By now, I’m pretty sure you recognize the name Colten Boushie if you have been keeping up with the news.
In and of itself, it’s sad when a name appears in the news repeatedly and I wish it was because they had had some sort of artistic or scientific breakthrough.
But this not the case, when the media reports of a young man’s life snuffed out and any chance of justice is slipping away -- unless community members step up and make his name mean something, teach us something, not just about society, but about ourselves.
Normally, we would not know much about this young man’s death if it wasn’t for the manner of his demise and society's reaction to it.
Right now, it seems like there is no justice for Colten Boushie. But don't underestimate the power of First Nations communities to organize and take action -- consider Idle No More as an example -- because they can hold back a glacier.
Colten Boushie’s death
Twenty-two year old Colten Boushie, a Cree man from Red Pheasant First Nation who acted in the ceremonial role as Fire Keeper, was shot dead in Saskatchewan on August 9, 2016.
That afternoon, Boushie, his girlfriend, Kiora Wuttunee, Belinda Jackson, her boyfriend, Eric Meechance, and Cassidy Cross-Whitstone, all from Red Pheasant First Nation, had spent the day swimming and drinking.
After the SUV they were riding in got a flat tire, they went to Gerry Stanley’s farmhouse to seek help. The fifty-six-year-old farmer from Battleford, Saskatchewan was home with his wife and son.
Once on his property, one of Boushie’s friends decided to try and steal an ATV. The driver of the SUV had also crashed into Stanley’s wife’s car.
In response, Stanley fired two warning shots into the air from his semi-automatic in an attempt to make the youth flee.
He then shot Boushie in the head, killing him instantly -- despite the fact that he had been sitting in the front passenger seat of the SUV and had not been responsible for the crash, nor was he not involved with the attempted theft of the ATV.
Stanley would later claim that the gun went off accidentally while he was trying to reach inside the SUV for the keys to keep Boushie from escaping his property. This contradicted his earlier statement that he fired the first two warning shots as he wanted to scare the suspected ATV thief into leaving the property.
He attempted to clarify his behaviour stating that he wanted to grab the youth’s car keys as he feared the erratic driver of the SUV would panic and run over his wife.
After shooting Boushie in the head, Gerry Stanley called the police.
He was arrested and eventually charged with second-degree murder.
Reaction and consequences to Boushie’s death
After the death of Boushie, the RCMP angered the public with a media release which was written in such a way it made it appear that Boushie was involved in a crime when he was shot.
The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) Chief Bobby Cameron expressed his concerns to the public that it helped stoke racial tension. He told CBC News, "The RCMP news release kind of leads readers to believe that a crime was about to be committed and therefore deserved retaliation that obviously resulted in the tragedy of a young man."
Cameron went on to say that the RCMP statement, "provided just enough prejudicial information for the average reader to draw their own conclusions that the shooting was somehow justified."
Tension online continued to rise when the Saskatchewan Farmers Group's Facebook page was filled with racist posts and photos of farmers brandishing firearms. The RCMP later held a press conference requesting "residents to put their guns away."
Trying to smother the fires of racial tension, on August 15, 2016 , Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall noted the racist comments on social media, calling the comments, "unacceptable, intolerant and a betrayal of the very values and character of Saskatchewan."
Reacting to Premier Wall’s statement, the National Farmers Union published a statement in which they expressed their "profound sadness over the tragic shooting of Colten Boushie, and extended deepest condolences to his family and community and as farmers, condemned the rampant racist remarks that have circulated since the death of Colten Boushie, including comments made on the 'Saskatchewan Farmers' Facebook group."
This is the first instalment in a two-part series. Read the second part here.
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