Calls grow for public inquiry into death of Colten Boushie, acquittal of Gerald Stanley
Andre Bear wants justice for Colten Boushie.
Bear, a law student at the University of Saskatchewan and a board member of the Indigenous Bar Association, is calling on the provincial government to hold a public inquiry into the death of Boushie and the acquittal of Gerald Stanley.
“What we need to do,” he told Global News, “is identify the issues and the errors of law, especially when it’s not working for Indigenous Peoples in this province
He said an inquiry into the death of Boushie “needs to happen and is the most serious since the starlight tours and the death of Neil Stonechild.”
Boushie, 22, was shot and killed after he and four other people drove onto Stanley’s farm near Biggar, Sask., in August 2016. His friends testified at trial they were looking for help with a flat tire.
Stanley told court he thought they were trying to steal an all-terrain vehicle when he accidentally shot Boushie in the back of the head.
A jury acquitted Stanley of second-degree murder in February 2018.
Bear says an inquiry is needed to identify specific issues that exist between Indigenous people, the RCMP, governments and the legal system.
“The death of Colten Boushie and the trial of Gerald Stanley serves as just one stark example of the failure of the criminal justice system to treat Indigenous victims, offenders, and their families fairly with dignity and respect,” Bear states in the petition posted at change.org.
“The need to address it remains increasingly important to meet the government’s commitment of reconciliation.”
Among the perceived injustices cited by Bear include a trial with no visible Indigenous jurors, the rejection of the family’s request for an independent investigation, and the Crown’s decision not to appeal Stanley’s acquittal.
“This decision enforces systemic discrimination embedded in the legal system and has failed to uphold justice in Canada,” Bear said.
“An inquiry is essential to identify specific issues and steps to remedy them.”
Bear said he hopes the inquiry would identify enough issues with the provincial justice system that a federal inquiry would be created to examine the incarceration rates of Indigenous people.
“We understand some people were disappointed in the verdict. However, there is no indication that the jury’s decision was guided by anything other than the trial evidence and the judge’s instructions.”
A statement from Rachel Rappaport, a spokesperson for federal Justice Minister David Lametti, said that the abolishment of peremptory challenges in Bill C-75 “addresses long-standing and well-documented concerns that racialized Canadians were being unfairly excluded in the jury selection process under the previous system.”
The Boushie family said after the trial that the peremptory challenges — the ability of counsel to veto a potential juror — were used to keep visibly Indigenous people off the jury.
A spokesperson from the Department of Justice also told Global News the RCMP Civilian Review and Complaints Commission is investigating how the investigation of Boushie’s death was handled.