Family members of Colten Boushie are ending a whirlwind Ottawa trip on Wednesday with a clear message: they will not stop fighting for changes to the criminal justice system.
“We refuse to live in fear. Our children should not live in fear. Our children should be able to walk this earth in freedom and not be worried about being shot or come up missing,” said Debbie Baptiste, the mother of the 22-year-old Red Pheasant First Nation member who was shot and killed in August 2016.
Gerald Stanley, the white Saskatchewan farmer who held the gun that killed Boushie, was acquitted by an all-white jury on Friday.
The family then travelled from Saskatchewan to Ottawa to meet with several political leaders, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh.
Boushie’s relatives did not meet with Andrew Scheer. A spokesperson said the Conservative leader is attending events in Saskatchewan and British Columbia this week. However, the family has met with other Conservative MPs, including Kevin Waugh, Battlefords-Lloydminster representative Rosemarie Falk, and Indigenous affairs critic Cathy McLeod.
The family’s issues with Boushie’s case start with the day he died, on Aug. 9, 2016. Relatives have launched a complaint with the independent Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, alleging that RCMP officers mishandled the investigation into Boushie’s death.
Chris Murphy, a lawyer representing the Boushie family, also said part of the problem is peremptory challenges, which allow defence and Crown lawyers to strike out potential jurors from the jury pool without stating a reason. He said Stanley’s defence team rejected anyone from the jury who was Indigenous in appearance.
He called the peremptory challenge process “government-sanctioned discrimination.”
“There are much better ways to do that than look at a colour of a person’s skin when they get called up,” he said. “It’s a process that literally lasts three seconds – the accused look upon the juror, the juror looks upon the accused, defence challenge – that’s it.”
The Boushie family said they’re hopeful real change is in the works. Trudeau is expected to make a speech about a new legal framework for Indigenous people in the House of Commons Wednesday afternoon.
Jade Tootoosis, Boushie’s cousin, said she feels her family is finally being heard.
“We will be back. We will be speaking out,” she said. “This does not end here. We will continue the dialogue and we will press for concrete changes within the system so that no other families, no other Indigenous lives are taken before changes are made.”