Something terrible happened in my little corner of the world this past week. It’s not the first time that it’s happened; I know it won’t be the last. And for as hopeful as I am that we’re getting better as a society, more accepting, caring, and considerate, these kind of events always remind me of just how far we have to go. And while I debated internally for some time as to whether or not I would put something on my blog, and what precisely I would say, I eventually had to recognize that to be silent is to be complicit with what happened.
A young man died in August of 2016, shot in the head by a farmer, whose land he and some friends had driven onto. These events are part of the agreed upon statement of facts in the case. There was testimony, as well, some of it inconsistent and focusing on the fact that the car full of young people were all drinking, and may have driven onto the land to steal a quad, or to seek help for a flat tire. There was more testimony about whether or not the farmer intended to shoot the young man, and whether the gun had “hang fired” due to poorly-maintained ammunition. From my perspective, none of that really matters anyway. Our country’s laws dictate that lethal force is never justified to protect possessions–because lives are more important than things.
Colten Boushie died of a gunshot wound to the head. Gerald Stanley was holding the pistol that shot him. The jury found Gerald Stanley not guilty. They could have found him guilty of second degree murder. That’s where the testimony might have had some value to the case, as second degree murder requires intent, and whether Gerald Stanley truly intended for Colten Boushie to die was up for debate during the trial. Manslaughter, on the other hand, largely ignores intent. If I were to punch someone, intending only to hurt them, and they died, I would be guilty of manslaughter–even though I didn’t intend for the person to die. The only thing that must be proven is that I was responsible for the death.
Gerald Stanley was, unequivocally, responsible for the death of Colten Boushie. Again, this was part of the agreed-upon statement of facts in the case.
And yet, he was found not-guilty.
In my post on the Canada 150 controversy, I likened our country to a functional alcoholic. On the world stage, we present a likable face, synonymous with compassion, acceptance, and good will. The problem is how we act at home. At home that legacy of good humour, honesty, and courage is sullied by the way we’ve treated the other people in our family–those that should be closest to our hearts. Our country is a racist country, and we while we have begun to recognize that and acknowledge that there is work to be done, we also have to accept that the systems we have in place are racist, as well. We have to accept, as difficult as it may be, that we ourselves are almost certainly racist to one degree or another, and that we have to do better.
Don’t believe me? Try a quick mental exercise or two: if a carload of white teenagers, stars of the local high school basketball team, say, had driven onto a reserve and one had been shot in the head by a First Nations man, would the verdict had been the same? Or if the jury that heard Gerald Stanley’s trial had been all indigenous peoples, rather than white people, do you think the finding would have been the same? Me neither. Hell, maybe if a handful of the jurors had been indigenous, it would have been enough to change the verdict. We will never know.
What we do know is all contained in the statement of facts: Colten Boushie died. Gerald Stanley killed him. Gerald Stanley walked away a free man.
We need to do better, Canada. We need to BE better. #JusticeforColten