Colten Boushie’s family calls for justice on Stanley acquittal anniversary

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WATCH: The mother and sister of the slain Indigenous man say the justice system needs to be reformed so it is more inclusive – Feb 9, 2020

Correction: This article previously stated the jury in the Stanley trial had no Indigenous members. This has been corrected to say that there were no visibly Indigenous members.

The article also previously said that an Ontario judge struck down a federal ban on peremptory challenges. The judge’s decision said the challenges are not applicable in jury selection in that province after Sept. 19, 2019.

Two years to the day that Gerald Stanley was acquitted of the murder of Colten Boushie, the family of the dead Indigenous man are again calling for reforms to the Canadian justice system.

“The colonial courts were created without Indigenous input and continue to oppress Indigenous people,” said Jade Tootoosis, Boushie’s cousin.

“We want to be heard but most of all, we should be included.”

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READ MORE: Indigenous Bar Association to honour Colten Boushie

Tootoosis, Boushie’s mother Debbie Baptiste and the family lawyer Eleanore Sunchild hosted a screening of nipawistamasowin: We Will Stand Up, a documentary that portrays the events of the night of Aug. 9, 2016, when Boushie, a Cree man from Red Pheasant First Nation, and four other people entered onto Stanley’s property.

Stanley shot Boushie in the head and killed him. The film then follows the second-degree murder trial of the Saskatchewan farmer, a white man, and his acquittal by a jury that did not include any visibly Indigenous people.

The film won awards from prominent film festivals in North America and has already been shown across the country.

Baptiste has seen it several times and spoken publicly about Boushie’s death in the past. She says it never gets easier.

“For me, it’s not a healing process,” she told Global News ahead of the screening in North Battleford. 

“It’s opening my wounds over and over again. But then I go through it because I have to. We have to get the word out there.”

READ MORE: ‘Canadians should see this film’: Colten Boushie doc sets out on national tour

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Baptiste said she’s been angry and in pain since Boushie died, and that those emotions were especially powerful on the anniversary of the acquittal.

Boushie’s death and Stanley’s trial garnered national headlines and prompted debate about reforms to the Canadian legal system.

The effect that peremptory challenges — the ability for lawyers to dismiss potential jurors without providing a reason — can have on the ethnic makeup of a jury prominently featured in articles and debates. 

The federal government introduced legislation to ban the challenges but an Ontario judge’s ruling affects how the changes apply. Peremptory challenges are not allowed in the jury selection of trials in Ontario after Sept. 19, 2019.

Sunchild said the injustice wasn’t limited to jury selection and included how the family was told about Boushie’s death, among other things. 

READ MORE: Colten Boushie’s family wants UN to investigate ‘systemic bias’ in Canada’s justice system

She said a jury with several Indigenous members may have produced a different verdict or would have appeared to have no bias. But she also said focusing on just a single aspect of the case misses the bigger picture.

“You start with looking at Colten as a human being. You start by recognizing the fact that Indigenous people need justice too,” she told Global News.

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She said the film provided an insight into how the family was treated.

READ MORE: ‘Time did not heal’: Colten Boushie’s mother still looks for relief

All three people said a royal commission or a United Nations investigation into how the justice system treats Indigenous people is needed. All said the matter is an issue of reconciliation. 

Baptiste said she’ll keep working towards making reforms to the justice system and that she won’t be discouraged by the lack of progress she’s experienced so far.

“We’re all human beings and something will change. That’s the hope we got,” she said.