Tag Archives: Colten Boushie

We’re in no mood for explaining ourselves to Canada

We don’t need, and we don’t want, a devil’s advocate to set us right about the value of Indigenous lives

✎  Wayne K. Spear | February 11, 2018 • Politics

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CAN’T IMAGINE ANYTHING worse than losing a child.

Now consider, for just a moment, how weak that sentence is. A cliché, wrapped around a euphemism, squatting on a conjecture. I don’t want to imagine the death of my son, or even to write the words, and I definitely don’t want to know what it’s like. Grant me the bliss of ignorance, now and forever.

Colten Boushie

The trial of Gerald Stanley is about the death of a son, about pain that requires no explanation, about the worst of all possible nightmares come true. If Mr. Stanley were sitting in a cell at this moment, the family of Colten Boushie would be mourning a loss all the same. For those who knew and loved Colten, there is today an expansive, terrible hole the universe will never fill. Every parent across Canada can sympathize with this, and so too everyone who has lost a brother or sister. Some things are universal.

But some aren’t in Canada, and the trial of Gerald Stanley is about this too. When the acquittal arrived, I was shocked but not surprised, like Indigenous people everywhere. I felt a sickening, heavy weight come down on me. I was angry and sad, outraged and hopeless. I wanted to kick something over. Instead, I went to bed, thinking it best to check out for a while.

My show the next day was about Indigenous identity, and how we’re all different from one another. I couldn’t have arranged worse timing for this topic. Yes, we are all unique, but in the hours and days after the judgement of innocence was announced, we felt the same emotions and expressed ourselves in a shared language of pain. Indigenous people experienced the Stanley trial the same way because our lives have been shaped by common experiences. We know instinctively that other Indigenous people get it, without anyone having to explain a single thing.

At the Toronto #JusticeforColten gathering, a speaker said she was exhausted by reconciliation. Aren’t we all. At times like this we’re expected to go on television or to write moving newspaper articles explaining ourselves to Canada. Everything we have lived and known is fodder for debate: the suffering of Indian residential school survivors, the legitimacy of our expressions of pain, the continued existence of our communities. We are told that our past is something to get over, and that our aspirations for the future are impractical. As for our present, we should show more gratitude and get on with assimilating.

When I was twenty-four, the Oka confrontation taught my generation of Haudenosaunee that our lives were of less value and importance to Canada than golf. We were forever changed by the Summer of 1990. Twenty-eight years later, our young people are living their Oka, by which I mean they are having their place in the Canadian scheme of things underscored and re-affirmed. The message is clear: it’s okay and even necessary to shoot an Indigenous person over a quad, because a quad is a valuable piece of property.

Ah, but what about the other side? Balance and fairness. The devil’s advocates and the debate?

Some things are universal, like the grief of a bereft parent. Canadians should at least be capable of expressing sorrow over this without having it explained to them. Unfortunately, Indigenous people are forever expected to educate the country and to give an account of ourselves, over and over and over again, as if Canada would be moved by our pain to change its direction. We’re exhausted, and we’re in no mood for explaining ourselves right now, and after this week we may never be again.

Colten Boushie’s Death Must Have a Purpose

For Indigenous people, change is often a matter of life or death

✎  Wayne K. Spear | January 30, 2018 • Current Events

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CMP ROOFTOP SNIPERS were at-the-ready when Gerald Stanley arrived in North Battleford last April for his three-day preliminary hearing. There was drumming and a show of support for the family of Colten Boushie but no violence. There’s been no violence of any kind in the months since this Indigenous Rodney King (as some have called Boushie) was shot in the back of the head while sitting in a car stalled on Stanley’s Biggar, Saskatchewan property. The family has made it clear that what they want is not blood but justice and change.

Colten’s death must have a purpose. While his death revealed a deep divide that exists between many within this province, it has also brought us here to this courthouse, where we could come together and ask for a fair trial for everyone involved. We, Colten’s family, hope that this preliminary hearing and the issues that it raises about our relationships with each other will generate further discussion and dialogue to help us bring our communities together.

Biggar, Saskatchewan

It’s an understatement to characterise this sentiment as dignified, but then what isn’t an understatement when speaking of confronting the death of a child. As the family were grieving their dear lost son and grandson and brother and nephew, strangers were posting hateful comments on social media. The rooftop snipers, presumably deployed to snuff an incipient Indian uprising, turned out to be unnecessary. But there was rabble rousing and racial hatred to be shot down in the other column of the deep divide ledger, so the Premier stepped in to denounce racists and their racism. Before long a Browning municipal councillor named Ben Kautz had resigned over a posting on the Saskatchewan Farmer’s Facebook group, where a number of other mean-spirited comments could also be found. As if losing Colten wasn’t bad enough, random citizens heaped contempt on the family’s pain, and still the family called for healing.

There are good reasons why Indigenous people call for healing and peace at times like this. The first and perhaps most compelling is that we need healing and peace. At roughly five percent of the population, Indigenous people are not going to win a contest of force against Canada, and we know it. But there also isn’t an appetite for perpetuating the hatred and violence that has been commonly experienced by Indigenous people, for generations, whether in the residential schools or on the street. Far too many of us have become experts in trauma, intergenerational violence, and hate. We don’t just want something better, we need it, in a life-or-death way.

Last week the RCMP cleared themselves of a charge of misconduct made by the family of Colten Boushie. The officers can’t recall doing or saying the things that witnesses affirm that they did and said, in the course of their investigation of the Baptiste home. At the time of Colten Boushie’s death the RCMP issued a press release suggesting he was connected to an investigation of property theft. Then the RCMP allowed the 2003 Ford Escape in which Boushie was shot—a critical piece of evidence—to go to the salvage yard before it had undergone forensic (blood spatter) anaysis, thereby jeopardizing the integrity of any later trial. “The RCMP were, best case scenario, negligent,” the family lawyer Chris Murphy told a journalist. Still the RCMP seem to think they have done nothing wrong, which apparently means that they haven’t.

Next Spring Gerald Stanley will go to court, where he will face a charge of second-degree murder. In the meantime his rural Saskatchewan house has been put up for sale as he prepares for a new life either inside or ouside of prison. He has expressed regret for the death of Colten Boushie, just as Ben Kautz has expressed regret for his Facebook post, just as the RCMP has said it’s sorry for offences taken in the course of its faultless  investigation. The Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) meanwhile agitates for a broadened right to defend property against trespass. The two solitudes of Saskatchewan, the reserve and the farm, remain as estranged as ever, and Indigenous people everywhere hold their breath in anticipation of a trial they don’t dare allow themselves to believe will be fair and impartial.

Colten Boushie is gone and the white cattle ranchers found guilty of property theft of their neighbours remain alive and well in the community, despite their crimes. There is indeed a deep divide, deep as the chasm between life and death.