A nation is angry right now. In Canada, dozens of rallies occurred this weekend to “prompt in reckoning across the country”. Many of us are ashamed – and we should be.
It was on August 6, 2016 that Colten Boushie, a 22 year old Cree man Saskatchewan, was shot dead by Gerald Stanley. Colten and his four friends, stopped at a farm house with a flat hire to seek help. Stanley shot Colten in the head at blank range killing him instantly. Stanley was accused of second-degree murder on February 9, 2018 he was fully acquitted by an all-white jury. The defense: “he brandished a weapon and it fired accidentally”.
Colten’s death was an “accident”. Stanley shot two warning shots into the air when he saw Colten, but the third, the one that went through the back of his head – that one was a misfire. If the jury believed Stanley intended to kill then he would have been found guilty, but they determined that the white farmer was simply careless in discharging the firearm.
But then, could Stanley have been found guilty of manslaughter? Afterall, Stanley ended the life of a 22 year old man. Colten’s death, beyond intent, should have warranted some form of justice. But, it turns out that the jury found him guilty of nothing. Thus, another white person killed an Indigenous person and was lawfully able to walk free.
This weekend, I witnessed Canadians finally see the institutionalized racism of which this country so often ignores. Those who were shocked asked, how could this happen?
The reason Gerald Stanley was acquitted for Colten Boushie’s murder was because the case was slanted in Stanley’s favour from the very beginning.
For one, the initial police report said Colten’s friend were taken into custody as part of a theft investigation.
Second, the RCMP officers who came to Colten’s home after the shooting were said to be insensitive and treated his family like suspects.
Third, the court alluded to Colten and friends being intoxicated during the time of the crime. Colten’s family members had to remind the court that it was Stanley that on trial, not the deceased.
Fifth, the trial took placed in a community plagued by a well-documented racist and colonial past that has always favoured white folks.
Sixth, many Saskatchewan people defended Stanley and presumed his innocence through initial online discourse. These opinions were posted alongside a floodgate of racist and derogatory comments connecting Colten’s indigenous identity to criminality, and so of course Stanley had the right to defend his farmland… They believed Colten’s death was justified.
Homogenous juries are flawed juries; they should represent the community of which the case takes place as a whole, and ultimately the white jury incontrovertibly taints the verdict. It was biased, plain and simple.
But, how can the case of an poor Indigenous man killed by a white farmer have garnered such a homogeneous cabinet? David Butt from The Globe and Mail explains that, “When the Crown and the defense lawyers select jurors at the start of the case, each side has a number of ‘peremptory challenges’, a number that varies with the offence charged. These peremptory challenges allow each lawyer to automatically disqualify potential jurors, no reasons required”.
In Colten’s case, the defense used the peremptory challenges to eliminate anyone who was visibly Indigenous.
The unjust death of Colten Boushie and acquittal of Gerald Stanley led to dozens of rallies throughout the nation. People wore T-shirts and buttons with the words, “Justice for Colten”. Indigenous folks are angry and heartbroken, believing the justice system, and the country as a whole, treats them unfairly.
It quickly became a trending topic of discussion on Twitter.
In the comments section of a lot of #ColtenBoushie articles I'm seeing non-indigenous ppl say he was wrong for trespassing. Are you… as a settler… really going to lecture First Nations people about staying off other people's land? 🤔
It’s too painful knowing a murderer who killed a young Native man point blank will face no repercussions. But it’s almost more painful to KNOW that if roles were reversed, a Native would be in prison for life. #ColtenBoushie
In Canada, u can be white & shoot young indigenous men in the back of the head, acknowledge u did, then be found not-guilty be a jury entirely made up of YOUR peers. In Canada, u need to stop pretending racism is something that happens elsewhere. #ColtenBoushie remember his name
Colten’s family is distraught, feeling as though their son has been killed for the second time with news of Stanley’s acquittal. They have recently arrived in Ottawa to discuss the “the distrust and the injustices that we experienced as a family with the loss of Colten, and throughout the trial process,” and their lawyer is in discussing the matter with the Minister of Indigenous-Crown Affairs. The family claims that people are finally listening.
In a moving article by Shree Paradkar from the Toronto Star, he states:
“Why is it that Friday night’s not guilty verdict in the young man’s death, which is a moment of national shame, does not shake you to your core? Why has the grief and outrage that led spontaneously to more than a dozen protests across Canada the day after the verdict not enraged you, not fired up your fears for your children’s future, and not driven you to speak up against repeated centuries-old injustice enacted under your nose?”
