Colten Boushie Trial Fallout Continues

Legal Update
Symbol of law and justice in the empty courtroom - Image -
Legal Update
Symbol of law and justice in the empty courtroom – Image –

OTTAWA – Reaction to the decision of the jury in the Colten Boushie murder trial and the acquittal of Gerald Stanley continues. Federal Ministers met with members of the Boushie family in Ottawa yesterday. In the House of Commons, Prime Minister Trudeau stated, “Our thoughts, of course, are with the family and friends of Colten Boushie. While it would be completely inappropriate to comment on the specifics of this case, we understand there are systemic issues in our criminal justice system that we must address. We are committed to broad-based reform to address these issues. As a country, we must and we can do better. Our government is committed to working hard every day to ensure justice for all Canadians.”

The federal Justice Minister is vowing to look into how juries are selected in Canadian courts. The spotlight on this jury decision and the ongoing discussion and debate shows little sign of ending soon.

Across social media, there has been a great deal of discussion, in many cases based on opinion rather than fact. There has been a great deal of heated and often racist comments posted online on social media.

What is seemingly lost in all of this is the tragic death of a twenty-two-year-old human being. The legacy of Colten Boushie has to be finding solutions. The time for pointing fingers of blame should be over.

The Indigenous Bar Association (IBA) wishes to express its sincere condolences to the Boushie family and to the community of Red Pheasant First Nation

Canada’s legal system has failed Colten Boushie, his family and Canada. A system built on the violence of ongoing colonialism and the continued oppression of Indigenous Peoples must end. Canada’s fair and impartial justice system is a myth and has clearly failed the Boushie family, the Red Pheasant First Nation, and Indigenous people from across Canada.

The ongoing reality is Canada remains a dangerous place to live if you are Indigenous.

A long history of commissions reports and critical scholarship have underscored this stark reality, including the Manitoba Justice Inquiry, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, Justice Iacobucci’s Report entitled, First Nation Representation on Ontario Juries, the Commission of Inquiry into the death of Dudley George, the Commission of Inquiry into the death of Neil Stonechild, the current Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry, the Royal Commission on the Wrongful Conviction of Donald Marshall Jr. and the Report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. When is it enough? When does the consciousness of all Canadians awaken and move to action to implement much-needed change?

Reconciliation should not perpetuate the historical power imbalance whereby Indigenous People’s lives are reduced to the point where they are of less value that other Canadians. This was certainly not the intent of the Nation-to-Nation agreements which form the basis of Treaties, Canada’s creation, the Constitution Act 1982, nor is this an implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was endorsed by Canada in 2012 and endorsed without qualification in 2016, with a promise of full implementation in Canadian law.

In response to this latest tragedy the Indigenous Bar Association calls on the governments of this land including, Indigenous, Federal, Provincial, Territorial and Municipal to immediately adopt those calls to action as set out in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which provide for the recognition and implementation of Aboriginal justice systems in a manner consistent with the Treaty and Aboriginal rights of Aboriginal peoples, and the Constitution Act, 1982.

In the interim, the IBA calls on the Government of Canada to reform the current jury selection and jury pool representation laws. As set out by the Prime Minister of Canada, “Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians alike know that we have to do better.”

It is time for the current Government of Canada, the Provinces and the Territories to abolish their long-standing historical policy of assimilating Indigenous Peoples, our languages, our cultures and our laws and denying our rightful place as the partner in Confederation who through treaties sought to turn strangers into family and who contributed all of the lands and resources to be shared for mutual use and benefit. It is time for a meaningful recalibration of the relationship where Indigenous Peoples are respected and protected in order to pursue and express our own self-determination so that there are no more senseless, violent attacks on Indigenous Peoples, like Colten Boushie, who continue to have their lives taken while Canadians continue to benefit from ongoing colonization.

The IBA is a national association comprised of Indigenous (First Nations, Inuit, and Metis) lawyers, legal academics, elders, articling clerks and law students, including graduate and post-graduate law students. The IBA is a not-for-profit federal corporation mandated, amongst other things, to promote the advancement of legal and social justice for Indigenous peoples in Canada, as well as the reform of laws and policies affecting Indigenous peoples.

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