Canada’s Justice System Failed Colten Boushie
On August 9, 2016 Colten Boushie, 22 years old, pulled his car onto Gerald Stanley’s yard. He had a flat tire.
Minutes after, Boushie was dead — killed by Stanley with a gun at point blank range.
What happened between those two events is unclear, and was the subject of dispute at Gerald Stanley’s trial for second-degree murder in Battleford, Saskatchewan.
But what is clear and indisputable is this: Gerald Stanley — a white man — used a gun to kill Colten Boushie — an Indigenous man — who was by all accounts not threatening the safety of Stanley. In spite of this, Stanley was found not guilty of second-degree murder by an all white jury.
And this is another indisputable fact: Stanley’s defence team systematically excluded Indigenous people from the jury, ensuring that those deciding Stanley’s fate would be universally white.
Stanley’s lawyers did not even try to argue that the killing was done in self-defence. Instead they claimed the gun used to kill Boushie fired “accidentally”.
Are we to believe that when Colten Boushie parked his car, Stanley accidentally went for his gun? That he accidentally aimed it at Boushie’s head, and accidentally fired it?
It boggles the mind, and yet this is the story the jury claimed to believe.
Of course, the deck was stacked against Boushie — and for his killer — from the moment that shot was fired.
Police officers responding to the crime — bizarrely — appeared to treat Boushie and his family as the perpetrators rather than victims. They arrived at Boushie’s mother’s house to report her son’s death with guns drawn, ransacking the property, and interrogating a distraught mother.
Then there was the media coverage, which ranged from silent to vicious. While the country’s most-read columnists avoided the topic altogether, other reports focused on seemingly unrelated questions of alcohol consumption, playing on racist tropes which even the defence team agreed were immaterial to the case. Had the victim been a white middle-aged women, would we suggest — maybe — she got what was coming to her since she drank a glass of Pinot Grigio earlier that day?
And finally there was the jury selection, carefully orchestrated to ensure that there would be no Indigenous jurors to upset the all-white consensus. Excluding jurors on the basis of race and ethnicity — all perfectly legal in the Canadian justice system.
The entire affair, from the killing to the acquittal, is rife with racism. That much is undeniable.
And it is time to confront an ugly truth: the exclusion of Indigenous people from the justice system has delivered the intended results.
Stanley’s acquittal was not an accident, or a tragic mistake. It was the outcome the system is designed to produce. Until we change that — until we fix the system — there will be more Colten Boushie’s and more Gerald Stanley’s. Canadians deserve better, and Colten Boushie deserves justice.