The verdict in the Gerald Stanley trial came down late Friday night, and the Saskatchewan farmer was found not guilty in the shooting death of 22-year-old Colten Boushie for the same kinds of actions that a white person would not have been shot at for. That the jury did not contemplate a manslaughter conviction instead of second-degree murder is the more puzzling aspect of the verdict, and why there is such a cry about racism in the justice system – especially since the defence counsel was able to successfully challenge any of the potential Indigenous jurors and wind up with an all-white jury, which is when the family knew that the fix was in, and that this was not doing any favours to the cause of reconciliation, nor for faith in the justice system for people who aren’t white.
The PM and justice minister tweeted that more needs to be done when it comes to ensuring that there is justice for Indigenous people in this country, leaving some Conservative observers a little aghast that they got involved. That said, the wording was carefully chosen in order to not criticise the jury itself, or promise that there would be an appeal or some kind of attempt to overturn the verdict. That’s probably a good thing overall, while it acknowledges that there is a problem and that the government is aware of it, and it’s worth nothing that the government is talking about this situation where there is a good chance that they wouldn’t have just a couple of years ago. Meanwhile, this hasn’t stopped the Conservatives from accusing the government of “political interference” with the courts (never mind how many times they criticised court decisions, especially by the Supreme Court of Canada, while they were in power). But what can be done? Well, there is already an ongoing review of the criminal justice system that this government has undertaken (but is very, very slow about rolling out any concrete measures about), so we can be sure that this will be part of it. But better resourcing the justice system is something that they need to confront, which means hiring more Crown attorneys, and giving them more time and resources to tackle cases is going to be part of the solution as well (and we can all think of a number of high profile cases in recent years that the Crowns have utterly ballsed up). And indeed, in this case, there were apparently questions going in as to whether the Crown attorney in this case was capable of handling a trial like this. But this is also a provincial issue as well. Ontario is working on a strategy about getting more Indigenous representation on juries, but its report is already more than a year overdue. The Boushie family has arrived in Ottawa to meet with ministers, so one suspects we may hear more later in the day.
And the Minister of Justice, likewise expressing her opinion on the verdict. If there's an error of law, then appeal. If no error of law, but the process is flawed, then change the process. (You *are* in government, after all.) But don't campaign on the bodies of real people. https://t.co/fJqet9KVbD
— Michael Plaxton (@MichaelPlaxton) February 10, 2018
And there has been no dearth of commentary around this case already. Lawyer David Butt talks about the need to limit the peremptory challenges that allowed Stanley’s defence lawyer to create an all-white jury. Defence Lawyer Allan Rouben suggests that maybe it’s time to loosen the rules that forbid jurors from discussing what happens during deliberations. Tammy Robert reminds us that no, you can’t shoot someone to protect your property in Canada. Robert Jago says that the trial and verdict show that the attitude remains that Indigenous people are simply animals that Canadians are taught to fear.
- Jim Carr says the government might offer incentives for BC to back down from the Kinder Morgan dispute, but various BC officials insist they can’t be bought.
- Catherine McKenna says that emissions caps like Alberta has in place will help with the new environmental assessment legislation because it provides certainty.
- Those used Australian jets will start arriving in 2019, and will be staggered over three years as Australia gets its new fighters.
- An Ontario judge ruled against turning over 98-year-old documents related to Indigenous healthcare records to researchers tracking tuberculosis rates.
- Christy Clark says that a province blocking a pipeline is illegal. Apparently the unconstitutional conditions she added to approval were just fine.
- The Conservatives say they’re reviewing their internal candidate policies following the revelations about Rick Dykstra.
- Erin O’Toole staked out the Conservative foreign policy position that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.
- The Star tries to determine where Jagmeet Singh has been, and whether it’s an effective electoral strategy.
- Yet more allegations about former NDP MP Peter Stoffer’s behaviour are coming out of the woodwork.
Odds and ends:
Here’s an interview with Senator Anne Cools.