Law students from the University of Ottawa have launched a petition demanding Justice Canada call an inquiry into the trial and death of Colton Boushie.
Boushie was fatally shot by farmer Gerald Stanley in 2016.
In the ensuing trial Stanley was acquitted of murder.
“This fire was in my belly and I was really conflicted. So, I went and I offered my tobacco and I realized that in order for us to get change, we need to be change,” said first-year uOttawa Indigenous law student Taryn Michel.
When the jury decision came out she was studying for her law school admissions test.
She remembers being shocked and angry.
“I shut down the lap top and I thought ‘what am I doing? Why and I getting into a profession that doesn’t help Indigenous people?’ There is no justice for Indigenous people,” Michel said.
Michel dug deep and two years later she is a law student at the University of Ottawa and a member of the Indigenous Law Students Association (ILSA).
To launch their petition, ILSA organized a vigil and a walk Sunday evening that made its way to Parliament Hill and ending at the steps of the Supreme Court of Canada.
The petition is calling for a public inquiry into the killing of Colten Boushie, the trial of Gerald Stanley and his acquittal.
“An inquiry is essential to identify specific issues and steps to remedy them,” the petition states. “Without it, the fundamental issues between Indigenous people, the RCMP, the Government and the legal system will only continue to intensify and reveal itself in further tragedy.”
(Law students stand in front of the centennial flame on Parliament Hill. Photo: Jamie Pashagumskum/APTN)
Claudette Commanda an Algonquin Anishinabe from Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg and an Elder in residence at the university, opened the vigil with a prayer.
“The homeland of my ancestors and my people since time immemorial… we must ensure (the homeland) will be here forevermore for our children, our grand children, our seven generations and beyond,” Commanda said. “Let us raise together that one voice and one heart, one love to Colten Boushie.”
Commanda is a professor in the faculty of Law and Aboriginal studies program at the university and a former student.
She has been advocating for Indigenous rights for over 30 years.
Commanda said Colten Boushie’s life was taken and she called it a sacrifice for the greater good that will eventually lead to justice for Indigenous people.
She said First Nations people in Canada face injustices every day and it has to stop.
“Is it justice? Or is it just us?” Commanda questioned.
After Commanda’s remarks and an opening song from the Ottawa River Singers, the crowd of nearly 80 people slowly made their way, candles in hand, to Parliament Hill.
Read the Petition here: Public Inquiry into Death of Colten Boushie, Investigation & Acquittal of Gerald Stanley
Andre Bear is a Cree from the Canoe Lake First Nation in Saskatchewan and a family friend of Colton Boushie.
Bear decided to study law after Gerald Stanley was acquitted.
He is a student at the University of Saskatchewan and is a representative on the Indigenous Bar Association in Canada.
He was invited to speak at the vigil to honour Colten Boushie, his family and to call for justice in Canada’s legal system.
“It broke my heart. It broke my family’s heart. It was pain that was shared by many people across this country,” Bear said standing in front of the centennial flame on Parliament Hill.
“There’s so much hate in this world, especially against Indigenous Peoples. Anyone with a heart should be able to see that that’s wrong,” Bear said. “We can’t live in fear because of people’s hatred. We’re going to solve this. That’s the only way that Colten will feel Justice.”
(Law student Andre Bear addresses students on Parliament Hill. Photo: Jamie Pashagumskum/APTN)
The vigil then walked to the Supreme Court building for more speeches from Bear and Michel.
There they spoke about Canadian law and the Colten Boushie murder trial.
“The judge had said that the two warning shots fired by Gerald Stanley were lawful. Show me one case in this country where its lawful to shoot at someone running away from you,” Bear demanded.
Earlier that evening Commanda asked that the outcry not stop at the vigil but should continue every day to raise justice for Colten Boushie.
She said Boushie’s family should be kept in everyone’s hearts and minds because they live with that loss everyday.
“We love him, and that love carries to him. And he appreciates that love because as First Nations people, regardless of what tribe we come form, we believe in that afterlife, in that spirit world, and Colten is there.”