Gathering calls for justice system reform
Tim Brody - Associate Editor
A group of more than 100 people gathered outside the Centennial Centre in Sioux Lookout last Wednesday afternoon to support the family of Colten Boushie and call for changes to Canada’s justice system.
Boushie, a member of Red Pheasant First Nation, died of a gunshot wound to the head on farmer Gerald Stanley’s farm near Biggar, Saskatchewan, in August 2016.
Stanley was found not guilty of second-degree murder on February 9 in 22-year-old Boushie’s death.
“The reason why we’re here is this is Bob Nault’s constituency office and so we thought we should have something here. I guess we felt people needed it. People are angry. People are sad. It’s very emotional. So we wanted people to come out to something and feel like they did something,” commented Darlene Angeconeb who organized the gathering.
From 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Front Street was closed between Fourth and Five Avenues for the gathering following a request to the Municipality from event organizers.
Lac Seul First Nation Chief Clifford Bull told those gathered, “An injustice has occurred in our judicial system and we need to fix that. Back in 2011 Frank Iacobucci (former Supreme Court Justice) was commissioned to do a study on the gaps of how our judicial system fails our Indigenous peoples, and out of it came 17 recommendations. We need to see those recommendations implemented ASAP.
“We feel for the family who have lost their loved one today. That’s why we’re here, in support of the Boushie family. They’re in Ottawa now, pleading with the Prime Minister for a review, an appeal perhaps, and it’s happening right across Canada.
“We don’t want our young people, the as yet unborn, to go through what we’re going through now. We need to have sweeping changes at the federal and provincial government levels to make changes in the way juries are selected, that there’s fairness for all, equal representation.”
Sioux Lookout Mayor Doug Lawrance was unable to attend the event, but sent along the following message, which was read by Angeconeb.
“Our thoughts go out to the grieving family of Colten Boushie. Mister Boushie’s shooting and the subsequent trial have brought Canadians together across the country.
“In Canada we can be proud of our justice system, that our justice system is considered to be among the best in the world although it is not perfect. Improvements can be made. We need to support the Boushie family as they advocate for change in our justice system. We must ensure that justice happens in the courtrooms of our country, not in the streets.”
Residential school survivor and Order of Canada recipient Garnet Angeconeb observed, “I have never seen the country wake up as I have in this past week and that is a good thing. That is a good thing because sometimes we’re afraid to talk to one-another as people in Canada.
“With this tragedy that happened, we are bringing people together. We are listening to one another and I think that is so good.
“This morning, when I listened to the news, it was very encouraging to see the leaders of this country rise up to a family that is hurting.”
He added, “We need to rely on our leadership to guide us through this tragedy, but at the same time your voice is important to keep the dialogue going with the higher ups. So your presence here is so, so important.
“The issue of justice is something not new for our people. This morning I did some quick research. There have been well over 10 inquiries, studies done on justice issues in the last 30 years. We’ve even had some studies done here locally. Hopefully, from this time forward people will listen and something will be done in a good way to make this a better place to live for all of us.”
Students from Pelican Falls First Nations High School and Queen Elizabeth District High School attended the gathering.
PFFNHS student Nathaniel Winter posed, “We as youth need to stay together, but the adults, you guys need to protect us. When are we going to have justice served? When are we going to have protection for our youth?”
He further questioned, “When is action going to be taken for the youth instead of talking about it? When is racism going to stop? When are our people going to feel safe in cities, different places? How are we going to know our kids are going to be safe if this is going to keep happening – youth dying, First Nations people dying?”
PFFNHS teacher Lynette Fisher commented, “I’m very, very proud of our young people.”
She said to them, “I want you to take a look around at each other and let you know you can change the system from the inside out. We can battle the system daily, but you get your education. You be lawyers. You be doctors. You be law enforcement. You be judges. You change the system from the inside out.”
She added, “If we want to change the system, we could battle it for a thousand years. But you know what? When we get our education, when we stop struggling, when we put down our addictions and put aside our hurt and we educate ourselves, we step forward with open minds. That’s where we can make change. That’s where we have our power. Educate yourselves.”
Candace Kitchkeesick organized a rally on February 11 to support Boushie’s family and call for change to the justice system.
She had been planning another rally, but when she heard about Angeconeb’s gathering, reached out to her about combining efforts.
“That’s the point, solidarity,” she said.
“It was really nice to see the students come out,” she added.
Sioux Lookout community member Barb Carpenter, a Lac Seul band member and mother also attended the gathering.
“This national issue really did bring a lot of emotions to me,” she said.
“We’re in a period of truth and reconciliation. You want to know what the truth is. The truth is the justice system doesn’t work for us.
“We’ve got the missing and murdered women issue. We’ve got missing students that are going to our schools. We’ve got all kinds of inquiries going on… the suicide epidemic that we have up north, we don’t need that. We need everybody here to be strong.
“You guys are our future,” she told the gathered students.