After Colten Boushie: Addressing 'pressing and troubling' issues

The problem, Trudeau said, is that federal governments have not been fully implementing those rights, forcing Indigenous Peoples to engage in long and costly battles to get the courts to enforce them - a reality the prime minister said has played a role in breaking the relationship time and again.

Only the court case that has gripped Saskatchewan for the past few weeks; Gerald Stanley, a Biggar-area farmer, stood trial before a judge and jury in North Battleford for the death of 22-year old Colten Boushie in August of 2016.

But the uproar over the verdict speaks to a deeper mistrust than can be addressed by more diverse juries alone.

"Somehow, Canada could come together, all its people could come together, and realize we're all human beings", she said.

Before the Stanley trial began, the defence team rejected all five visibly Indigenous candidates presented for jury duty. In response, some in the federal Conservative caucus and in the legal community complained that such interventions taint the legal process, potentially biasing future proceedings.

Singh said he's used peremptory challenges in his career as a criminal defence lawyer.

Boushie's family met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday to ask for changes to make juries more inclusive.

"We have a constitution that created a space for Indigenous rights", said Mr. Trudeau, "but over the past decades, we haven't done a very good job of putting those rights at the forefront of all our decision-making and all our engagement with them and that's part of what I'm looking forward to talk about today".

The minister did not promise concrete measures to reform the jury selection process.

He was hesitant to make definitive pronouncements on Stanley's character, one of many Saskatchewan farmers reportedly anxious about thefts and slow police response times.

"Just because your not apart of [the issue of racism] doesn't mean it won't go away", Bellerose said. Indigenous Nations and organizations are calling for expert panels to recommend changes to the justice system, inquiries and Royal Commissions.

Trudeau and Wilson-Raybould can start to fix this mess - they just need to tweet less and legislate more.

"We are exhausted - we have heavy hearts", she added.

"It hasn't even been 72 hours since the verdict", Murphy said. Namely, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, who has hinted that change could be coming soon. "And that is reflective of the communities across the country, in provinces and territories, and this is a really important discussion that this tragic situation has highlighted, and I am committed to addressing", she said.

Vigil organizer Beth Cook says Indigenous people also face injustice in Windsor pointing to the death of Steven Hill who was killed in April of 2017.

"There's a lot that we can do".

She said reforms are coming "soon" but wouldn't offer a timeline.

Criminal defence lawyer Sean Robichaud says that, as indigenous people are over-represented as the accused in the criminal justice system, eliminating the peremptory challenges to ensure the jury represents the victim will only disadvantage them.

But the case shines a light on the ongoing failures of the Canadian justice system that, at minimum, gives the impression that justice is unfairly distributed.

Jade Tootoosis, Boushie's cousin, said the family's concerns were heard during the closed-door meeting.

"When we were brought up, we were told to respect the law, abide by the law, and if somebody breaks the law and does you harm, the justice system will protect you and will punish that person", Beatty said.

"We're [the indigenous] overrepresented in jails, we're underrepresented in the system, so it doesn't seem we get a fair shake from a jury of our peers", he said, pointing to the fact that the jury in the Boushie case was "apparently non-indigenous".

  • Leroy Wright