The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations says the Canadian justice system must be overhauled so that it is more equitable and less racist and that it supports the Black Lives Matter demonstrations taking place across North America.
“To George Floyd and your family, and to all of those who have endured some difficult emotional times within the justice system, we send our prayers,” Chief Bobby Cameron said, speaking via Zoom from Witchekan Lake First Nation.
Cameron said the racialized violence that Black people experience at the hands of American police also exists in Canada.
And he said the unjust the death of Floyd, a Black man who died after a white police officer was videotaped kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes, was comparable to the jury acquittal of Gerald Stanley in the shooting death of Colten Boushie.
“The Colten Boushie verdict — when the verdict came down as not guilty, it affected us and hurt us.”
Boushie was a 22-year-old Indigenous man who was shot and killed by Gerald Stanley.
Stanley was found not guilty of second-degree murder by a jury with no visibly Indigenous members.
“The mistreatment of First Nations people… and of other ethnicities right across this country has been ongoing for many decades and it continues still to this day,” Cameron told Global News.
He said the justice system should employ more Indigenous people as judges, lawyers and police.
He also said all officers should receive instruction from an elder on Indigenous culture and history during basic training and should wear body cameras, stating they would keep police honest.
Vice Chief Dutch Lerat, quoted in a FSIN statement, said the federal and provincial governments should implement the recommendations outlined in various inquiries and commissions, like the Neil Stonechild Inquiry, UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, and Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls – Calls to Justice.
Cameron said the lack of progress towards equality caused anger, heartbreak and a feeling of hopelessness within the Indigenous community.
“All we can do as a federation is continue to push for positive change… and all of these good folks that are protesting or (joining in) the peaceful rallies, we support that. Good for them.”
The Saskatchewan government did not respond to a request for comment.