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.

Friday, March 09, 2018

The Gap is Widening Between First Nations and the Rest-of-Canada

"The Crown cannot appeal because some people have questions about how the investigation was done or what the lawyers did."
"There is no basis for concluding the judge said or did anything that would justify an appeal."
"The public interest, the fact that something is of great concern or seen as an example of something larger, never factors into it. I believe everything was done appropriately [during the trial that exonerated Saskatchewan farmer Gerald Stanley in the shooting death of Colten Boushie]."
Assistant Deputy Attorney General Anthony Gerein, Regina, Saskatchewan

"The Stanley family is relieved that the criminal process is now complete, but this is not a happy day. A young man died, that is a terrible tragedy. There is no going back; there is no making it right."
"We hope that with time the Boushie/Baptiste family can begin to heal."
Scott Spencer, defence lawyer
Gerald Stanley courthouse
Stanley's defence team argued that he fired two warning shots to scare off Boushie and his friends but that a third shot went off accidentally as he was reaching for the keys of the SUV in which Boushie was seated. (Canadian Press)
"[The Crown's decision is] unfortunate but we weren't surprised."
"There's so many questions. Tell the truth. There won't be any healing until that happens."
"We want our children to have just as much right to respect in the justice system as anybody else. We don't want any more. We don't want any less. [That will happen through education and understanding] truths that are sometimes hard to listen to."
"Such conversations are] going to be difficult, scary and very uncomfortable [but they need to happen]."
Vice-Chief Kim Jonathan, Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations

"[The Boushie family] is not taking the news well."
"I feel terrible for Indigenous people in this province who are part of this justice system. The justice system in the province is broken and needs to be fixed."
"The family is going to keep fighting."
Chris Murphy, Boushie family lawyer
Colten Boushie
The circumstances of Boushie's death fuelled racial tensions in Saskatchewan and across Canada and ignited a debate about rural crime and adequate policing. (Facebook)

News that the Crown had no intention of appealing the not-guilty verdict reached by a jury of all-white jurors in the 2016 death of 22-year-old Cree Colten Boushie who had driven along with four friends onto the Stanley farm, with the resulting confrontation between the farm family and the five Aboriginal youths ending in  tragedy, elicited a pledge from the young man's mother that: "This isn't the end of the fight". The not-guilty verdict on the charge of second-degree murder delivered on February 9th, raised a storm of protest from within the Aboriginal community in Saskatchewan and across the country.

"Justice for Boushie" was heard everywhere. The circumstances were that five drunk young people driving an SUV with a blown tire had earlier driven onto another farm and an attempt made to steal a truck there. The young people were in possession of a long gun. They had been to a beach and had spent the afternoon drinking. On arrival at the Stanley farm one of the youths made an effort to start an all-terrain vehicle that was sitting in the yard. When Stanley and his son heard the commotion they rushed over from where they had been building a fence.

A confrontation ensued, with Stanley ordering the young people to leave his farm. Two of the young men ran off after backing up and hitting a parked SUV belonging to one of the Stanleys. Mr. Stanley testified he was worried about the whereabouts of his wife, reached into the truck where Boushie was sitting in the driver's seat to turn off the ignition, and a handgun he was holding and had earlier fired into the air, misfired and hit the young man in the back of the head, killing him. Farmers in Saskatchewan are on edge over an epidemic of thefts from their farms taking place in broad daylight.

Trucks, ATVs, farm equipment, tools, all missing, all costly to replace, all frustrating the farmers who complain the RCMP's response to be inadequate. The prevailing atmosphere is one of suspicion and anger. And there seems to be a culture of petty, ubiquitous thefts for which the Aboriginal community is being held responsible. The Indigenous communities feel themselves targeted, the farmers consider they are seen as easy prey, and both feel ill done by, by the other. Now, after the death of Colten Boushie and the not-guilty judgement in his death, the distance between the two has become a chasm.

First Nations are convinced they will never see justice in Canada. First Nations are over-represented in their numbers in prisons. On the other hand, their commission of crimes surpass those of the non-Indigenous population. Often enough, during criminal trials Indigenous people are given special consideration, under a concept called the Gladue process which takes into account individual, background, culture, heritage and discrimination they have suffered.

There is a weight of dysfunction within First Nations reserves resulting in suicides, violence, child neglect, high unemployment, alcohol and drug addiction, tribal council corruption, and endemic poverty, despite the federal government funding reserves. Those housed by reserve funding see no need to perform the most perfunctory and necessary upkeep to the dwellings they inhabit because they don't own them, and they feel that any repair or upkeep is the responsibility of government. Sometimes the only employment available is to be on the band payroll.

Many of the communities are geographically isolated. There are problems associated with a lack of potable water, food that is imported is prohibitively expensive, and there are complaints that medical services are not on par with those available in urban centres -- understandably. Education available to the young is held to be inferior to that obtained in cities. Children who are taken into the care of provincial childcare agencies are sometimes given to the care of non-Aboriginals, decried by First Nations.

Children are neglected and though too young are left to their own devices. Mental health problems are more numerous and more acute than elsewhere as many reserve residents feel bored and dejected and deplore their own isolation even as they cite pride in heritage and a determination to live on ancestral lands and remain committed to Aboriginal traditions and way of life, though hunting and trapping and traditions are no longer practised as they once were. ATVs, television and processed foods represent their new norms.

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