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First Nations groups decry Colten Boushie murder trial verdict

"This is the racism that exists within the justice system," Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations chief says
Colten Boushie's family at North Battleford protest
Jace Baptiste hugs his mother Debbie Baptiste while his uncle Alvin Baptiste holds an eagle feather during the National Day of Protest in North Battleford, Sask. Debbie Baptiste is the mother of Colten Boushie who was shot and killed last August.

The leadership of both the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations as well as Battlefords Agency Tribal Chiefs were swift in their condemnation of the verdict in the Gerald Stanley murder trial.

“What would you do if that was your child?“ asked FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron after the verdict, in which Stanley was found not guilty of the second-degree murder of Colten Boushie.

Boushie, a passenger in a grey Ford Escape vehicle, was shot and killed on Stanley’s property in the rural municipality of Glenside on Aug. 9, 2016.

Cameron made the comments at a late Friday night news conference at BATC headquarters in North Battleford. In particular, Cameron ridiculed the defence theory put forth in the trial that the shooting of the 22-year-old man from the Red Pheasant Cree Nation was an accident.

“What a bunch of garbage. Bill Burge as a Crown prosecutor dropped the ball,” said Cameron. 

“He should never have been appointed. This is the racism that exists within the justice system, within the education, the economic development, the lands and waters and resources. The racism exists in all of those sectors.”

Colten Boushie
22-year-old Colten Boushie was shot and killed on a farm in Saskatchewan in August 2016. - Facebook

The seven women and five men on the jury panel had been deliberating since late Thursday afternoon, shortly after Chief Justice Martel Popescul issued his charge to the jury.

The jury had three possible verdict options: guilty of second degree murder, not guilty of murder but guilty of the lesser included offence of manslaughter, or not guilty. The verdict was announced shortly after 7:30 p.m. Friday night.

There was an immediate reaction from the Boushie family in the court room. Immediately after the foreman said the words "not guilty", there were cries of "what?" That was followed by screams from Boushie's family and shouts of "you're a murderer".

Debbie Baptiste
A distraught Debbie Baptiste, the mother of Colten Boushie, leaves the North Battleford courthouse after hearing the not-guilty verdict Friday night. - Averil Hall

"You murdered my son!" was the reaction from an emotional Debbie Baptiste, directed at Stanley.  

One man was heard to shout, "There is no f---ing justice, man!"

Boushie’s family members met with FSIN and BATC leaders following the verdict: the word from officials there was that the family was taking the verdict hard.

Boushie’s cousin Jade Tootoosis, his brother Jace Boushie, and his uncle Alvin Baptiste repeated their earlier denunciations of the verdict made outside the Battleford court house. 

Jace expressed gratitude to those who lent their support to the family during the trial. “We couldn’t have done it without you,” he said.


Baptiste, however, remained upset and angry. 

“The Indigenous people have been denied of justice today throughout Canada,” said Alvin Baptiste, uncle of Colten Boushie.

“Our people are not going to wait another 150 years. We want equality right now. We want justice.”

Baptiste called for an end to the prejudice and racism directed to Indigenous people from the justice system, the health system and universities.

“The Indigenous people will no longer be treated like third class citizens in their own country... Canada is Indian land — Indigenous land.”

Gerald Stanley leaves courthouse
Gerald Stanley leaves the North Battleford courthouse with police escort after the verdict of not guilty was announced. - Averill Hall

“A lot of them can’t believe it, what came out as a verdict,” said a visibly emotional Chief Daniel Starchief of Mosquito First Nation, who spoke on behalf of all BATC bands including Red Pheasant reserve, of which Boushie was a band member. 

“I can’t say no more — I’m so lost with words.”

Chief Kenny Moccasin of Saulteaux First Nation also said he was “lost for words. It breaks my heart.”

“Colten Boushie will never be back with us. But the verdict, I’m very disappointed.”

Lawyer Eleanore Sunchild, who was close to Boushie’s family and lent her support to them throughout the ordeal, expressed her outrage on the way the family was treated from the beginning.

“The way the mother was informed of her son’s death was with a parade of police vehicles barging into her house and doing a search,” said Sunchild.

She also denounced the arrests and interrogation of the Crown witnesses from the grey Ford Escape vehicle that wound up on the Stanley property.

“It’s been like they have been criminalized,” said Sunchild. 

“This acquittal, it sends the message that it’s open season on Indigenous people. But it’s not. It’s not. The jury was wrong.”

Sunchild also denounced the composition of the jury, with the exclusion of all visible minorities from the panel.

She repeated something other Boushie supporters also said Friday night: that she hoped there would be an inquiry.

“I hope that the discussions that come from the federal minister and the Prime Minister lead to an inquiry that raise all of these injustices that this family has seen.”

A Justice for Colten rally is being held at CBC Plaza in Vancouver until 3:30 p.m. on Saturday as part of a nationwide day of protest.


This story originally appeared in The Battlefords News-Optimist where you can find more coverage of the trial.