Indigenous Law Student Alliance holds vigil for Colten Boushie

Emotional gathering grieves murder of Indigenous youth

Community members gathered outside Richardson Hall on Tuesday.

After the recent non-guilty verdict in the case against Gerald Stanley for the murder of Colten Boushie, members of the Queen’s community stood in solidarity with  Indigenous youth and Boushie’s family on Tuesday night for a vigil outside Richardson Hall. The event was hosted by the Indigenous Law Students’ Alliance along with the Office of Indigenous Initiatives, Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre and Aboriginal Teacher’s Education Program. 

In August of 2016, 22-year-old Colten Boushie and his friends entered Gerald Stanley’s property because they experienced car problems. According to witness statements, Stanley fired his gun multiple times, shooting Boushie — who never got out of his car — in the head. 

The Boushie case gained global attention and criticism — especially after Stanley was declared not guilty — because the decision was made by an all-white jury. In an opinion piece in the Toronto Star on Monday, Grand Chief of Nishnawbe Aski Nation Alvin Fiddler argued that this fact reveals the systemic racism targeted at Indigenous peoples in the Canadian judicial system. 

Tuesday’s vigil began with a cleansing smudge and an opening prayer and song by Mishiikenh (Vernon Altiman), the elder-in-residence at Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre.

Following this, several Indigenous students and staff members gave tearful statements that expressed their anger and heartbreak about the Boushie case decision. 

Lauren Winkler, Law ’20, called the verdict “deeply upsetting.” 

“This whole weekend I kept thinking, had the roles been reversed, an Indigenous man would have gotten life for shooting a young white male,” Winkler continued.

Janice Hill, director of Indigenous initiatives and former director of Four Directions, also expressed her frustration.

“We work so hard here to make a better world and a better life, especially for our Indigenous youth,” she said. “But we obviously still live in a world that devalues Indigenous life. Things like the murder of Colten Boushie, and murdered and missing Indigenous peoples, continue to happen in this country because our people are not valued or seen as human beings.”

Lindsay Morcom, coordinator of the Aboriginal Teachers Education Program (ATEP) and assistant professor at the Faculty of Education said she was discouraged to go back to work after the case decision was released last Friday.

“I got to work on Monday thinking, ‘What do I say to my students? How do I tout reconciliation in a country where we are less than property?’” she said.

Like many of the other speakers on Tuesday, Morcom said she’s determined to educate and fight injustices against Indigenous peoples. 

“We need to take a minute to grieve, and then we get up and fight even harder.”

Winkler plans to use her law career to defend Indigenous rights and educate Canadians about the injustices against Indigenous peoples. 

“As future lawyers, we can’t let this happen,” Winkler told the crowd. “We have to hold our institutions accountable to make sure that we’re educating the future leaders of our country so that things like this don’t happen again and the racism stops.”

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