The Colten Boushie Case Proves Racism Is Alive and Well

But the Montreal Vigil Shows There Is Hope

Colten Boushie, a 22-year-old from the Red Pheasant First Nation, was shot in the head by Gerald Stanley, a farmer in Saskatchewan. On Feb. 9, Stanley was acquitted of manslaughter and second-degree murder charges by an all-white jury. File Photo Ion Etxebarria

To the guy who walked into Tuesday night’s vigil for Colten Boushie in Norman Bethune Square and started spewing nonsense about the plight of white people today—please sit down.

It’s true, the white people bashing is plentiful these days. But while you’re out here getting butthurt over comments, other people are furious over the loss of young lives and a messed up conception of justice that always seems to lean towards your side.

It’s impossible to be racist to white people. Racism is not about hurt feelings or an issue of being offended. Racism is systemic oppression that is reinforced by society based on a history of power and inequality.

And after attending Tuesday’s vigil for the young Indigenous man shot and killed by a white farmer in Saskatchewan, who was acquitted of manslaughter and second degree murder by a jury, a lot of people are asking the same question: Will the systemic racism encoded into our institutions and the skewed justice system ever be dismantled?

The facts have been twisted. But what we do know is that when the RCMP went to tell Boushie’s mother that her son had been killed, she says they searched her home without a warrant and asked if she had been drinking. Additionally, the accused Gerald Stanley’s defense allegedly used peremptory challenges to dismiss all potential jurors who were visibly indigenous.

When there is a clear police mishandling of the case and systemic exclusion of Indigenous people from jury duty, how can we deny that Canada’s justice system is broken?

During his opening statement, Stanley’s lawyer claimed that “For farm people, your yard is your castle.” The death of a young indigenous man is being reframed as a family farmer protecting his property. It has succeeded in moving sympathy towards a man who used deadly force to defend a colonial settlement.

How can you deny the history here and claim this is a case about rural property? I am angry but I can’t say I’m surprised. There is no clearer trend in this country than the injustice towards Indigenous people.

Beyond symbolic gestures, where do we go from here? We have to recognize the much larger systemic issues at play. It’s hard because the more the world is designed to work for you, the less you realize it is rigged in your favour.

Canada is not some paradise with no racism. Stanley’s GoFundMe has accumulated over $180,000 in five days for lost time, property, and “sanity.” That’s over $10,000 more than the funds raised for the Boushie family to care for their legal costs and the continuing journey for justice.

Despite Canada being oh so diverse, it’s clear who has the money and thus, the power.

But you know what gives me a little bit of hope? Over 3,500 folks have shown support for the Boushie family, almost 1,000 more than Stanley, despite the monetary difference. And there are few things more powerful than people united.

Folks are banding together in the face of white supremacy and for the ones in power, equality is so new to them it’s beginning to feel a lot like oppression. But between the powwow singers, moving speakers, and over 100 Montrealers who came out to Tuesday’s vigil, we see opportunities being created to voice altering perspectives.

And that voice boils down to some truths—such as the fact that what happened to Boushie was not an isolated accident but a sign of racism that has not only existed in the past but is still very much present today.