On the heels of nationwide outrage over the acquittal of Gerald Stanley, a Saskatchewan farmer charged in the shooting death of Colten Boushie, there are calls for action to mend the relationship between Canada’s Indigenous people and the justice system.
“What we’ve gotten out of the decision I think, and what we need to focus on, is that there really is an ongoing lack of trust — a deep, historically-rooted mistrust toward the justice system,” said Drew Lafond, a Calgary lawyer who also serves as vice-president of the Indigenous Bar Association.
Protests broke out across Canada after an all-white jury acquitted a white farmer in the death of Boushie, an Indigenous man. The prime minister and the federal justice minister took to social media to offer their support to the Boushie family after the verdict was delivered.
Speaking not about the case evidence but about the wider fallout, Lafond said it’s important to focus on how Indigenous peoples across the country have been affected.
“The most important thing we need to look at going forward, is how do we mend this fractured relationship between the Crown and Indigenous peoples, insofar as the justice system is concerned,” he said.
Lafond cites work including the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, and the Neil Stonechild Inquiry, as well as the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls inquiry as events he hopes will reshape dialogue and action going forward.
Lafond spoke to Global News ahead of a presentation to Edmonton-area high school students as part of Indigenous Career Day. He described the role for Indigenous peoples in the legal system as one that is wide-ranging, and growing.
“There’s actually an opportunity for any individual who has an interest in advancing the interests of Indigenous peoples within Canada, or the public generally, to participate. I think it’s exciting to look out, engage the youth and see if there’s any opportunity for them to start participating with us in making Canada a better place.”
Watch below: Some videos from Global News’ ongoing coverage of the Colten Boushie case.