Clearly not interested in facts, Justin Trudeau, your Prime Minister has hit a new and dangerous low in his attempt to become the ultimate superhero for the Indigenous and First Nations. In doing so, he is segmenting this country, siding with fringe radical elements, and showing no concern about trying to interfere with the Justice system. Rational, clear thought is being pushed to the side by blatant political opportunism.
Predictably, he is being parroted by his Justice Minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould, who has already proven that she is Indigenous activist who happened to be chosen to be Justice Minister, rather than a Justice Minister who happens to be Indigenous.
They are playing to their constituencies in such a way that it would make Donald Trump blush.
Of course I am talking about the recent court case where Gerald Stanley, a farmer in Biggar, Saskatchewan was charged with the 2nd degree murder of Colten Boushie a member of the Red Pheasant reserve. Stanley’s subsequent acquittal took place in front of jury of 12 in a North Battleford Saskatchewan courtroom. Colten Boushie, was a 22 year old indigenous male, which it should be remembered is the only reason we are talking about this case rather than giving it a cursory glance.
The CBC, seemingly acting as an editorial arm of the government, insistently before and after the court case framed the case as being about racism, even before hearing of a single piece of evidence. In the days leading up and through the trial, the twitter monitoring journalists of the CBC, portrayed the case as one of a “white” male shooting an indigenous “Cree” male. Extensive coverage was given to interviewing indigenous members of the community, highlighting the “two solitudes” theme, and calling the situation “polarized” in terms of race relations.
This was not a race case, as the evidence showed in the end, but that is not a flashy or easy story to write and it certainly doesn’t fall within the narrative being pushed by the government and a radical few.
Boushie’s mother’s lawyer (unknown why, but interesting that she has already obtained legal representation), Chris Murphy who said that the case “represents the elements of a larger conversation about reconciliation”. A 2nd degree murder case somehow being about “reconciliation”?
So what are the facts?
First, lets deal with the selection of the jury, because the first criticism brought by the Indigenous was that there were no “visibly” indigenous members on the jury, even now they do not for sure if there were indigenous members of the jury, but why bother a narrative with such a small detail.
Using health records to avoid bias, the courts aware of the growing climate, summoned over 750 potential jurors reaching with their summons all the way to the border of the North West Territories. Under normal circumstances, the courts would only summons 250-400 persons. But the courts, in accordance and compliance with the Supreme Court of Canada, exercised caution and over extended, knowing that they would be open to accusations of a non-representative jury pool otherwise. Many of the communities that were included in their canvas are over 80%-90% indigenous; communities such as Beauval and La Loche.
On day one of the trial only 230 showed. There were close to 500 people who decided that they could ignore the courts.
The Judge, Chief Justice Martel Popescul reiterated that those that failed to attend “could” be charged under the “Jury Act”. It was clear that a lot of the no-shows would be Indigenous persons, so given the opportunity to participate and extend the pool or jurors, decided not to attend. It used to be considered a serious matter if one failed to attend for this duty, but clearly the dialogue has changed, and Indigenous groups feel they have the right to disregard the laws of Canada. Or do you believe that there will be charges forthcoming?
The Indigenous spokespersons of course explain this lack of caring in a dismissive way, saying it was hard for them to get to court because of the isolated nature of their communities, and they could not afford to travel for jury selection. One lawyer stated: ” socio-economic issues can lead to people not being available. Health issues. Its anybody’s guess”.
A few years ago another court case reached the Supreme Court of Canada (R vs. Kokopenace) , where an indigenous accused argued that he had a right to have indigenous persons on the jury. One of the issues that this case explored and determined was that the response rate to summons for jury duty on the Reserve was 10% and falling. It would seem that the Boushie case got the same response rate.
A 2nd issue then surfaced; that being the right of the defence in this case, as in all cases, to have pre-emptory challenges to jurors without any reason needing to be articulated.
Of course, the indigenous groups said they were challenging all of the indigenous potential jurors, only because they were indigenous, and in their view this was another example of racism. But anybody who has been involved in these types of cases, and in particular have dealt with the jury selection process know that the defence always tries to exclude all jurors who show bias. Not because they are indigenous but because they are concerned about possible bias. It is not racism, it is our system which is designed to weed out bias, just as they exclude the police, or sherifs.
Historically, indigenous groups have called to get rid of these challenges, which of course any criminal defence attorney would be opposed to, and would mean changing the concept and basis for impartial jury selection. Whether it works that way is another argument. .
