For many, the verdict in the shooting death of Colten Boushie in 2016 has shaken belief in justice and due process. In February 2018, a jury acquitted Gerald Stanley, 56, of second-degree murder. Boushie, 22, was shot and killed after he and four others from the Red Pheasant Cree Nation drove onto Stanley’s rural property near Biggar, SK.
On the heels of the Boushie verdict, another jury found Raymond Cormier not guilty of second-degree murder in the death of 15 year old Tina Fontaine. Fontaine’s body was found in August 2014. Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief Sheila North stated that, “…The systems, everything that was involved in Tina’s life, failed her. We’ve all failed her. We as a nation need to do better for our young people.”
These verdicts are a step backward in the journey towards reconciliation – a big step backward.
In 2014, Canadian Unitarians, through the Canadian Unitarian Council’s Expression of Reconciliation to Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, pledged to be in solidarity with Indigenous siblings in spirit, and committed to the journey of healing and reconciliation between Indigenous and Non- Indigenous people.
In February 2017, the CUC’s Criminal Justice Team submitted the brief, Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples through Crime Prevention to Minister Wilson-Raybould (Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of Canada). This resulted in a face to face meeting with Marco Mendocino, M.P., on June 22, 2017 where crime prevention and criminal justice reform were the main topics of discussion.
Our thoughts are with the families of Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine, and with Indigenous people across Canada who have lived through situations like this countless times. We acknowledge that non-Indigenous Canadians cannot begin to know the grief that comes with each death.
We offer our Indigenous siblings in spirit our deep condolences for their loss and grief.
Let us reach out to our Indigenous neighbours and ask how we can be of service.
Let us begin conversations with our neighbours in our communities about reconciliation.
Let us raise our voices to call on our government for a review of the judicial system that continues to fail Indigenous people all across the country.
Let us support a change to the jury selection process.
Let us show up where we can be of use.
The path of Truth and Reconciliation is a long one – generations long. Let us do what we can to ensure that the path grows ever smoother as we walk together on the journey.
From the Canadian Unitarian Council National Voice Team,
Keith Wilkinson, President, CUC Board of Trustees
Vyda Ng, Executive Director, Canadian Unitarian Council
Rev. Samaya Oakley, President, Unitarian Universalist Ministers of Canada