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Acquittal in Colten Boushie death spurs call for reform

Acquittal in Colten Boushie death spurs call for reform
From Al Jazeera - February 13, 2018

The family of an indigenous man who was killed in 2016 in Canada are taking their fight for justice to the country's capital after a white farmer was found not guilty in the shooting death of their relative.

Colten Boushie, a 22-year-old indigenous man from Red Pheasant First Nation in Saskatchewan, a province in central Canada, was shot dead after he and some friends drove onto a farm in search of help with a flat tyre.

A jury acquitted Gerald Stanley, who shot Boushie in the head, of second-degree murder and the lesser charge of manslaughter on Friday.

The white farmer testified that he never meant to kill anyone and that his gun "just went off".

The case has re-ignited long-standing racial tensions in the province and raised questions about equal access to justice for First Nations peoples across the country.

Boushie's cousin, Jade Tootoosis, is among several members of the Boushie family who are meeting with government ministers in Ottawa this week, where they are expected to demand changes to the Canadian justice system.

Tootoosis said she wants Canada to take action "so that no other families go through what we went through."

"We are hoping that we have these meetings and our concerns are heard and not just listened to, but taken into action," she told CBC News.

"We have questions and we want answers," she added.

The family met Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett and Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpotton Monday.

They also plan to meetPublic Safety Minister Ralph Goodale andJustice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould on Tuesday, both ministries told Al Jazeera.

"We will fight for generations to come," Alvin Baptiste, Boushie's uncle, told reporters on Monday.

"I do not want my grandkids to live like this, to see this day that we have suffered, or any other families that suffered. My heart cries today."

Judicial reform

Asked about the verdict in the House of Commons on Monday afternoon, Justin Trudeau, Canada's prime minister, said it would be "inappropriate to comment on the specifics" of the case.

There are "systemic issues in our criminal justice system that we must address", Trudeau said, adding that his government was "committed to broad-based reform".

"As a country, we must and we can do better," he said, without going into any specifics.

Earlier this month, Wilson-Raybould, the justice minister, raised concern about the under-representation of indigenous peoples on Canadian juries, which she described as "an issue in several provinces and ... a reality I find concerning".

That under-representation is caused by a number of factors, including distrust in the justice system and the use of peremptory challenges, a legal mechanism that allows Crown and defence attorneys to dismiss potential jurors without needing to provide a reason.

A 2013 inquiry into First Nations representation on juries in Ontario, Canada's most populous province, recommended that Canada's Criminal Code be reformed to "prevent the use of peremptory challenges to discriminate against First Nations people serving on juries".

There reportedly were no indigenous peoples on the 12-person jury in the Stanley case.

"The defence [lawyers for Stanley] used those peremptory challenges to eliminate anyone who looked Indigenous," Toronto-based criminal lawyer David Butt saidin a recent article in The Globe and Mail newspaper.

Butt said a solution would be to limit or override peremptory challenges "if it becomes clear they have created an inappropriately homogeneous jury".

Canada 'polarised'

Negative stereotypes

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