Furthermore, this entire matter has already been debated at length and even reached the Supreme Court of Canada in R vs. Kokopenace where in a 5-2 decision they decided that there was an onus to make the jury pool representative, but there was no obligation to determine the composition of that jury. Clearly in this latest case, there was an attempt to be all inclusive, and just as clearly there was insufficient response from the indigenous community. You are entitled to a representative jury, just not one you hand pick.
Now lets detail the actual facts of the case.
Five individuals including Boushie, all admitting to being blind drunk, were driving around the area in an SUV, after swimming and drinking at a local fishing hole. One “witness” claimed she was so drunk that she slept through the entire incident.
After leaving the fishing hole, they decided to attempt to steal from a neighbour to Stanley, breaking a window on a truck, using a .22 rifle, that they had been carrying around with them, “target shooting” from the vehicle. In breaking the window, they broke the stock on the rifle. This was according to the Crown witness Eric Meechance. (During the investigation he failed to mention the fact that they had a gun in their vehicle, because he had a “gun ban”. )
17 live rounds were found in the SUV vehicle, some in the rifle itself.
They then drove on to the Stanley farm, apparently somewhere in the process getting a flat tire.
They drove their “loud” vehicle on to the Stanley property, where Gerald Stanley and his 28 year old son were building a fence unbeknownst to the trespassers. The Stanleys heard and saw the vehicle come to a stop near to one of their ATVs, and watched as a person from the vehicle get on the ATV and appeared to try and start it.
Sheldon, Stanley’s son, ran towards them to confront them, and the male got off the ATV and ran back to their car and jumped in. Sheldon armed with the hammer he had been using on the fence, got up to their vehicle and smashed the window of the car, while his Dad “kicked at the taillight. The car then accelerated away, spewing gravel in their haste.
But instead of leaving the property, the car turned back and struck another of the Stanley’s vehicles. Gerald Stanley went to his shed where he kept a pistol for “scaring coyotes”, grabbed what he believed to be two bullets and put them in the gun with the intent of helping his son, who again had gone to confront the people in the car.
As he emerged from the shed Stanley fired a shot into the air as a “warning”. He could not see his son, but he could see two who had once again exited from the vehicle, and they turned and looked. He then lifted his gun again and fired “two or three times” into the air. He said he never pointed it at them, thought the gun was empty and popped the clip out into his left hand and carried the gun in his right as he went towards the vehicle.
As he approached the vehicle, he saw that the lawnmower his wife had been pushing was there, but not his wife. He said he felt a pure moment of “terror” thinking that the car had run over her. He said he ran to look under the car, and the car engine revved, and he assumed that he was going to get run over as well. So he went to the driver’s window, wanting to reach in to shut off the car.
He then sees something “metal” sticking out of the drivers side and he noticed the driver for the first time. He slapped at the metal, and simultaneously reached into try and turn off the keys in the ignition.
And it is then that the gun went off, killing Boushie, striking him in the back of the head. Although the gun was believed to be empty the defence argued that it had to be a delayed discharge, a “hanger”. The .22 rifle was beside Boushie in the front seat, as Boushie was in the drivers side.
Sheldon, the son, who had run to get his truck keys from the house and was intending to pursue them, said he heard two shots, and then a third. Consistent with his father’s later testimony.
The forensic evidence found by the police was consistent with this story.
That at least is the version of Stanley which was also consistent with one of the Crown witnesses.
Now, how about the testimony of those in the car, after all there were four of them. Well, unfortunately, all proved to be unreliable and their testimony such as it was came close to constituting perjury. Crown Prosecutor Bill Burge even warned the jury that they will here many “contradictions” in the stories.
One of the passengers in the Boushie vehicle, Cassidy Cross-Whitstone admitted to lying about trying to break into a truck on the other property and about how much he had to drink. He said he was worried about losing his drivers licence and that he “lied about that”.
Belinda Jackson, another Crown witness had earlier said that the only person with a firearm on the Stanley farm was a woman standing outside their SUV, but then changed her story to say that she saw Gerald Stanley shoot Boushie “twice” in the head. Boushie was only shot once, and two of the other Crown witnesses confirmed hearing two shots over their head, and then a third when they were in the process of running away.
So in the Crown’s case. Three of four potential witnesses were found, and admitted to lying or leaving out facts in the case. Another witness slept through the entire matter. All of the Crown witnesses admitted to drinking heavily and being at different levels of intoxication. All of course were indigenous, and I have not seen a single report after the acquittal mentioning that unreliable witnesses of the Crown were a big legal problem in this court case.
