Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says the province has “difficult discussions” ahead on racism, rural crime, and the justice system following the acquittal of a farmer charged with murdering a Cree man.
The premier was speaking at a news conference Monday after a jury on Friday found Gerald Stanley, 56, not guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Colten Boushie, 22.
Boushie was shot and killed after he and four others from the Red Pheasant Cree Nation drove onto Stanley’s rural property in Biggar, Sask., in August 2016.
Boushie was shot in the head after an altercation between Stanley, his son and his wife. During the trial, Stanley testified he never meant to kill anyone and the handgun he was holding accidentally went off.
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe speaks following the Gerald Stanley case.0:32
On Friday, a jury in North Battleford found Stanley not guilty. Boushie’s family has raised concerns that there were no visibly Indigeneous people on the jury (CBC has no way of independently determining whether any of the jurors have Indigenous backgrounds).
The jury’s verdict touched off a series of rallies across Canada about what many see as systematic racism within the justice system and called for change.
‘We will find a way forward’
Moe would not address the verdict in Stanley case, but said he’s met members of Boushie’s family and hears the concerns that they have with the justice system.
“I listened,” he said. “The minister of justice and I sat with them for a few hours and we listened to them about their experience over the last year and a half. It was a good meeting and I was fortunate to be invited to it.”
A dialogue about racism and crime in Saskatchewan is something that needs to happen, even if it’s not easy, he said.
“These are difficult discussions for us to have, whether it’s on racism, or crime. This is a challenge,” Moe said. “I can commit to the people of Saskatchewan that we will have those discussions.”
“It won’t be easy, it won’t be done quickly, but we will find a way forward,” he said. “We will find a way forward.”
‘No place’ for racism, Moe says
As to concerns about the justice system, Moe said he’s heard from people online and in-person from people who believe it does not treat Indigenous people fairly. Generally, the justice system works, but there is room for change, Moe said.
Boushie family lawyer Chris Murphy spoke at a rally in Saskatoon on the weekend. ‘There is a darkness in this country and Colten’s death can help shine a light on that darkness,’ he said. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)
“It is fair for us, as a society to have those conversations, to ensure the laws we have in this land also evolve as we move forward,” Moe said.
Moe said he’s open to having discussions on what the province can do to end the practice of preemptory challenges, a practice that Boushie’s family says led to a jury stacked against them.
“We respect the decisions of the justice system and it’s independence,” he said. “But as we move forward it’s incumbent on us as a government to have those very important, very challenging discussions with our Aboriginal community in the province, and all of our communities in the province.”
Moe also discussed racist comments against Indigenous people that appeared on social media following the verdict.
“I’ve been made aware of a number of comments that are racist. There’s no place for that in the province of Saskatchewan,” he said. “This isn’t an easy thing to talk about for anybody, but it’s something we have to talk about.”
The premier is expected to meet with the leadership of the FSIN and Tribal Council Chiefs from across Saskatchewan today.
A sign and photo of Colten Boushie sits in front of the Court of Queen’s Bench in North Battleford on the first day of jury deliberation in the trial of Gerald Stanley, the farmer accused of killing the 22-year-old Indigenous man. (Liam Richards/Canadian Press)