REGINA – The father of a young Indigenous man who was killed on a Saskatchewan farm says he is heartbroken the Crown will not appeal the acquittal of the man accused in the fatal shooting.
Last month, a jury found Gerald Stanley not guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Colten Boushie, who was 22 and from the Red Pheasant First Nation. The Crown said Wednesday there is no legal basis to appeal the verdict.
“There’s no justice there,” Pete Boushie told The Canadian Press from his home on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation in Montana. “What else can I say?
“It just goes to show there is no justice in this world.”
Saskatchewan senior prosecutor Anthony Gerein said a verdict can’t be appealed because people don’t agree with it or because there may be questions about the investigation.
“The Crown can only appeal legal errors in the course of the trial,” he told a news conference.
“Public prosecutions lawyers, me, lawyers who do the appeal work here in Saskatchewan, experienced trial lawyers outside the appeal section … found no basis to appeal.”
Chris Murphy, a Toronto-based lawyer representing the victim’s family, said he spoke with Colten Boushie’s mother, Debbie Baptiste, after the announcement and she responded that her fight is not over.
“The criminal proceedings against Gerald Stanley for the death of Colten Boushie are over but that’s not going to be the end of this family’s fight to ensure that the justice system in Canada and in Saskatchewan gets better,” Murphy said.
Murphy had sent a letter to Saskatchewan Justice Minister Don Morgan outlining what he believed were grounds for appeal in the trial. He said he was disappointed but not surprised by the Crown’s decision.
The trial heard that Boushie was one of five young people who drove an SUV into Stanley’s farmyard near Biggar, Sask., in August 2016. They testified they were looking for help with a flat tire.
Stanley told the trial he thought they were trying to steal an all-terrain vehicle. He testified he fired warning shots to scare them away and the gun accidentally went off again when he reached for the keys in the SUV’s ignition.
The case was filled with racial tension from the beginning and the verdict was met with outrage from Boushie’s relatives and their supporters.
After the verdict, family members met with federal ministers along with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to ask for changes to the justice system and to how juries are selected to better reflect Indigenous people.
Rallies were also held around Canada to voice displeasure with the outcome of the case.
“I know there is much sadness about the decision not to appeal, but there can be no appeal because the law does not allow it,” Gerein said.
He said the Crown did not consult with the Boushie family about the legal decision, but Gerein spoke to lawyers on both sides and they informed their clients.
Stanley’s lawyer, Scott Spencer, could not be reached for comment.
Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said the decision “is another devastating blow to the family of Colten Boushie, and yet another indication to First Nations that Canada’s justice system is failing them.”
He said seeing justice denied affects everyone.
“This specific case exposed with glaring clarity some ugly aspects of racism and ignorance,” he said in a statement. “We are deluding ourselves if we think that’s not the case.”
The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations said it wants a “forensic accounting” of the jury verdict.
Federation Chief Bobby Cameron said there should be a Royal Commission into Saskatchewan’s justice system to fix systemic racism.
Boushie’s cousin, Jade Tootoosis, has said that the family felt excluded and ignored by the justice system following the shooting.
“I urge no one to be discouraged or distrust the system. We are all in this together and must be united against crime and in the search for justice,” Gerein said.
Tracey Lindberg, of the Kelly Lake Cree Nation and a law professor at the University of Ottawa, said Indigenous people are still stereotyped as villains even when they are the victims.
“We have to give up this false narrative of justice and replace it with a truth: Canadian justice harms Indigenous peoples,” she said in an email. “And justice which harms some is not just for anyone.”
Nickita Longman, an activist and Boushie family supporter who attended the trial, said justice can’t be found in Canada’s legal system.
“And without justice in colonial law, there can be no reconciliation,” she said.
On Tuesday, the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission launched a review into the RCMP’s investigation into the shooting.
— By Kelly Geraldine Malone in Winnipeg