016, the RCMP went to Red Pheasant Cree Nation to inform Boushie’s mother, Debbie Baptiste, of her son’s death, officers behaved as if Boushie’s family members were criminals. RCMP vehicles surrounded the home. Officers searched the home, some with their guns drawn. An officer ordered a grieving Baptiste to “get it together” and asked her if she had been drinking.
  • In 2017, the RCMP, in an internal investigation, cleared itself of any wrong-doing when its officers visited the home of Debbie Baptiste the day her son was killed.
  • The arrest of Gerald Stanley ignited a firestorm of racism against Indigenous Peoples, much of it promoting even more violence against them. The RCMP laid no hate speech charges against those who posted hate-speech online.

JUSTIFYING THE VIOLENCE

Canadian colonial society has always found ways to justify violence against Indigenous Peoples. Here are a couple of the tried and true strategies used in relation to the killing of Colten Boushie.

PROMOTING RACISM

  • The RCMP’s first media release linked the news of Boushie’s death to a recent surge in thefts in the area—providing, as FISN Chief Bobby Cameron put it, “just enough prejudicial information for the average reader to draw their own conclusions that the shooting was somehow justified.”
  • In covering of the case, the Canadian media all too often reproduced the usual stereotypes of Indigenous Peoples, thus helping to justify the not guilty verdict. 

PLAYING VICTIM

The response of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) to the killing of Colten Boushie was to make it look like rural landowners were the real victims. The provincial government followed suit.

  • In March 2017, SARM voted 93% in favour of lobbying the federal government for more relaxed self-defence laws.
  • In January 2019, the provincial government purchased 147 carbine rifles to arm rural conservation officers.
  • In May 2019, the provincial government passed new trespassing laws “to reduce rural crime,” thus sending a signal that vigilante justice against Indigenous Peoples has government approval.

Ever since Canada’s inception, the Canadian justice system has been deployed to protect the use of land for European settlement.

WHOSE LAND IS IT ANYWAY?

According to white settler mythology, hardy pioneers made unoccupied and unused land productive. In fact:

  • Indigenous Peoples had been occupying the land for 1000s of years and making very Oproductive use of it.
  • The Canadian government signed treaties with First Nations, under which the land was to be shared. First Nations have honoured the treaties. The Canadian government has not.

LEARN MORE ABOUT  CANADIAN RACISM & COLONIALISM

FILMS

NÎPAWISTAMÂSOWIN: WE WILL STAND UP–A DOCUMENTARY FILM ABOUT COLTEN BOUSHIE

WHEN: WEDNESDAY AUGUST 14, 7 pm

WHERE: CINEPLEX CINEMAS, NORMANVIEW

The film looks at the racism in the Canadian justice system that came to light through the trial of Gerald Stanley and the Boushie family’s pursuit of justice. Everyone in Canada needs to see it.

JUSTICE FOR OUR STOLEN CHILDREN

WHEN: WEDNESDAY AUGUST 14, 7 pm

WHERE: CINEPLEX CINEMAS, NORMANVIEW

A 20 minute documentary about Camp Justice For Our Stolen Children, which stood on the Legislative grounds from February to September 2018: This film will be screened in conjunction with six other short films as part of an “Indigenous Showcase” program.

All the films are part of the Regina International Film Festival. To see the full program, go to: http://riffa.ca/screening-schedule.html

BOOKS (available at Regina Public Library)

  • The Marrow Thieves, by Cherie Dimaline
  • Whose Land Is It Anyway? A Manual For Decolonization, with essays by Pam Palmater and Arthur Manuel (online)
  • Children of the Broken Treaty, by Charlie Angus
  • Seeing Red: A History of Natives in Canadian Newspapers, by Mark Anderson and Carmen Robertson
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