Indifference makes us all complicit, Paradkar concludes. But being aware, tweeting, sharing articles about Colten Boushie’s death are also not enough.
“Justice for Colten” can only happen through systematic change. The Crown needs to file an appeal for Colten Boushie, and the only way that can occur is if people email the Attorney General of Saskatcheqan (email@example.com) and Attorney General of Canada (firstname.lastname@example.org) and pressure them to file the appeal.
By reporting the GoFundMe started to support Gerald Stanley, the money can hopefully be returned and the man who killed Boushie can no longer be financially supported. Sadly, the campaign received $41,000 in one day. However, the fund goes against its terms and conditions as its associated with crimes of “hate, violence, harassment, bullying and discrimination”.
So apparently @gofundme wants to make $ from racism and murder: "Given the jury verdict, this campaign does not violate our terms of service," GoFundMe spokeswoman Rachel Hollis told HuffPost Canada in an email." https://t.co/wXpAAXFJVp
Clicktivism and “spreading awareness” are things we should no longer prioritize. You can like the status of an Indigenous activist, you can be angry just like everyone else, but it doesn’t matter unless you are willing to examine your own lives and families, and attempt to foster some change.
But really, for me what Gerard Stanley’s acquittal and Colten Boushie’s death has done was instill me with a seeing-red anger. This will forever stunt my patience with Devil’s Advocates, with the white folks who blindly defend other white folks, and casual racists who type vile through keyboards online.
I personally repent for any notions I’ve previously made that have emphasized virtues of “guilty until proven innocent” perpetuated by a flawed and biased system that presumes the innocence of guilty white people and criminality of others. It’s true: Canadians, its institutions, and myself – we all need to do better.
The next time you see Indigenous activists full of rage at the systemic and historic injustices they have to face in this country, remember tonight. Remember the residential schools. Remember the reserve system. Remember Colten Boushie. #JusticeForColten
In light of International Women’s Day last week, I have a few thoughts:
I think too often I’m afraid to call myself a feminist, not because I’m fearful of the reputation I might get when I defend the rights of women and encourage feminine liberation, but because the word is now being associated with something that I do not consider feminism.
Think of Lena Dunham, and her show Girls: four white women living in New York City off of the privilege and wealth their parents earned, and walking through life with the word “victim” written on their foreheads.
Think of Taylor Swift, who’s built her career off of being “America’s Sweetheart,” a victim of bullying by an “angry black man,” and someone who’s built a strange inner circle of thin, white, supermodels in a celebrity feud veiled by the name of girl power.
Think of Emma Watson, who has every right to defend her choice in sparing a bit of cleavage in a Vogue photoshoot, however failed to come to the defense of her female colleagues and women of colour, namely Beyoncé, when they have made that choice in the past.
But also think that because these women have put themselves on a pedestal, and allowed their names to be followed by the word “feminism,” they now experience incessant criticism that their male counterparts will never experience. And I am guilty of this criticism.
I am a white woman who has come from an upper-middle class family in Southern Ontario. Going to university was not something I necessarily I had to work for—it was expected of me. I fully understand that my fair complexion, blonde hair and blue eyes are seen as the epitome of Western beauty. I compare how people treat me to how they treat my friends of colour, and there is no denying that there is an exponential difference.
I believe I experience sexism, from boys not understanding what the word “no” means, to being cat-called as I walk down a main street in Ottawa, to having someone mansplain something to me at a dinner table. While some will stick with me for the rest of my life, most of them are just small annoyances. Annoyances I hope one day our future daughters won’t have to experience.
I do not believe I am oppressed, at least not to the extent of many women I know—women from other cultures and backgrounds and skin colours, to women who were assigned a different gender at birth, to even the boys who grew up desperately wanting to be feminine—and I refuse to walk with the likes of Dunham and Swift with the belief that I am constantly a victim of insistent oppression, when more often than not, my privilege makes my life a lot easier than most.
So, when it looks as though I am not coming to the defense of feminism, it is because the movement has changed in the blight of becoming mainstream, and it is something I find hard to associate myself with. I don’t think the movement should be funnelled down to putting aesthetically pleasing Redbubble stickers on the back of your Macbook Pro, or posting a poem from Milk and Honey on your Instagram. While the intention is great, feminism and International Women’s Day, are about so much more than that.
However, with the new president and the events that have taken place in south of the border, I think now more than ever it is important to defend feminism—even if you see flaws in the movement, and even if your voice shakes.
