‘We can do better’: PM
Trudeau vows to ‘fix the system’ after Boushie trial
The family of a slain young Cree man met with Trudeau government ministers Monday, and afterwards issued a quiet but forceful call for change, saying reforms to jury-selection rules in the wake of his killer’s acquittal are one “quick fix.”
Hours later it appeared their voices and the voices of hundreds of supporters had been heard at the highest level.
“We have a problem. We have much we need to do together to fix the system in the spirit of reconciliation. That’s exactly what we’re going to be doing,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the House of Commons
After weekend demonstrations of outrage in the face of a jury’s decision to clear Saskatchewan farmer Gerald Stanley in the 2016 death of 22-year-old Colten Boushie, Trudeau said changes are afoot.
Trudeau extended sympathy to the young man’s family as he did Friday on Twitter, and defended his comments, saying it would be “completely inappropriate to comment on the specifics of this case.”
But he said “we understand that there are systemic issues in our criminal justice system that we must address. We are committed to broad-based reform to address these issues.
“As a country, we must and we can do better.”
In response to NDP demands for “concrete steps” to address the issue, Trudeau agreed that the overrepresentation of Indigenous persons in Canada’s prisons and their underrepresentation on juries and in juryselection pools is a significant problem and said his government would address it.
When the NDP asked if the Liberals would target jury-selection rules in the criminal code, which now allow an accused’s legal team to decline the participation of a potential juror with no explanation — this is called a peremptory challenge — the justice minister said this will be included in changes under consideration in broader- based reform of criminal justice.
Justice Minister Jody Wilson-raybould, who with Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, will meet with Colten Boushie’s family Tuesday, promised she will engage with the Commons justice committee on proposed reforms.
The slain youth’s mother Debbie Baptiste, cousin Jade Tootoosis and uncle Alvin Baptiste, along with family lawyer Chris Murphy, met Monday morning with Carolyn Bennett and Jane Philpott, the cabinet ministers responsible for the federal government’s dealings with Indigenous people.
Boushie’s family said they did not seek an appeal of the jury’s acquittal of Gerald Stanley on Friday, a decision Murphy said is up to the attorney general of Saskatchewan.
But, they said, they came to build relationships with “people who can make a difference.”
Debbie Baptiste, the mother of colten Boushie, holds up a picture of her son on the steps of the court of Queens Bench on the fifth day of the trial of Gerald Stanley in Battleford, Sask., on Monday.