Relatives of Colten Boushie are in Ottawa to meet with federal ministers and press for changes to Canada’s justice system following a not-guilty verdict in his shooting death.
Alvin Baptiste, Boushie’s uncle, as well as cousin Jade Tootoosis and mother Debbie Baptiste arrived in the capital Sunday night following earlier delays due to weather.
“We had to travel from Saskatchewan all the way over here to bring justice for my son, Colten Boushie, and that’s why we’re here,” Debbie Baptiste told CBC News after arriving in Ottawa.
Family lawyer Chris Murphy told CBC News meetings have been arranged with Carolyn Bennett, minister of Indigenous-Crown Affairs, and Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott for Monday morning.
Murphy said further meetings are expected with the ministers of public safety and justice on Tuesday.
Tootoosis said the family wanted the meetings to talk about “the distrust and the injustices that we experienced as a family with the loss of my brother, Colten, and throughout the trial process.”
“We’re hoping that we have these meetings and our concerns are heard and not just listened to, but taken into action,” she said, thanking people across the country who have held rallies or offered support.
“We want to start talking about what do we do to address this, so that no other families go through what we went through,” said Tootoosis.
“We have questions and we want answers.”
Divisive trial and verdict
Boushie, 22, was shot and killed after he and four others from the Red Pheasant Cree Nation drove onto Gerald Stanley’s rural property in Saskatchewan in August, 2016.
On Friday, Stanley, who was charged with second-degree murder in Boushie’s death, was found not guilty after a jury trial.
Gerald Stanley, right, was found not guilty in the death of Colten Boushie. (Colton Boushie/Facebook and Liam Richards/Canadian Press)
Boushie was shot in the head after an altercation with Stanley, his son and wife.
Stanley testified during the trial that he never meant to shoot anyone, and that the handgun he was holding accidentally went off.
The jury could have found Stanley guilty of second-degree murder or manslaughter, or not guilty, according to Chief Justice Martel Popescul, who oversaw the trial.
The decision to acquit Stanley sent shockwaves through the courtroom that have rippled across the country.
‘It’s easy to send a tweet’
“I’m here to speak with the government — [to tell them] that the way they’re treating us, it’s not right,” Alvin Baptiste said.
“They’re asking for reconciliation and we’re willing to work with the Canadian government … and change the laws that are out there. They’re not working for the First Nations people at all.”
The family members are expected to be joined Monday by Kim Jonathan, first vice chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations.
“We’ve seen such disrespect and disregard for Colten’s life,” Jonathan said Saturday. “We’re not going to ask for a meeting, we’re not going to request to be heard — we will be heard.”
Alvin Baptiste, Colten Boushie’s uncle, says he came to Ottawa to speak with federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould about racism in Canada’s justice system. (Marc-André Cossette/CBC)
She added they have compiled a list of things they allege were done improperly during the investigation. The group plans to publicly present this list on Parliament Hill.
Justin Trudeau, Philpott and Jody Wilson-Raybould, the minister of justice, each took to Twitter to share their opinions after the verdict was announced.
“It’s easy to send a tweet,” Jonathan said. “We need that to translate into action, not just a handshake and a hug.”
The family does not know how long it plans to stay in Ottawa and has not booked return flights to Saskatchewan yet, according to Murphy.