Prop­erty is not more valu­able than a life

Aban­don the idea that prop­erty is more valu­able than hu­man life

Ottawa Citizen - - FRONT PAGE - HEATHER PERS­SON Heather Pers­son is the edi­tor of the Saska­toon StarPhoenix and the Regina Leader-Post.

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.


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