Enough is enough.
That was the message from the organizer of a ‘Justice for Colten’ rally held in downtown Red Deer on Monday.
Last Friday, a jury in Battleford, Saskatchewan found Gerald Stanley, 56, not guilty of second degree murder after Colten Boushie, a member of the Red Pheasant First Nation was shot and killed on Stanley’s farm Aug. 9, 2016.
The case sparked heated debate in rural Saskatchewan between landowners who blame Indigenous people for high rates of property crime and First Nations who bear the brunt of that racism and hate.
The trial heard that Boushie was shot in the head while he was sitting in an SUV that had been driven onto Stanley's farm near Biggar, Sask. The driver of the SUV testified the group had been drinking during the day and tried to break into a truck on a neighbouring farm, but went to the Stanley property in search of help with a flat tire.
The defence for Stanley argued that his gun accidentally went off, killing Boushie with a single shot to the back of the head in a "freak accident."
Stanley was found not guilty after 13 hours of jury deliberation.
Heidi Coltman, a local student originally of the Dene First Nations near La Loche, SK, told the 50 people at Monday’s rally to demand change following the highly controversial verdict.
“The message that we want to get across to people is that we’re not going to let this happen anymore,” she said. “We’re not going to sit around and have our people murdered and just be quiet about it.”
Coltman made sure to point out the acquittal of Stanley was decided by an all-white jury.
“This acquittal tells Indigenous people that our lives do not matter and as far as I am concerned, justice is not blind,” she said. “Colten’s story is unique but the outcome is similar to young Indigenous people across Canada. Today we are marching for Colten, but also for Tina Fontaine, Matthew Dumas, Cindy Gladue and many more. It is time for us as a nation to do better.”
Explaining the verdict has brought to many rage, hurt and helplessness, Coltman said they are calling on the Canadian government to implement Call to Action 39 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Number 39 calls for the development of a national plan to collect and publish data on the criminal victimization of Aboriginal people, including data related to homicide and family violence victimization.
Also in attendance was Beverly Keeshig-Soonias, who lives in Red Deer, but is also from Red Pheasant First Nation. Through the Cree kinship traditions, Boushie was her nephew.
“I don’t want this to discourage people and for it to be a setback for reconciliation, because it’s not an Indigenous issue. It’s something for everybody in Canada to heal from,” she said. “I just want people to, in his honour, find a way to promise to go forward in a good way.”
Other rallies for Colten Boushie were held across the country on Saturday.
(With file from Bill Graveland - The Canadian Press)
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