In 2016, a man was shot and killed on a rural farm in the prairie province of Saskatchewan. The subsequent trial has made headlines all across Canada.
The man was Indigenous and what he and friends intended on the farm is not clear. They admitted to having been drinking and trying to break into a truck on a neighbouring farm before driving into the Stanley farm allegedly to ask for help with a flat tire.
The farmer, Gerald Stanley was on trial facing a second degree murder or manslaughter conviction. The defence argued the shooting was accidental. The jury heard the evidence and declared Stanley not guilty.
This has created a storm of bitter protest by indigenous groups across the country many of whom were angrily demanding a verdict of guilty on the murder charge.
But adding fuel to the fire were vague comments made by the federal Justice Minister and the Prime Minister following the not guilty verdict which have since been highly criticised by members of the legal system
Michael Lacy (LLB) is president of the Criminal Lawyers Association of Ontario and partner in the law firm Brauti Thorning Zibarras LLP in Toronto. (we apologise for sound quality over a mobile phone)Listen
In a tweet, the federal Justice Minister said, “My thoughts are with the family of Colton Boushie tonight. I truly feel your pain and I hear all of your voices. As a country we can and must do better – I am committed to working everyday to ensure justice for all Canadians”. Prime Minister Trudeau on a trip to the U.S. was interviewed on camera and also said of the verdict “we must do better”.
One of the major points being criticised by Indigenous groups is that there were seemingly no indigenous members of the jury.
Jurors are selected from the community where the case is heard. All that is known by either side are the names, profession, and how they look. As one expert said, we cannot be certain there were no indigenous members, just that none physically appeared to be indigenous.
Under the law, both the Crown and defence can reject up to 20 potential jurors with not reason given. Jurors can also be rejected for other reasons by either side.”
Several marches and protest demonstrations have been held across the country calling the not guilty verdict “racist”. Members of the Colten Boushie family and Indigenous leaders are meeting with federal politicians today and tomorrow to discuss the case.