Discussion Guide: Justice for Colten Boushie

Thank you to those who contributed to the discussion guide.  The guide is meant as an open source resource.  If you have suggestions please email info@idlenomore.ca.  Please feel free to share the discussion guide. It is meant to be a living document.

 

Possible questions to guide discussion:

What are the basic facts about the Gerald Stanley killing of Colten Boushie that we need to know?

Gerald Stanley was charged with 2nd degree murder in the death of Colten Boushie, a 22-year-old member of the Red Pheasant Cree Nation. The jury, selected by the Crown and Defense and comprised entirely of visibly non-Indigenous people, acquitted Stanley of all charges, leaving no one accountable for Mr. Boushie’s death.

Colten Boushie and four friends arrived on Stanley’s farm around 5pm. Boushie was shot just behind his left ear while he was sitting in the driver’s seat of the SUV. When the police came to the scene, they found Boushie dead and Stanley in the kitchen drinking coffee.  

 

What’s the difference between murder and manslaughter?

Second degree murder is not premeditated, but there is intent to harm. Manslaughter is killing that results from an accident, with no intent to harm. Manslaughter is not premeditated, and it is an unlawful act that causes death. Despite there not being an intent to kill, reasonable people would foresee that act to cause serious bodily harm.

Stanley was charged with second degree murder and the jury could have found him guilty of murder OR they could have found him guilty for a lesser charge (e.g. manslaughter).

 

What was the defence’s argument?

The Crown has to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Stanley fired at Boushie intentionally. There is no evidence that Stanley pulled the trigger, according to the defence. Stanley claimed that the gun went off and he does not know how, suggesting ‘hang fire’ or a malfunctioning weapon. Experts testified that the weapon used could not have gone off accidentally and could only have been fired by pulling the trigger.

The jury not only found him not guilty of murder, they did not even find him guilty of manslaughter.

 

Who comprised the jury and why did it appear to be all white?

  • Jury selection process has been seen as unfair, first by Indigenous peoples involved, but now, increasingly, government officials like the Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould are discussing a possible investigation of the process.
  • The defence challenged every single possible jury member who was visibly Indigenous to, in the end, produce a jury that was all white in appearance.
  • Critics studying this question have stated that people have been advocating for changes regarding jury selection, but that others have also been arguing for alternative courts and forms of justice run and organized by Indigenous peoples. 

 

Why did the jury run out of the courtroom once the judgement was read?

  • In an article entitled, “Gerald Stanley and the fear of the ‘Indian’,” writer Robert Jago (Kwantlen First Nation and Nooksack Indian Tribe) asks us to consider why the jury ran out of the courtroom as soon as the verdict was read? Gerald Stanley was immediately escorted out of the courtroom and out a side door into a car, and interestingly, some of the jury members were quick to get up and leave. Robert Jago raises important questions and points to important aspects in relation to the socialization of Canadians, especially white Canadians, when it comes to negative sentiments towards and ideas about Indigenous Canadians, especially fear.
    • What he says in the article: White Canadians still see Indigenous peoples as animals. They fear them. They believe they are rough. They see them as “wild ‘wagon-burners’", that historical and perpetual threat to the sanctity of settler expansion and settler making of livelihoods. They see reserves as “chaotic” spaces that threaten adjacent settler communities.
    • The urging of “calm” after the verdict was a form of policing the emotions of Indigenous peoples while also implying that, if allowed, they would run amok and create havoc.
    • And, most revealingly of all, the verdict wasn’t reached by a mob of racists “over there” or elsewhere. It was reached by 12 regular Canadians.
    • Here is a revealing quote regarding these “regular” Canadians:

These are Canadians who have lived their entire lives hearing excuses for why they don’t need to care about Indians. Why care about tainted drinking water on reserves? “Those greedy chiefs are probably taking the money, those Indians need to sort themselves out first.” Why care about the crisis in Thunder Bay? “It’s Indians killing Indians, Indians drinking too much and falling in the water, what are we supposed to do?” For every problem that Indians face in this country, there is a ready excuse, a fig leaf, to shield Canada from blame.

  • Jago emphasizes what others have pointed to, that this injustice is ordinary. This is in fact how a colonial legal system is supposed to work in relation to the colonized.

 

What is the relationship of this verdict to racism and ongoing colonial violence?

  • The defence counsel Scott Spencer stated in a Toronto Star article that “Gerry’s trial is not a referendum on racism. If jurors feel that they have to pick a ‘side,’ then it will be very difficult for there to be a fair trial.”
    • A point of discussion here is to consider how such a statement delegitimizes questions about racism within criminal actions as well as in the criminal justice system.
  • During the trial and afterward, a number of people defending Gerald Stanley (and by association, white farmers) and upholding the idea that the trial was fair have criticized those who see everyday and institutional racism against Indigenous peoples (e.g. within the justice system) as a significant factor in the case. They have used notions like “you are the ones bringing race into this” or “you are playing the race card” or “this has absolutely nothing to do with race” to aggressively deny that racism played a role.
    • This presumes that institutions of a colonial and racist state can somehow adjudicate justice in a fair manner, as though the racism that permeates society does not infiltrate questions of criminal justice.
    • Tweet from @mediaINDIGENA quoting the Defence lawyer’s closing statement about what happened: "It's a tragedy, but it's not criminal."  https://twitter.com/mediaINDIGENA/status/961752080288501763

 

Will there be an appeal?

There is a call for an appeal of the verdict and a public inquiry into how the Stanley trial was administered. You can read and sign it here:

Leadnow: https://you.leadnow.ca/petitions/justice-for-colten-boushie?bucket=&source=twitter-share-button

Change.org (also has a petition):

https://www.change.org/p/supreme-court-of-canada-justice-for-colten-boushie  

 

SELECTED ARTICLES BY MAIN TOPIC

Jury Selection Procedure

 

Details about the Case and Trial

 

Protests and Rallies in Support of Bouchie and Family

 

Online (Racist) Vitriol Directed at Indigenous People and Bouchie Family

 

Saskatchewan/Canadian context (as productive of the situation).

 

Critique of Settler mindset and subjectivity

 

Calls for Change

 

VIDEOS

CBC Power and Politics with Terry Milewski - February 12, 2018

  • Various discussions around legal issues, reform, politicians commenting on the case. First segment is with Jade Tootoosis (Colten's cousin/sister) and the Bouchie Family Lawyer. Other segments include panel with Hayden King as well as MPs addressing whether government officials should comment on the verdict.

 

RADIO

Jesse Wente on Metro Morning, February 13, 2018: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/programs/metromorning/what-comes-after-the-boushie-verdict-1.4532983

 

POETRY

150 kms west of Saskatoon by Dallas Hunt

For Colten by Nickita Longman
His Name by ecoaborijanelle
A History of the Present & If our Bodies Could Rust, We’d be Falling Apart by Billy-Ray Belcourt

 

RELEVANT LITERATURE (CONTEXT & BACKGROUND, including shorter book reviews)

Settler Colonialism, Settlers, Government Policy

James Daschuk Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal Life. University of Regina Press.

Sheelah McLean. "'We built a life from nothing"': White settler colonialism and the myth of meritocracy". Our Schools/Our Selves Fall/Winter 2018.

 

Schooling, Curriculum and Indigenous Youth

 

Other excellent resources