Property is not more valuable than a life
Abandon the idea that property is more valuable than human life
Two words changed our province forever on Friday night. The utterance of “not guilty” ripped through the fabric of Saskatchewan life, creating an ugly tear that will be very difficult to mend.
How I see the people here has changed in the short days since what we all have come to call “the verdict.”
Most of my growing up years were spent on a farm south of Weyburn. My understanding of community was that neighbours help neighbours. In times of grieving, people leapt into practical action with food and their presence. When I moved back to the province from B.C. 14 years ago, I celebrated coming back to a place where people know how to tackle a challenge together, where generosity is part of the fabric of Prairie life.
That understanding of my home has been altered. I spent hours over the weekend moderating comments on Facebook, removing threats, taunts and simple stupidity. To say it is a disheartening task is an understatement.
After spending Saturday morning working on vetting comments, I attended the Justice for Colten event in front of the Queen’s Bench courthouse. As the editor of both major daily papers in the province, I feel a need to hear from as many people as possible.
Standing next to me at the rally was a beautiful young woman, her dark hair falling over a face stained with tears. A couple took turns holding her, comforting her.
Interactions like this were common at the event.
I glanced down at my phone, which I had tuned in to the StarPhoenix Facebook live feed of the gathering. Comments were quickly flowing in beneath the video image.
One caught my attention, a harsh missive that went something like this: “The jury decided. It’s over. Move on with your life.”
I glanced back over at the woman in tears and tried to imagine that commenter saying that to her face — or to any of the other persons who braved the cold to stand together in solidarity.
When would anyone I know say, “it’s time to just move on” to a friend or family member not even 24 hours after they had experienced a loss? I tried to remember one of my farm neighbours saying that to someone after they had experienced a loss. It’s not something I can imagine.
If your position is one that does not acknowledge the need for compassion towards the pain and fear felt by Indigenous people after the verdict, it is one that needs to be changed.
The harshness of the comments online stood in sharp contrast with the tone of the rally. Speaker after speaker encouraged the crowd to respond with forgiveness, education and love. Any flashes of anger came from a sense of frustration and injustice, but the message was overwhelmingly one of peace.
The idea that protection of personal property trumps the sanctity of human life is another position that is indefensible. Those who are saying the verdict addresses the issue of rural crime are missing the point. Wanting to see crime issues in rural areas addressed does not mean one needs to ignore the tragedy of the loss of the life of Colten Boushie.
On Sunday morning, I got a call from an Indigenous man who told me someone in a vehicle next to him pointed his finger at him like a gun, pretended to shoot and laughed.
I cannot hear a story like that and remain silent.
Those of us who are white are not going to fully understand the feelings of Indigenous people. We can’t. We haven’t had the same history, the same experiences.
But to ignore that community’s position and not listen with compassion and an ear toward reconciliation is wrong. To not take a stand against the cruelty and cavalier attitude expressed in the face of death is not an option.
I hope the coming days will help restore my faith in Saskatchewan, the people I thought I knew.
If your position is one that does not acknowledge the need for compassion towards the pain and fear felt by Indigenous people after the verdict, it is one that needs to be changed. Heather Perrson
Colten Boushie’s uncle, Alvin Baptiste, raises an eagle’s wing as demonstrators gathered outside of the courthouse in North Battleford, Sask., on Saturday.