The case of Colten Boushie

How Canada has failed in doing his case justice

Vigil for Colten Boushie at Queen's.

In light of the recent case of Colten Boushie, it’s clear that the Canadian justice system hasn’t done enough — Canada needs to stop pretending it’s a superior nation to countries like the United States.

On Feb. 9, George Stanley, a Saskatchewan farmer, was acquitted for the second-degree murder of Colten Boushie.

We don’t know exactly what happened at the scene of the crime — we have an idea that Boushie stopped to fix his car while Stanley’s family claims he was there to burglarize the property and Stanley’s gun went off by accident. We’ll never know for sure if it was an accident or a racially motivated hate crime. What we do know is that the judicial system has failed Boushie, his family and the wider community. 

And this isn’t the first time. 

According to The Globe and Mail, when police informed Boushie’s mother of the death of her son, they first asked if she had been drinking. They searched her home with their weapons drawn and never gave an explanation why. When investigating the case, one RCMP officer noted multiple mishandlings of evidence, including disrespect for Boushie’s body.

Most importantly, Stanley wasn’t even charged with manslaughter. These instances of hateful profiling and discriminatorypolicies aren’t isolated incidents. They represent the wider failures of a justice system which consistently denies Indigenous peoples equality under the law. 

Throughout our history, there have been an uncountable number of grossly-racist violations to the judicial rights of Indigenous peoples in Canada. 

Contemporary examples include the many unclosed and under-investigated Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women cases. By failing to address these shortcomings, we undermine our rule of law and fail to acknowledge the ongoing colonial effects such a verdict is a cause of and perpetuates. Additionally, we surrender any attempts at meaningful reconciliation and change. 

The collective forgetting of what Canada has done in this past year — highlighted by the anniversary of the Quebec mosque shooting and the case of Colton Boushie — should challenge our self-image as one of the world’s diverse and egalitarian nations. 

We’re often strategically ignorant about these contentious issues, or more interested in the drama happening south of the border. In the post-Harper era, where Trump stirs American controversies daily, it’s pertinent to remember that we too are capable of dangerous racism, sexism and intolerance. 

Lauren Winkler,  co-chair of the Queen’s Indigenous Law Student Alliance ,commented that Canada has nothing to brag about over the US.

“I once read an article that Canada’s racism against Indigenous people is almost as bad the United States,” she said. “I have to agree. Although I know that we are way further in educating people and speaking on these issues, we just have to look in our backyard to see how people are suffering” 

Canadian exceptionalism — the idea that we’re more progressive, tolerant and with fewer racial barriers relative to other states — is a myth. And not only that, it’s also a dangerous one. The narrative allows us to turn a blind eye to the normalization of hateful stereotypes and systematic discrimination in our country.

It’s this narrative that contributed to the death of Colten Boushie and also explains much of Canada’s response to issues like this in general. Not only is this present in acquitting his killer Gerald Stanley, but also in the rampant, racist victim-blaming found across all media. 

The government has failed to enact beneficial judicial changes in the past. Five years ago, the Supreme Court of Ontario put out a report on how to remedy the issue of underrepresentation of Indigenous peoples on juries — but no action as taken. It would’ve fixed the very peremptory challenges that denied Boushie a fair trial. 

Many of us turn a blind eye and fail to assert sustained pressure on our governments for meaningful change. This is unacceptable; our Indigenous youth deserve better, and they deserve justice.Perhaps this incident will act as the catalyst for sustained public action. The outcry reverberating across the country is notable. On our very own campus, a vigil held in Colten’s honour on the night of Feb. 13 was well-attended and powerful. 

Winkler, who helped organize the vigil, commented, “I would like to say that it is up to us, as future generations and as people who are privileged enough to get a great education, to keep educating ourselves and each other. It is up to us to challenge these dominant systems that work against certain groups of people.”

To make this happen, we need to continue organizing rallies, protests, vigils, stay informed and shake the idea that we can do no wrong. We have to make a change.  



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