The Crown case was so bad, one wonders if Crown was pressured into the laying of charges. As a former homicide investigator I could not imagine getting charge approval on a case where all of your witnesses for the Crown were “unreliable” and admitted to high levels of intoxication.
So where does this leave us?
The Prime Minister of this country, a country who recognizes the need for an independent justice system, a justice system that should not be tainted in favour of a special interest group, a justice system that should be able to determine right from wrong without political interference. Our Prime Minister, touring in the United States immediately sides with the Indigenous outcry, and comments on Twitter.
“we need to do better”
“we have come to this point as a country far too many times”.
He then sends them his “love”.
Of course he is then echoed by our illustrious Justice Minister:
“Thank you PM. My thoughts are with the family of Colton Boushie tonight. I truly feel your pain and I hear all of your voices. As a country we can and must do something better – I am committed to working everyday to ensure justice for all Canadians.”
What message are they sending? Clearly they are saying that the court system didn’t work in this case and was biased based on race? It can not be interpreted in any other way.
Clearly both the PM and Wilson-Raybould were reacting as they always do, siding with the indigenous no matter the concern or the facts of a case. Grand standing to show their inordinate support.
In doing so, the clear implication is that the 7 women and 5 men who served on the jury, and the Judge who oversaw the case were tainted by racism. It displays both a lack of judgement, a lack of experience, and a supreme lack of objectivity on the part of these two leaders. This from a Prime Minister and a Justice Minister sworn to uphold the laws of Canada.
But this Liberal group for the last two years, bolstered by the two toadies, Jane Philpott and Carolyn Bennett have done nothing but embolden the radical fringe Indigenous leaders who are demanding different laws, a different Child welfare system, separate police departments, greater infrastructure programs, better schools, and a seat at Premier’s conferences as they strive to be a Nation unto itself.
“Reconcilation”, “colonialism”, and “residential schools” are the rallying cries and populate every conversation, whatever indigenous problem is being debated. They have even shamelessly compared the cultural genocide of the residential schools to that of the Nazi concentration camps.
More money, and more power are being demanded as part of this “reconciliation” and the monetary spigot is wide open as there are no impossible or improbable demands. Every government meeting is opened with the announcement about being on the ceded or un-ceded territorial lands of the local Indigenous group, which also furthers a point of view that most Canadians may not feel is appropriate.
The political parliamentary opposition firmly sit on their hands, and keep their mouths closed, clearly cowed by the thought of being branded racist, no matter what the logic of the argument.
The new NDP leader, Jagmeet Singh, echoed the thoughts of Trudeau saying about the court case:
“There was no justice for Colten Boushie…today they have again been told that their lives have less value. We must confront the legacy of colonialism and genocide so they can see a brighter future for themselves”. It is even more astounding when you consider that he is a lawyer, not a high school drama teacher, so should have had some appreciation of the facts of a case being paramount.
Yesterday, as I write this, finally the Conservatives and a few others are finally speaking up about this clear political interference on the judicial system. Conservative Deputy Leader Lisa Raitt, and Conservative Finance critic Rob Nicholson are asking the Justice Minister and the Prime Minister as to whether they were saying the jury had arrived at the wrong verdict.
Toronto criminal lawyer Sean Robichaud argued that it was “wholly inappropriate for elected officials to publicly undermine findings of a lawfully delivered verdict, particularly if it was one with a jury.” He goes further saying that the comments from the Prime minister and the Justice minister that by questioning the credibility of the judiciary, “pose a threat to Canada’s democratic system”.
The Liberals don’t learn easily though, as today they flew members of the Boushie family to Ottawa to meet with those oh so sympathetic cabinet ministers Philpott and Bennett, the Public Safety Minister, and of course Wilson-Raybould and Trudeau himself.
The Justice Minister in the House is also expressing a need to change the judicial system and they are now looking at quickly getting rid of pre-emptory challenges. Justin Trudeau, in the House of Commons, realizing now that he has over-stepped, had the audacity to say during question period, that he could not comment on this “particular case”, to the laughter of the opposition.
The damage is done. He has already commented, he has already sided with the likes of Bobby Cameron, Chief of Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations that the verdict was “..a bunch of garbage.” He is sanctioning the words of Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the First Nations who says “the system has failed indigenous people, it remains rife with systemic rascism”
So what has all this created?
