In August 2016, Colten Boushie was murdered by Gerald Stanley, a 56-year old white farmer, in Saskatchewan. Boushie was a young, 22-year old Indigenous man from Red Pheasant First Nation.
On the evening of February 9th, Gerald Stanley’s fatal shooting of Boushie was outrageously justified as an “accident”, and Stanley was acquitted of all charges. Stanley was found not guilty by an all-white jury. The defence rejected a number of Indigenous people during jury selection with “peremptory challenges”. Peremptory challenges are essentially a set number of people that the defence can reject from jury selection without having to provide a reason—and are an obvious avenue for discrimination in the legal system.
The jury’s underrepresentation (read: absence) of Indigenous people is not unique to the Stanley case—it is symptomatic of the institutionalized anti-Indigenous racism embedded in Canada’s justice system. It is another enraging example of how power is distributed among racial and colonial lines in this country; it is yet another mechanism allowing state sanctioned violence against Indigenous people in Canada to thrive.
In 2011-2012, former Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci conducted an independent review of the representation of First Nations persons living on reserves on the jury roll in Ontario. He released a 166-page report compiling his findings in 2013, which includes a historical analysis of the jury system and a review of the many barriers put in place that have prevented—and continue to exclude—Indigenous people from participating on juries.
He writes that, historically:
“...criminal jury trials in Canada were used at times as a tool to punish, what the British viewed as disloyal behavior on the part of Aboriginal people, and to persecute the customary practices of First Nations on the grounds that they constituted criminal behaviour.”
Although the report focuses on Ontario, it includes a discussion of broader systemic trends across Canadian provinces and territories. I’ve tried to summarize key facts in this infographic timeline.
If you have the financial means, please donate to this Justice for Colten fundraiser organized by Erica Violet Lee to support the Boushie family. Please also consider writing an email to the Attorney General of Saskatchewan Don Morgan and Attorney General of Canada Jody Wilson-Raybould to demand an appeal of the verdict of Gerald Stanley. You can personalize your message working off of Harsha Walia’s draft here.
A list of gatherings in different cities is being compiled here.
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