‘Sup­port is needed on both sides,’ says or­ga­nizer of Stan­ley fundraiser

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - CITY + REGION - ALEX MACPHER­SON amacpher­son@post­media.com

The man be­hind an on­line fundraiser for Ger­ald Stan­ley, the Saskatchewan farmer ac­quit­ted of mur­der in the shoot­ing death of Colten Boushie, says he had no idea how much money — or how much at­ten­tion — it would at­tract.

“I did not ex­pect it to take off like it did,” said Sa­muel Ol­son, who launched the fundraiser using the web­site GoFundMe on Feb. 9, hours after a two-week trial con­cluded with a Bat­tle­ford jury find­ing Stan­ley not guilty.

As of Wed­nes­day evening, more than 2,600 peo­ple had given more than $180,000 to the Ger­ald Stan­ley Sup­port Fund. A de­fence lawyer who didn’t want to be iden­ti­fied said a mur­der trial last­ing two to three weeks typ­i­cally costs a de­fen­dant be­tween $125,000 and $200,000.

“So many peo­ple are look­ing at this as, ‘Holy (ex­ple­tive), this could have been me.’ I can see it that way, too. This could have been me, this could have been my dad. In that sense, I guess I can re­late,” said Ol­son, who used to live near Stan­ley ’s Big­gar-area farm.

At the same time, Ol­son — who now re­sides in Al­berta — said he has no in­ten­tion of weigh­ing in on what hap­pened in Stan­ley’s farm­yard on Aug. 9, 2016, and that he has “never said that (Stan­ley) didn’t do any­thing wrong.”

“I could see it be­ing seen as me be­ing one-sided. I can see that. I can see why peo­ple would look at me like that. I un­der­stand that. But I do have to say, I’m not at all one-sided on this. It was a re­ally ter­ri­ble cir­cum­stance to be found in,” he said.

Boushie, a 22-year-old Cree res­i­dent of nearby Red Pheas­ant First Na­tion, spent Aug. 9, 2016, swim­ming and drink­ing with four friends be­fore the SUV in which they were trav­el­ling drove onto Stan­ley’s farm in the Ru­ral Mu­nic­i­pal­ity of Glen­side, west of Saska­toon.

Ac­cord­ing to wit­ness tes­ti­mony dur­ing the trial, one oc­cu­pant of the SUV at­tempted to start a quad on Stan­ley’s prop­erty, after which the SUV col­lided with an­other ve­hi­cle parked in the farm­yard.

Boushie was sit­ting in the driver’s seat of the SUV when he was killed by a gun­shot to the head. Stan­ley, tes­ti­fy­ing in his own de­fence, said he fired two warn­ing shots into the air and thought his pis­tol was empty when he reached into the driver’s win­dow to turn the SUV’s ig­ni­tion off. He said the gun “just went off.”

Fol­low­ing Stan­ley’s ac­quit­tal, Boushie’s fam­ily and sup­port­ers called for an ex­am­i­na­tion of how the crim­i­nal case and jury trial un­folded.

Boushie’s death and Stan­ley’s trial po­lar­ized Saskatchewan to such an ex­tent that prom­i­nent politi­cians, in­clud­ing then-premier Brad Wall, called for an end to on­line vit­riol. Premier Scott Moe this week said “racist” com­ments have no place in the prov­ince.

The fund Ol­son started drew do­na­tions from peo­ple who were ob­vi­ously using false names, in­clud­ing the names of Fed­er­a­tion of Sov­er­eign In­dige­nous Na­tions Chief Bobby Cameron and Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau. Others left mes­sages that read “Pri­vate Prop­erty Mat­ters” and “It’s not racism, Just cause they say it is.”

Ol­son said he’s been delet­ing “made-up or stupid” names and dis­abled the com­ments fea­ture on the fundrais­ing web­site after mul­ti­ple “pretty nasty” posts. GoFundMe spokes­woman Rachel Hol­lis said this week that the com­pany is “tak­ing ac­tion” against false names be­ing used on the page.

“I’ve never once said that I agree with what hap­pened,” Ol­son said. “Sup­port is needed on both sides, in my opin­ion, and I see that Colten’s friends and fam­ily have an in­cred­i­ble amount of sup­port. I don’t see what’s wrong with sup­port­ing both sides.”

Ger­ald Stan­ley


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