It has created the fringes on both sides to spout racist comments on social media and the creation of a go fund me page for the defence costs of Gerald Stanley which in three days has now raised $130,000.00. The divide in this country is widening, being pushed by the ridiculous Twitter verse.
The Orwellian “thought police” nature of the politics of Canada today is leading to increasing polarization. The settlers of Saskatchewan who for generations worked this harsh un-forgiving land, who “colonized” this land, are now told to stay out of the debate.
The jury in this case has now been branded, and must be now questioning why they did their civic duty only to be called racists, even obliquely by their own Prime Minister.
This case was one of a rural crime resulting in a needless death. There was absolutely no evidence of this being a racist driven crime.
Tragic, as any death is, it is now further driving a wedge into legitimate debate as to the problems of being indigenous in this country; abject poverty and abysmal education feeding violence and disenfranchisement. The refusal to look inward, the insistence on blaming everything on colonization, regardless of the facts, is only going to fuel a now slow burning fire among the still silent majority, who it can be argued, have just as much claim to this country as do the 4% of the Canadian population who were here “first”.
We expect our politicians to recognize the need for an independent judiciary, to guard against politicization, to be the rational measure of policy and programs. Trudeau, Wilson-Raybould, Philpott, and Bennett need to know that they represent the entire country, they should not be biased to any cause without considering the whole. It seems that they are currently incapable of understanding this, and show no concern about attacking the very judiciary and the laws which have founded and served us for 150 years.
The indigenous groups don’t agree of course, so let’s open the debate, let us hear the concrete proposals as to how they feel the system should be altered to serve their needs. But then, let the country decide. Let the courts be the arbiter to insure fairness and individual rights. Yes, the very same courts that they now denigrate, but lets keep in mind they are very selective in their protestations as Courts ruling in their favour are often lauded by them.
There are no other options, as to do otherwise is contributing to a growing backlash in this country. We must continually guard against allowing the radical fringes from both sides who tend to kidnap and hijack an honest, and I stress honest, debate and resolution. Tough, complicated issues, are not furthered by simplistic sound bites that play to a particular audience. Trudeau and his cronies are driving a very deep and irreversible wedge into the heart of this country, they are dividing an entire nation. That never ends well, just ask the Americans living in the Trump world.
In the end this will be most detrimental to the indigenous people themselves. Ironically, they have chosen this particular case, where there is no evidence of racism once the facts are known, as the one that will be their hill to die on. They should have chosen better.
And, if Trudeau and his Cabinet would like to meet with everyone and show preferential treatment to those that feel the court system has let them down, then warm up the jets, there are going to be lot of people awaiting government limousines at the MacDonald-Cartier airport. By the way, we may need to change the name of the airport.
Photo Courtesy of Flickr via the Commons and Renegade98 Some Rights Reserved
Well a lot has transpired since this blog, which drew the most views of any written to date. All of it very positive. I have been contacted by people in Saskatchewan, wanting a blog to cover the issue of rural crime etc. and I have developed the expected Twitter cries of racism…although none so far has taken up the challenge to demonstrate how this case was racist.
Others, including the Saskatchewan lawyers groups have also joined in the criticism of Trudeau and Wilson-Raybould for interfering in the process. It took them some time, but they finally got there.
Today, the Saskatchewan Crown said there would be no appeal which of course have renewed the cries of the Indigenous.
However, the Liberal fringe keep firing. The Boushie family have made complaints now of the police conduct. The first internal investigation found no wrong-doing, but why stop there, so they have made another complaint and the Public Complaints group in Ottawa who looks into misconduct, never one to miss getting some public attention, have launched their investigation. The investigation was self- launched by the Chair of the Commission. Political pressure?
They are going to investigate how the Boushie family was advised of his death, whether the Mounties followed policies and practises, and whether those actions were racial discrimination. Again, no evidence of any of that, but I guess if you say something over and over again, it must be true.
Clearly, this case won’t be going away for awhile.
Meanwhile the CBC top notch “investigative journalists” have revealed what they say are the problems of the investigation. They have found a couple of ex cops to say that there were problems. The report and its bias by the CBC, is a clear attempt to keep this story in the news and fuel the racist claims by the Indigenous groups. The RCMP could not comment because of a possible appeal, and now an investigation by the Complaints commission. Shoddy one-sided journalism at best.
The above will likely be the subject of a future blog.