The Shameful Acquittal of Colten Boushie’s Murderer

murder is murder 2
“There should be an outcry”

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.

Sixthmany 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.

Seventh, and definitely not last, was the fact that Colten’s case was examined by a judge and a jury of no visibly indigenous members.

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.

all of them

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.

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.

justice for colten
Justice for Colten GoFundMe

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.

The first vice chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations says, “It’s easy to send a tweet. We need to translate that into action, not just a handshake and a hug”.

“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 (jus.minister@gov.ska.ca) and Attorney General of Canada (jody.wilson-raybould@parl.gc.ca) 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”.

Another GoFundMe campaign was started to support the Boushie family, and I encourage everyone to give donations to help a family in mourning. 

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.

 

 

 

 

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The Female Fraud: My Experience with Imposter Syndrome

Mainstream feminists seem to think that the be-all and end-all issue to fight is the wage gap. However, studies show that, for the most part, the wage gap exists but not for the reason that people typically think. It has less to do with women getting smaller paychecks than men in similar positions, and more to do […]

Mainstream feminists seem to think that the be-all and end-all issue to fight is the wage gap. However, studies show that, for the most part, the wage gap exists but not for the reason that people typically think. It has less to do with women getting smaller paychecks than men in similar positions, and more to do with how many women are not going towards those high paying careers.

Again, this doesn’t mean that the wage gap is a myth. In fact, the recent annual data shows that women working full time in Canada still earned 74.2 cents for every dollar that a full-time male employee made. And in some cases, highly educated women aren’t getting paid as much as men who have the same, or even less, credentials. 

The Flaw 

The main flaws in those numbers, is that researchers don’t consider different employment choices between men and women, or the number of hours they work. Almost none of them take into account the pressures women have on childbearing, and how pregnancy and motherhood can detract from a woman’s employment status.

In summary, within the Western world, the wage gap isn’t actually just as result of rampant discrimination. This belief leads to governments attempting to aid the situation with affirmative action. Thus, many men plead in defiance that they work just as hard, and women’s wages are still stagnant. This means that the issue is much more complicated than that.

I wanted to know why

Why are so many capable women avoiding those high paying jobs? There are countless reasons, and multiple online threads attempting to convince me that women simply don’t want to do those jobs, that they aren’t that good at bargaining for a better wage. While some I deemed completely laughable, others seemed quite fitting. The actual fault can be traced to the psychological effects of living in a legacy of women being excluded from professional spaces in the modern world. And the one that hit close to home for me, was the concept of Imposter Syndrome.

So, what’s Imposter Syndrome?

Individuals who have Imposter Syndrome, “experience intense feelings that their achievements are undeserved and that they’re likely to be exposed as a fraud,” as written in a report created by the International Journal of Behavioral Science. 

Mind you, this isn’t a gendered phenomenon. High achieving millennials and graduate students are plagued with this mindset no matter what gender they identify as. But it is inarguably and disproportionally afflicted by women – including myself. 

My Experience with Imposter Syndrome

I found myself looking at the accounts written by female professionals, and connecting words that perfectly explained what I have been experiencing ever since I was a young adult. Like ever since I set foot on my university campus I have felt out of place amongst the academics and keeners who did everything on time and seemingly without flaw. Or when people offer me compliments, and tell me that I seem to have everything put together, I can’t agree with them. I immediately think of my messy room back home, the dirty dishes on my desk, and the piles of readings I have yet to finish.

In classrooms, where male students offer their opinions freely and confidently, I take time to repeat my answer over and over in my head until perfection, to the point where I still kind of stutter on my words, or the class has moved on to completely different discussion point.

I think about how social media has allowed me to curate a very edited version of myself; from the articles I share on Facebook, to the highly selective photos I’ve posted on my Instagram. Sometimes I am extremely thankful that I was born in an era where people can take a picture of themselves with the right lighting, angle, and dress so that those candids of double chins, belly bumps, or big foreheads don’t have to presented to the world. But then sometimes I scroll through my feed and feel like I’m lying to everyone. If one of those candids came to light, it isn’t that it’s an ugly representation of myself, but it’s actually the true version of myself.

There are even times where my friends send me links to entry-level summer jobs they think are a perfect fit, but I feel deep down there is a better candidate for those positions. So I don’t apply. I take away any chance of myself gaining more than minimum wage.

That, combined with my knack of belittling every achievement I have had, makes it seem like I simply have some poor self-esteem, except it feels like more than that.

It feels like I’ve built a small empire – of confidence, beauty, and success – on shaky infrastructure; a castle made of sand.

Why does it matter?

Imposter Syndrome is a complicated concept and it definitely cannot independently explain why women don’t allow themselves to go towards high paying careers. However, it should be examined much more than it is, when female law students, professors and CEOS “find innumerable means of negating any external evidence that contradicts their belief that they are, in reality, unintelligent.”

I do call on it when people condescendingly claim that the wage gap is a myth, or when people try to reason through that specific issue by explaining that women are just less ambitious. Both of those reasons are just examples of people attempting to continue the narrative that women are inferior.

I know I’m not. I know women aren’t, but I think we all have that voice in the back of our heads that makes us question our worth.

Back to the Wage Gap 

While millionaire actresses and celebrities stand with signs in their hands about the wage gap, uneducated as to why it actually exists, it makes their fight seem unworthy, and often exasperating. Not only to they stand with misguided signs, but are probably standing next to images of pink vulvas with the thought that all women are connected by same genitalia, and not mention, are all probably white. These acts are excluding many people and specifically disregarding how the wage gap disproportionally affects women of colour.

It’s extremely difficult to live in a time where everyone feels like everyone else is living better. It’s also extremely difficult living in the legacy where women have been excluded from the work force and academic spaces. Hopefully, the end of that legacy is closer than we think.

It is important to note that issues such as these cannot only be explained with numbers. It the lived experience that should be taken to account as well.

And in the meantime, we should create a mantra when those dirty, little thoughts sneak into heads, repeating over and over, “I can, I can, I can.”

Sources:
Image 1: https://studybreaks.com/2016/10/20/will-gender-pay-gap-shrink-future/
Grant, Tavia. Who is minding the gap? The Globe And Mail (2017). Retrieved from: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/gender-pay-gap-a-persistent-issue-in-canada/article34210790/
Clance, Pauline Rose; Imes, Suzanne. The Imposter Phenomenon In High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention. Psychotherapy Theory, Research and Practise, 15:3. (1978).