People are expected to rally outside a Saskatchewan courthouse Thursday where a farmer accused of fatally shooting a First Nations man is to make an appearance. Gerald Stanley will be in a North Battleford courtroom to face a charge of second-degree murder in the death of 22-year-old Colten Boushie.
A Facebook group called “Justice for Colten” said the rally is about showing respect and support for Boushie’s family.
Boushie was killed Aug. 9 after the vehicle he was in drove onto a farm in the rural municipality of Glenside, west of Saskatoon.
A cousin, who was also in the car, said they were heading home to the Red Pheasant First Nation after an afternoon of swimming when they got a flat tire and turned onto the farm for help.
Robert Innes, a University of Saskatchewan indigenous studies professor, said the rally will give people a chance to express their concerns about the racial discourse that is unfolding after the shooting.
“It helps to highlight the issue of racism on one hand, but also support for the family on the other,” said Innes, who plans to attend another rally for Boushie outside a Saskatoon court.
Another rally is planned in Regina. The Facebook page also urges people across the country to make a sign “Justice for Colten” and stand with it somewhere public at 8:30 a.m. Thursday.
Racial tensions have flared since Boushie was killed.
First Nations leaders said the first RCMP news release about the shooting was biased. It said that people in the car had been taken into custody as part of a theft investigation. They were released without charges.
Chief Bobby Cameron of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations said the RCMP statement “provided just enough prejudicial information” for people to draw the conclusion that the shooting was somehow justified.
RCMP Supt. Rob Cameron said police handled the investigation fairly and competently. He also said he welcomed the opportunity to discuss the FSIN’s concerns.
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall took to Facebook to condemn what he called “racist and hate-filled” comments after the shooting.
Some of the comments on social media sites were anti-First Nation, while others supported vigilante justice against the suspect in the case.
One widely-circulated screen grab from a Saskatchewan farmers group on Facebook said: “His only mistake was leaving three witnesses.” That group has since been closed.
The National Farmers Union put out a statement Wednesday expressing sadness over Boushie’s death and the comments that have followed.
“As farmers, we condemn the rampant racist remarks that have circulated since the death of Colten Boushie, including comments made on the ‘Saskatchewan Farmers’ Facebook group. We also commit ourselves to building relationships of solidarity, mutual respect, and friendship with our indigenous neighbours, and to honouring our obligations as treaty people,” said the union.
Innes said the racial divide isn’t going to be solved any time soon.
“When people are celebrating the death of an indigenous man and calling for the killing of more indigenous men, we have to acknowledge that there is racism in this province.”