Published: Sat, February 17, 2018
Sport | By Billy Aguilar

Paula Simons: Colten Boushie case exposes a rural Canada tipping to anarchy

Paula Simons: Colten Boushie case exposes a rural Canada tipping to anarchy

We could begin by learning to distinguish the difference between an excuse and a reason and we could continue by acknowledging that a system designed in the 19th century cannot function effectively in the 21st.

A number of visibly Indigenous people were excluded without cause from the jury that delivered its verdict last week in the trial over Boushie's death. It was another black mark against progress and good relationships.

Defenders of the legal system argue that the jury was perfectly justified in reaching its conclusion. What will it take for indigenous peoples to feel safe from another similar incident?

The government's proposed changes to the justice system are expected before the end of the current legislative session. "Our thoughts and prayers are with Colten Boushie's family and community". It has major media coverage, even spreading into the New York Times and other newspapers around the world.

Following the verdict, a flurry of criticism spread on social media, prompting rallies less than 24 hours later. Indigenous Nations and organizations are calling for expert panels to recommend changes to the justice system, inquiries and Royal Commissions. "They've been through incredibly troubling times in the 18 months since this young man was killed and we wanted to hear their concerns".

Additionally, First Nations people are far more likely to commit suicide and far less likely to have a post-secondary education than the average Canadian. "Literally, we are erased every single day", she says.

"You see, Mr. Speaker, the challenge - then and now - is that while Section 35 recognizes and affirms Aboriginal and treaty rights, those rights have not been implemented by our governments".

There may have been solid reasons for the hard decision reached by prosecutors that was backed by an outside expert called in to observe their work. Better for Indigenous youth, for Indigenous families, and for all Canadians. Indigenous adults, especially women, are also overrepresented as victims of crime.

What can be done to try and help get back some of the ground lost with this major blow?

Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said Saturday that the courts are rife with systemic racism and the justice system is in need of an overhaul.

There also have to be changes in RCMP conduct and processes.

How doubly tragic it would be if Canada did not learn the lessons of the understandable outrage over the case of Colten Boushie. Police believe he was struck by a vehicle but his killer hasn't been found.

"Based on the evidence, the jurors took an oath to render a fair and just verdict".

When Montreal police and a team of prosecutors conducted an exhaustive probe of allegations that Indigenous women in Val-d'Or had been sexually exploited and abused by officers from the Sûreté du Québec, the case was closed without a single charge being laid. We're not just going to sit around and have our people murdered.

The new Recognition and Implementation of Indigenous Rights Framework - to be unveiled later this year following consultations led by Carolyn Bennett, the minister for Crown-Indigenous relations, and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould - will include new legislation. "In that sense, I guess I can relate", Samuel Olson said in an interview. But it is, and this is a bar to reconciliation.

According to the Prime Minister, the Canadian justice system may be wrong. But the difference, I suspect, is that there'd be more faith that justice was done - and seen to be done. Gina Daniels, one of people who spearheaded the protest, said the court verdict deeply affected her family.

Let us hope the Boushie case and its heated aftermath at last provide the impetus to limit the use of peremptory challenges, and inspire governments finally to pursue some of the other recommendations in Iacobucci's report, including using government databases to expand the jury pool. "We need to get to a place where Indigenous Peoples in Canada are in control of their own destiny, making their own decisions about the future".

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