A joint statement released by the Native Studies faculties at three Canadian universities explains educators are shocked and angered after Gerald Stanley was found not guilty of killing Colten Boushie.
However, the department heads at the University of Alberta, University of Saskatchewan and University of Manitoba also said they were not surprised by the verdict.
The 22-year-old Indigenous man from Red Pheasant First Nation was shot dead in August 2016 while sitting in the driver’s seat of an SUV that was driven onto the Saskatchewan farm belonging to Stanley. A jury found Stanley not guilty on Friday of second-degree murder, sparking anger and protests across the country.
“Like most people, when we heard the not guilty verdict in the Stanley trial, we struggled and continue to struggle to understand how it could have been reached,” the statement reads.
“However, though we are shocked and angered, as scholars and staff who teach and research in Indigenous studies units and who provide support for our units and our students, few of us are surprised.”
“Most Canadians believe deeply in the image of Canada as a fair and tolerant nation. It is the predominant lens through which Canadians view themselves and indeed, through which most of the world views Canada. This verdict gives lie to that myth but we feel it important to remember that little about the Stanley investigation and verdict is exceptional. It needs to instead be understood as yet another link in a centuries-long colonial chain of injustices that Indigenous peoples — and in this instance, prairie Indigenous peoples — are well aware of,” the statement continued.
“We will continue to research, to teach, to learn, to support our students and to encourage our institutions to do better and to be better. But ultimately, it is up to the rest of Canada to educate themselves: to learn, to unlearn, and to take action to ensure that these incidents are viewed in the full light of day and held up against the same moral compass Canada uses to evaluate other countries.
“Finally, we would like to extend our support and condolences to not only the Boushie/Baptiste family, but to the other youth in the car that day who will, undoubtedly, be scarred by this event and succeeding trial for the rest of their lives.
“We echo the calls to mobilize and to use our voices — and we do so not just in hope of a better Canada (which has never seemed more distant than it does today), but in recognition of the possibilities beyond what Canada seems to be willing to offer Indigenous peoples now.”
Watch below: Saskatoon lawyer Brian Pfefferle joins Jackie Wilson in studio to talk about the Gerald Stanley verdict.
The statement was signed by Chris Andersen, Robert Innes and Cary Miller. Scroll down to read the full joint statement.
Meanwhile, Indigenous politicians in Canada are hoping to harness anger about the verdict and turn it into a unifying call for action.
“We can stand together even if we are apart,” said Aaron Paquette, a First Nations Metis artist who was elected to Edmonton city council last fall.
“We’re more than our daily (or centuries of) battles. Having vision means we can see beyond the troubles of today and realize that any future we build, we must build together.”
Paquette posted a series of 15 tweets over the weekend in reaction to requests for comment on the Stanley verdict.
Wab Kinew, leader of the opposition New Democratic Party in Manitoba, said on Twitter that “a lot of people are feeling a lot of emotions today.”
“I think it’s important for everyone to have the time and space to process these feelings,” tweeted Kinew, an Ojibwa activist, musician and broadcaster before entering politics in 2016. “We will continue moving forward with reconciliation and advancing social justice, but first people need to let it out.”
Melanie Mark, elected in 2016 as the first Aboriginal woman to serve in British Columbia’s legislative assembly, said on Facebook that many people are experiencing anger, grief and pain as a result of Boushie’s death and now the court outcome.
“Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples must occur at every level of our society if it is to be meaningful,” said Mark, a cabinet minister in the NDP government. “If our Indigenous children, like my own daughters, are to see hope, then they must also see justice and fairness.”
WATCH: NDP demands justice for Colten Boushie
She added that the rallies across the country send a powerful message that justice is for everyone, whether Indigenous or non-Indigenous.
“We’re still a long way from true reconciliation but when people come together to call for justice, when communities speak out for fairness and when governments listen, then there is still hope.”
Paquette suggested on Twitter that leaders need to encourage a more thoughtful conversation.
“Any words about the system, or that ‘we must do better,’ or that people should ‘remain calm,’ or offering my ‘thoughts and prayers,’ accomplishes nothing,” he said in a tweet. “Literally nothing resembling progress or justice or work happens with such statements.”
In the tweets, Paquette offered a defence of the “necessary separation between judicial, legislative and executive powers in this country,” and spoke about the need for unity.
“This will keep happening until we all stand up and see each other not as fools or monsters, but as neighbours and family,” he tweeted. “The weary, well trod path of anger and fighting is deep. It takes work to step into that new, rich soil to carve out a good road, in a good way.”
— With files from Brett Bundale, The Canadian Press