‘Enough killing our people’
Stanley verdict generates rallies and pleas for change
A not-guilty verdict in the fatal shooting of a 22-yearold Cree man on a small Saskatchewan farm generated coast-to-coast rallies, heartbreak and pleas for change in the Canadian justice system.
In the days and hours following the acquittal Friday night of Saskatchewan farmer Gerald Stanley in the Aug. 9, 2016, shooting death of Colten Boushie, thousands gathered not only in Saskatchewan communities such as Saskatoon, North Battleford and Regina, but also in Ottawa, Toronto and Edmonton.
Indigenous, civic and provincial leaders were joined by federal leaders, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in acknowledging the heartbreak felt by Boushie’s family and supporters.
Debbie Baptiste, the mother of Boushie, was angry and defiant at a rally on Saturday in North Battleford. After the verdict was read into the record on Friday, Baptiste screamed as family members restrained her.
“White people — they run the court system. Enough. We’re going to fight back,” Baptiste told a crowd of roughly 100 people at the Saturday rally. “They’re not sweeping us under the carpet. Enough killing our people. We fight back.”
Boushie, a 22-year-old from Red Pheasant First Nation, was fatally shot on Aug. 9, 2016, on Stanley’s farm in the Saskatchewan rural municipality of Glenside. The sevenwoman, five-man jury had been given the options of finding Stanley guilty of second-degree murder, guilty of manslaughter, or not guilty of any crime.
The Boushie family has expressed frustration with how the jury was chosen. The Crown and defence lawyers each got 14 peremptory challenges, allowing them to dismiss potential jurors without giving a reason. The defence challenged all visibly-Indigenous potential jurors. Stanley is Caucasian. Boushie is Cree.
Prominent Indigenous leaders, including Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde, called for an inquiry into the investigation and trial, as well as ways to ensure more First Nations representation on juries. Federal Justice Minister Jodi Wilson-Raybould said the lack of Indigenous representation on the Stanley jury is a concern for her and the Liberal government.
Mosquito First Nation Chief Daniel Starchief struggled to describe how he felt after hearing the verdict.
“Justice wasn’t served today. Justice crumbled today,” he said.
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said it is “now more important than ever” that Saskatchewan residents show patience, consideration and understanding for one another.
Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark, standing alongside members of Boushie’s family and nearly a dozen First Nations chiefs and leaders on Saturday, said the highprofile trial and its aftermath represent “a defining moment for our city, our province, our country, where we decide what kind of country we’re going to be.
“We have to face and talk about reconciliation not just in the good times, but also in those moments when it’s challenging,” he said.
Thousands of people attended rallies across the country, including one in front of Saskatoon’s Court of Queen’s Bench that spanned nearly an entire city block. Supporters flashed signs calling for justice, change and unity against racism and hatred.
Jade Tootoosis, voice trembling and tears forming as she spoke at the Saskatoon rally, said her cousin did not deserve to die the way he did.
“Indigenous people, our lives are meaningful,” she said. “We are human beings. We are irreplaceable. Every human being is irreplaceable.”
On Aug. 9, 2016, Boushie and four others, after drinking alcohol much of the day, were in an SUV that was driven onto Stanley’s farm. An occupant of the SUV attempted to start a quad on Stanley’s property and the grey SUV collided with a parked vehicle on Stanley’s property, court heard. During the incident, Boushie — sitting in the driver’s seat — was killed by a single gunshot to the head from a handgun held at the time by Gerald Stanley. A bullet entered below Boushie’s left ear and exited on the righthand side.
Stanley testified in court that after firing two warning shots, he realized he couldn’t see his wife and was filled with a feeling of “pure terror” that she might be under the SUV. He said he ran toward it, reached into the driver’s window to turn the vehicle off and the gun — which he believed was empty — “just went off.”
Trudeau, speaking in Los Angeles on Saturday, declined to comment “on the process that led us to this point today, but I am going to say we have come to this point as a country far too many times,” he said.
“Indigenous people across this country are angry, they’re heartbroken, and I know Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians alike know that we have to do better.”
A marcher cries during a rally in Edmonton on Saturday in response to Gerald Stanley’s acquittal on Friday.