This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Rage Across The Land : Subjective/Objective

"The justice system needs to stop locking up our youths. All of our loved ones are in jail. White people ... they run the court system."
"Enough. We're going to fight back."
"They're not sweeping us under the carpet. Enough killing our people. We fight back. Go to hell, Gerald Stanley. That's where you belong."
Debbie Baptise, Red Pheasant First Nation resident, Saskatchewan

"I was terrified. I didn't know what to say [to police]. I was young, I was stupid, I've changed a lot since that happened, and I'm willing to face the consequences."
"I was scared for myself and I was scared for the people there, that they might get in trouble, and I knew I was wrong but that's just how I was feeling over there because I was scared out of my mind. I didn't know what to say."
"I wasn't there to steal."
Cassidy Cross-Whitstone, 18, trial witness

"I'd seen a younger-looking man go inside the house, walk inside the house and then shortly after that, meanwhile, the person that said 'Go get the gun', went and grabbed his own handgun."
"He shot Colten in the head."
"I was lying to police. [Giving her statement to] make it seem like I did something wrong so I didn't know how to answer him."
"[I was] still intoxicated [at the time]."
Belinda Jackson, 24, trial witness
Gerald Stanley, right, pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in the death of Colten Boushie and underwent a two-week jury trial. He has been found not guilty.
Gerald Stanley, right, pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in the death of Colten Boushie and underwent a two-week jury trial. He has been found not guilty. (Facebook/Liam Richards/Canadian Press)

On an early August afternoon in 2016, five Indigenous youth from the Red Pheasant First Nation drove into the farmyard of Gerald Stanley purportedly to ask for help for their flat tire. They had been out at a nearby river, swimming and drinking. Previous to driving into the Stanley farm, they had driven into another, nearby farm with the intention of stealing a truck, which failed to start. When Gerald Stanley and his son Sheldon who were busy building a fence, heard the noisy entrance of the SUV driven by the five youth they also heard and viewed in the distance one of the young men attempting to start their all-terrain vehicle.

Mrs. Stanley was not far away, mowing the lawn. The two Stanley men raced toward their yard, to stop whatever was happening. The younger Stanley ran into the farmhouse to retrieve a long gun, and his father ran to a barn to retrieve a revolver. In the melee that followed, with the SUV backing into a parked SUV belonging to Mrs. Stanley, the five inebriated young people in disarray, then two of the young men bolting, Mr. Stanley appeared to have inadvertently shot 22-year-old Colton Boushey, still sitting in the stopped but running SUV in the back of the head.

The two young women sitting in the back seat emerged from the SUV, pulled open the driver's door of the SUV, and pulled at Colten Boushie sitting in the driver's seat, who was dead, and as he slumped sideways out of the SUV, a rifle in his lap fell out as well. Its barrel was missing, later discovered at the previous farm they had entered, beside the smashed window of the truck. The two young women fell on Mrs. Stanley, beating her to the ground, then fled.

Young Cassidy Cross-Whitstone admitted to lying to police about the rifle in the SUV, claiming it belonged to someone else in his SUV, and that he was sober at the time of the entry into the Stanley farm. That they had driven to the farm solely to ask for  help with the tire he had blown when he had earlier swerved off the road, intoxicated. Gerald Stanley testified later in the trial that he hadn't meant to shoot anyone. He had shot into the air, and his gun, he claimed, accidentally went off.

The jury was instructed by the judge in Battleford, Saskatchewan, to find Gerald Stanley guilty of the charge of manslaughter only if they were convinced that the killing of the young Indigenous man was no accident. After deliberating for 13 hours their verdict was 'not guilty'. The courtroom erupted in accusations of an  unjust verdict, and that justice had once again failed the Indigenous community of Canada.

Colten Boushie's mother's (Debbie Baptise) statement about the disproportionate incarceration of Indigenous people is quite correct, but the reality is also that they are disproportionately involved in crime in comparison to the non-Indigenous majority. Violence also appears endemic in that community. Accidents do happen in overheated, excited exchanges between people whose suspicion of one another leads them to regard one the other as hostile.

Fear and injury are no excuse for causing someone's death. But those emotions of suspicion and fear can and do lead to situations where misunderstanding turns to violence, whether by intention or through accidental reaction. Actions have consequences. And the consequence of these young people's untrustworthy behaviour in a generalized atmosphere where farmers have experienced many instances of illegal activities and missing property leading to angry confrontations was realized in the death of Colten Boushie.

The verdict does nothing to satisfy the tribal and human relations agony of grief at the untimely death of yet another young Indigenous man. But it does reflect the neutrality of the justice system when a jury decided the death to be accidental. The jury, comprised entirely of white men and women, failed to have the confidence of the Indigenous community. There are threats of reactions that will erupt to demonstrate just how dissatisfied that community is over the outcome of the trial.
"Colten Boushie was shot in the back of the head at point blank range. Nevertheless, an all-white jury formed the twisted view of that obvious truth and found Stanley not guilty."
"[The verdict] crushed the spirit [of the community in a ruling that was] absolutely perverse."
Red Pheasant First Nation Chief Clint Wuttunee
But the simple facts are that there was evidence and there were witnesses and circumstances and situations arise that call for mature minds to account for inappropriate actions and the sometimes inevitable consequences. 

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