REGINA – The mother of a young Indigenous man who was shot and killed on a Saskatchewan farm says racism is on full display in the province every day.
Debbie Baptiste said she sees racism everywhere — in private business, in the courts and in the government, where Indigenous children are being taken into foster care.
“It’s like the KKK (Ku Klux Klan) is no longer wearing their mask. They’re out and about,” Baptiste said Tuesday.
Baptiste’s son Colten Boushie was killed after being shot in the head on a farm near the community of Biggar in August 2016.
The landowner, Gerald Stanley, was acquitted of second-degree murder after testifying that his gun went off accidentally.
Stanley said he was trying to scare some Indigenous young people that he thought were stealing from him.
Baptiste is in Regina to show her support for the Justice for Our Stolen Children camp that’s set up outside the Saskatchewan legislature.
She said she is at the camp for her son, but also because she had two grandchildren taken by Child and Family Services.
“It’s very peaceful and I’m pretty sure my son would want me here,” she said.
The camp was set up on Feb. 28 — shortly after the Boushie and Tina Fontaine cases both resulted in acquittals.
Fontaine was 15-years-old when she disappeared in Winnipeg in 2014.
Her body was pulled from the Red River eight days later wrapped in a duvet cover and weighed down by rocks. A jury found Raymond Cormier not guilty in February of second-degree murder.
Baptiste said that the camp has frequently received racist taunts since she’s been there, including from a group of people playing frisbee nearby. Vehicles also drive by to tell the campers to “get off our land.”
Boushie’s mother is also watching the trial of white homeowner Peter Khill, who is accused of shooting Indigenous man Jon Styres in front of Khill’s rural home outside Hamilton, Ont., in February 2016.
The Khill case has some similarities to that of Boushie’s.
“I hope, pray, they get the justice that they’re asking for,” Baptiste said.
Camp supporter Prescott Demas said that more than 1,300 people have stopped by the camp since it started.
“It’s nice to have her (Baptiste) here especially since everything started was from the Gerald Stanley verdict,” Demas said.
Demas, 47, said that campers want a meeting with the government, although he doesn’t believe it will happen. The camp has received two eviction notices.
“I don’t know what my expectations are because I know that this government isn’t interested in listening,” Demas said. “Any expectations of them actually coming out are kind of really high hopes.”
Ministry of Justice spokeswoman Jennifer Graham said the government has tried to arrange two meetings with the campers but the locations were rejected.
“The group has been advised that their ongoing encampment in the park is not permitted and they must vacate,” she said an email. “Therefore, government officials will not be meeting with the group at the encampment.”
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