Winnipeggers are holding a rally and march today calling for changes in the criminal justice system following the acquittal of Gerald Stanley, who was charged with second-degree murder in the death of Indigenous man Colten Boushie.
Boushie was a 22 year-old Indigenous man from Pheasant Cree Nation who drove onto the property of Stanley, a 56 year-old Saskatchewan farmer, on August 9th, 2016 when he was shot in the head after an altercation with Stanley and Stanley’s son and wife. At trial, Stanley testified that the handgun he was holding accidentally went off and that he did not mean to shoot anyone. This testimony came in the midst of expert witnesses testifying that the pistol was working properly and could only be fired by pulling the trigger.
Supporters cite a need for changes to the criminal justice system because there were no Indigenous people on the 12-person jury that acquitted Stanley. In a trial for a criminal charge of this magnitude where racial tensions are apparent, permitting an all-white jury to acquit exposes issues with regards to the peremptory challenges that are given to Crown and defence in selecting the jury. In this case, the defence used peremptory challenges to eliminate anyone who looked Indigenous.
A Manitoba professor of Native Studies says he is struggling to find hope for reconciliation in Canada after the acquittal. He voiced his concerns saying, “What’s the point of trying to talk about hope, relationships, and changing 150 years of violence when the violence just continues?”
Manitoba’s Indigenous leaders also responded to the verdict. Sheila North, Grand Chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak said, “It’s not in people’s imaginations that the justice system seems skewed against Indigenous people and we have to reverse that.”