Fall­out from Boushie death far from over

PressReader - LStep Channel - Fall­out from Boushie death far from over
Mo­ments be­fore Ger­ald Stan­ley was ac­quit­ted of mur­der in the death of Colten Boushie, I was in the frigid me­dia room of the Bat­tle­ford Queen’s Bench court­house, work­ing on a cross­word puz­zle.Some re­porters from other me­dia out­lets had re­cently or­dered pizza, and the cramped room smelled of cheese, grease and sweat. It was late in the day on Feb. 9 and I, like many of my col­leagues, as­sumed the ju­rors would take a break for the evening and re­sume de­lib­er­a­tions the fol­low­ing morn­ing.I had al­ready filed my story for the next day’s pa­per, but then a court staff mem­ber en­tered the room and told us a ver­dict was in. The jury fore­man would read it in court in a few mo­ments, at 7:30 p.m.I sent a group text to sev­eral edi­tors at The Starphoenix and a plan that had been in place for weeks kicked into ac­tion. Well be­fore Stan­ley’s trial started, staff at the pa­per had dis­cussed how we would cover the ver­dict when it came down.The trial had po­lar­ized and cap­ti­vated the prov­ince, spark­ing un­prece­dented con­ver­sa­tions about racism. We wanted to make sure we got in­for­ma­tion out ac­cu­rately and quickly.I would work with two co-work­ers in Bat­tle­ford to gather in­for­ma­tion while staff in our Saska­toon news­room would take in­for­ma­tion from my Twit­ter feed, Face­book live videos and emails to cre­ate com­pre­hen­sive sto­ries and push them out to our au­di­ence through our web­site, smart­phone app and so­cial me­dia feeds.An evening ver­dict posed sev­eral chal­lenges, in­clud­ing bat­tling against tight dead­lines for print and hav­ing to shoot pho­tos and videos in the dark.With my sup­port team in place, I hus­tled up the stairs of the court­house and into the packed court­room, where Stan­ley’s trial had played out over the past two weeks.Stan­ley had told the jury that Boushie and four other young peo­ple from Red Pheas­ant First Na­tion tres­passed on his prop­erty and tried to steal from him. He said he grabbed his gun to fire warn­ing shots and the gun mal­func­tioned; his de­fence ar­gued that a de­lay be­tween the mo­ment when the trig­ger was pulled and when the pis­tol fired re­sulted in a bul­let fa­tally strik­ing Boushie in the back of the head.Re­porters crowded into two rows of benches be­hind mem­bers of Boushie’s and Stan­ley’s fam­i­lies. The jury filed in. The judge ac­knowl­edged the “raw emo­tion” present through­out the trial and thanked peo­ple in the gallery for con­duct­ing them­selves ad­mirably. The jury fore­man pro­claimed that the jury was unan­i­mous in its de­ci­sion: Stan­ley was not guilty of sec­ond-de­gree mur­der and not guilty of the lesser charge of man­slaugh­ter. Boushie’s mother wailed and other mem­bers of Boushie’s fam­ily be­gan sob­bing. RCMP of­fi­cers rushed Stan­ley out of the court­house.That night, mem­bers of Boushie’s fam­ily stood on the steps of the court­house and de­clared that First Na­tions peo­ple had once again been the vic­tims of a bi­ased jus­tice sys­tem. Chief among their com­plaints was that the jury se­lec­tion process al­lowed Stan­ley to be tried by a jury that in­cluded no vis­i­bly Indige­nous ju­rors, that the Crown did not com­mu­ni­cate suf­fi­ciently with the fam­ily and that the RCMP did not prop­erly in­ves­ti­gate Boushie’s death.As Fri­day night be­came Satur­day morn­ing, the Fed­er­a­tion of Sov­er­eign Indige­nous Na­tions (FSIN) held a press con­fer­ence in Bat­tle­ford, where chiefs ex­pressed out­rage over the jury’s de­ci­sion.As Starphoenix staff up­dated sto­ries through­out the night, edi­tors were also work­ing to keep hate­ful com­ments off the web­site and so­cial me­dia.FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron has of­ten said Boushie’s death brought racism in Saskatchewan — once hid­den — to light. I tend to avoid read­ing com­ments on so­cial me­dia, but I couldn’t ig­nore the emails that flooded my in­box while I cov­ered the trial. Many com­mended me for my work, but oth­ers were out­lets for peo­ple to vent.Here are just some snip­pets of the reader emails sent to me: “This is not racism but good peo­ple pro­tect­ing their prop­erty from il­le­gal ac­tions … Stop mak­ing this a racial is­sue. It is young men mak­ing bad de­ci­sions with con­se­quences. Print that or are you afraid to be called a racist?"“the best thing we could do for the na­tives is to bull­doze the re­serves and put the treaties and the Gladue rul­ing through a shred­der.”“it is com­mon­place for young (and not so young) Indige­nous cit­i­zens to break-in, pil­lage, van­dal­ize, steal, even beat up el­derly res­i­dents in their own home. It is an on­go­ing night­mare … Yet noth­ing is men­tioned in the news about this phe­nom­e­non. How can we have rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, when the Indige­nous are not do­ing their part?” Nearly ev­ery day dur­ing the trial, I was asked why the young peo­ple who drove onto Stan­ley’s farm were not charged with at­tempted theft, as­sault and drunk driv­ing.RCMP have not an­swered ques­tions on this, but Stan­ley’s lawyer, Scott Spencer, said dur­ing the trial that the RCMP gave the young peo­ple im­mu­nity.When cross-ex­am­in­ing one of Boushie’s friends who had been in­ter­viewed by RCMP af­ter Boushie was shot, Spencer said: “He started the in­ter­view, Const. Te­niuk, by telling you you es­sen­tially didn’t have to worry about be­ing charged, he gave you im­mu­nity on any­thing that was go­ing on. Do you agree with that?”“Yeah,” the wit­ness re­sponded. De­spite lob­by­ing from Boushie’s fam­ily and the FSIN, the Crown chose not to ap­peal the case.But the fall­out from Boushie’s death is not over.In the months fol­low­ing his ac­quit­tal, Stan­ley ap­peared in court again to face firearms charges and was fined $3,900 for im­proper stor­age of firearms and given a 10-year ban on own­ing firearms. His lawyer ap­proached var­i­ous pub­lish­ers to see if there was any in­ter­est in a book told from Stan­ley’s point of view, but there did not ap­pear to be any.Mem­bers of Boushie’s fam­ily con­tinue to share their story and lobby for changes to the jus­tice sys­tem; some trav­elled to New York in April 2018 to speak at the United Na­tions Per­ma­nent Fo­rum on Indige­nous Is­sues.On the sec­ond an­niver­sary of Boushie’s death, his fam­ily filed a pair of law­suits: one against the RCMP for how they han­dled the case, and one against Stan­ley, for end­ing Boushie’s life. Nei­ther party has yet filed a state­ment of de­fence.Boushie’s death, Stan­ley’s trial and the con­ver­sa­tions those events sparked re­main charged is­sues in the prov­ince. Ev­ery time I write an ar­ti­cle that men­tions them, I get emails.I know this time will be no dif­fer­ent.Nearly ev­ery day dur­ing the trial, I was asked why the young peo­ple who drove onto Stan­ley’s farm were not charged

Deb­bie Bap­tiste, hold­ing a pho­to­graph of her son Colten Boushie, en­ters the Bat­tle­ford court­house in Fe­bru­ary for Ger­ald Stan­ley’s trial in her son’s shoot­ing death.

© PressReader. All rights reserved.