Chiefs from the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) took a moment of silence at a special session of the legislative assembly to remember 22-year-old Colten Boushie.
Boushie died on Aug. 9 from an apparent gunshot wound on a private property near Biggar, Sask.
It happened after he and three friends allegedly drove onto a farm and an altercation ensued.
Reactions to Boushie’s death have been polarizing.
“There’s a lot of paranoia right now. There’s anger, frustration,” Red Pheasant First Nation Chief Clint Wuttunee said.
Wuttunee said the community is still reeling from the death of one of their own. Comments online have sparked further racial tensions, including remarks made by community leaders.
Among them sparking outrage is councillor Ben Kautz of the rural municipality of Browning. In a Facebook post to the Saskatchewan Farmers Group, Kautz wrote:
“In my mind, his only mistake was leaving witnesses.”
The post has since been removed. The Facebook group has also been closed.
FSIN youth representative Andre Bear said comments like that only drive a bigger wedge between Indigenous youth and authority figures.
“I’ll still get followed around in the malls and people think I’m stealing. You get treated differently the moment people see you’re First Nations,” Bear explained.
Wuttunee said despite the large police presence in the area, community members don’t feel safe.
“There’s a large paranoia that they’re just here to hassle us, to hassle the community members,” he said.
FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron said First Nation leaders will continue pushing for equal justice for equal crime.
“There’s been many instances and cases out there where a First Nation was charged with a lesser offense but remained in custody until sentencing,” Cameron said.
He also recommends RCMP officers take cultural sensitivity training.
The RCMP said it’s continuing its investigation of the concerning online comments. There have been no charges laid in regards to racist comments posted online.