Canada Culture & Religion

It’s time for the Canadian Justice System to Acknowledge its Perpetuation of Institutionalized Racism

Outrage broke out in a Saskatchewan courtroom on February 9th, as farmer Gerald Stanley was charged not guilty for the death of indigenous man Colten Boushie after “accidentally” shooting him with his gun in August 2016.

Stanley was a white man, who faced an all white jury, in a community known to be racist against Indigenous people in the past, making the verdict at best seem a little fishy. It is still uncertain what did happen in the altercation between Stanley and Boushie, but it is certain that Boushie ended up being shot in the head, something that to many does not seem so accidental.

In fact, the Stanley defence tried to curate the jury to be as white-looking as possible in order to ensure their chances of a not-guilty verdict were dramatically increased. Using peremptory challenges, which allow the lawyers on any side of the case to disqualify any potential juror without reason, the defence disqualified jurors that looked like they could be Indigenous which stacked the jury in their favour. This action is not only extremely unjust, but it also shows how white privilege is so strong that it can essentially rig a jury to lean towards one side of a case.

Even outside of the jury’s verdict and the lawyer’s actions, racism from Canadian authority seemed to taint Boushie’s case. Boushie’s family reported that the night they were told of his death, the police officer who broke the news asked if their family had been drinking because of their shocked reaction. Many suspect would not have been asked to a white family who would have heard news of the same nature.

Unfortunately, Boushie’s case is not an outlier in Canadian society, a society plagued by mistreatment of Indigenous people, and with quite the negative track record when it comes to unfair criminal cases against those with Aboriginal heritage. The CBC alone has investigated 34 cases of missing or murdered Indigenous women that the police has said did not involve foul play, though evidence in many of these cases suggest the opposite.

For example, Ada Elaine Brown was an Indigenous women found dead in a hotel room in 2001. Her death according to authorities was of natural causes, even though she was found with black eyes, and the post-mortem said that her body showed signs of previous assault.

The consistent trends in mistreatment from Canadian police, and injustice when it comes to murder cases means that there must be a change in the Canadian Justice system. It reminds the Canadian public that institutionalized racism is not just something that existed in the past, but is present and more outright than ever in Canadian government. There should be efforts made to ensure that all investigations are as seamless and fair as possible, and that can be done by ensuring people of Indigenous and non Indigenous descent work on cases such as Brown’s and Boushie’s. It means not allowing all-white juries, and unfair treatment and comments from police officers. It means investigating further into every single case, and finding justice for every single person and their families. It means not tolerating the unfairness that is extremely apparent in many cases concerning Indigenous people, like many are doing now with Boushie’s case.

Rallies protesting the verdict around Boushie’s case are being organized around Canada, in hopes that raising awareness and showing solidarity will urge the justice system to change their policies for any other similar cases. It is also hoped that continued media coverage will help to ensure people of all races are aware of the injustice that has been faced by the Indigenous community for many years. Hopefully, Boushie and his family will one day have justice, and regardless of if the jury was correct or not, the verdict will have been unbiased, and untainted by the everpresent institutionalized racism within the Canadian Justice System.

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