For the most part, I am pretty privileged to say that my life, with a gradual incline upwards, has been going at a slow and steady pace. What I really mean by that is, I definitely didn’t peak in high school. My first day of high school kind of set the stage for how my […]
For the most part, I am pretty privileged to say that my life, with a gradual incline upwards, has been going at a slow and steady pace. What I really mean by that is, I definitely didn’t peak in high school.
My first day of high school kind of set the stage for how my next four years would play out. Whether it was a blessing or a curse, the uniform at my Catholic high school was something that really did not come natural to me.
My old friend from grade eight came to my door on the first day of grade nine, and somehow managed to perfectly avoid the regular awkwardness that came from adorning a never-worn forest green kilt and matching sweater vest.
I, however, wore the exact same pieces, including two butterfly clips pinning back my overgrown bangs, pink and blue patterned elastics on my braces, and a pair of white knee high socks to go with my two inch heeled ballerina flats.I watched as she gave me a once over, with a look that foreshadowed her embarrassment as we walked several blocks to the bus stop.
High school was a strange time. The years that followed weren’t far from the standard I set on the first day. The braces came with the whole package: off-coloured foundation that barely hid my acne, dark eyeliner on my waterline, and outdated lenses. But as I said, with emphasis on slow, my experience steadily went upward. Overtime, I gained more friends, got rid of my acne, and then my braces – shedding a little layer of myself that was no longer needed.
Besides my apparent awkwardness, what I also brought with me from elementary school was writing. I jumped from interest to interest, from visual arts, drama, and even singing in musical; I became a jack of all trades in the world of amateur art. But writing remained a constant. Writing was something I developed a passion for in grade three, and storytelling was was something I could remember doing with my stuffed animals before I was able hold a pencil in my hand.
There were few times in my adolescence I was able to share that passion. I entered a few poetry competitions in elementary school and completed some short stories the years after. After years of sheer naivety, my dream of being novelist became something that seemed out of reach. I thought maybe I needed to choose something a little more practical.
I set aside my ambitions and made writing something that I did on the side. That was until my final year of high school.
April 2017 is the third anniversary of a play I wrote and directed in grade twelve. It was called The Fitzgerald’s; a dark comedy about a dysfunctional family at funeral. It was a two act play featuring a drunken grandmother, a gay uncle, a trophy wife, all members fighting and obsessed with their reputations. It was a script that was chosen and supervised by my eccentric drama teacher. My best friend was the stage manager, and the tight knit group of incredibly talented friends I made in grade eleven, starred as the main characters.
For nine months I did rehearsals twice a week and tweaked the script to its best and final product. It went through a regional competition called the Sears Drama Festival. The first official performance was in this small town in a place called the Lighthouse Theatre. That night, with nails digging into my seat, I had never been more nervous is my life.
And it was amazing.
The theatre was packed with students and the parents of students and theatre-goers. When the actors came out in tableau a hush went over the crowd. They acted on their marks and added their own touches to characters that finally meant something to them.
The audience was alive; they laughed in all of the right places – laughed more than I would’ve ever expected. I even saw a few people cry.
When it was over, I embraced everyone that was involved, including my drama teacher who was responsible for giving methat opportunity. I went out to the lobby and heard someone yell out, “Who wrote that?” and everyone pointed in my direction. The girl actually ran up to me, and amongst the absurdity of that night, asked for my autograph on the playbill. My family was beaming at me with pride.
It was a first for many things; my first play, my first real leadership role, my first piece of writing that was made into something and received awards for. The first time I ever really felt like I was taken seriously.
When we went back to school the next day, back in the uniforms and into our daily routines, I was still living on high that no one but myself, the actors and the crew knew about. Yet this time, my path was carved out, which meant I could walk a little more boldly.
To be honest, I hadn’t let myself think about that memory or that play for a while. Much like high school, I’ve entered a lull in my university career, letting the tedious stream of formal essays take out every ounce of fun I originally found in writing.
However, this year in Ottawa, a young man was standing at the bus stop in my front of my school, staring at me like he wanted to say something. Eventually, he did and asked me if my name was Alannah Link, to which I replied with a confused yes.
He told me that he saw my play a few years back, and that him and his classmates all I loved it.
He didn’t know it, but he gave me a dose of nostalgia that reminded of me of that night, those people and that play. A story I wrote in the last year of high school and performed in front of just a few hundred people, found itself just 600 kilometres away from the town I first performed it in. Right then, the the world felt incredibly small. It made me want to search for that feeling again.
I recognize that I didn’t peak in high school, but I definitely made the happiest memory there.