The acquittal of Gerald Stanley, who fired the shot that killed Colten Boushie, is a stinging indictment of the systemic racism which permeates the entire policing and legal system. The Communist Party of Canada stands in full solidarity with the demands of the Boushie/Baptiste family for genuine reforms to the institutions which continue to systematically deny justice to Indigenous peoples and racialized communities.
Like many others, we are angered that this murder trial had an all-white jury, presided over by Martel Popescul, a white judge who represented the RCMP at the trial of Carney Nerland, the infamous white supremacist from Prince Albert, who in 1991 shot Cree trapper Leo LaChance in the back and received only a four-year sentence for manslaughter. From the moment the RCMP began to investigate, Colten Boushie’s family and friends were treated as criminals and thieves. His friend Belinda Jackson was taken into custody, interrogated without food or sleep for 19 hours, and his mother was told to “get herself together” as cops searched her home. In the eyes of the RCMP and the courts, Colten Boushie was not the victim of a deadly crime; he was portrayed as a dangerous home invader. The defence claimed that Gerald Stanley’s firearm may have misfired, but why would a Saskatchewan farm family even have a handgun, which is useless for protection against predatory animals?
The question points to the shocking depth of anti-Indigenous racism in Saskatchewan. This racism has its roots in the occupation of the prairies by British colonialism and the emerging Canadian capitalist state, which gave away Indigenous lands to European settlers, whose interests were protected by the North-West Mounted Police, the paramilitary force later renamed the RCMP – notorious for smashing labour strikes and spying on Communists. After the military suppression of the Metis Resistance of 1885, Indigenous peoples were forced onto reserves, banned from travelling without the permission of Indian Agents, denied the right to vote or to hire legal representation. Their children were sent to residential schools where many died and their languages were banned. The policies of the Canadian state through both Liberal and Tory governments, and the colonial policies of Britain and France before that, aimed to accomplish the genocide of Indigenous populations either through mass murder, assimilation, or both.
In this context, the social and political progress won through a century and more of struggles by Indigenous peoples is far from full equality. Despite official apologies for the residential school system and the welcome recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Indigenous peoples still face high rates of incarceration, unemployment, suicide and infant mortality; substandard education, healthcare, and housing; lack of access to clean water; violence against women and girls; the effects of mercury poisoning at Grassy Narrows, and on and on. Canada today is a country where a white farmer can put a gun to the head of a young Indigenous man and pull the trigger, without being convicted of any crime. Before reconciliation can become meaningful, the depth of racism imposed on Indigenous peoples must be recognized and addressed. The elimination of racism must become the work of governments, schools and educational institutions, religious and cultural institutions, and child and social welfare institutions which were all used to deny Indigenous people their rights and their lives up to the present. Reconciliation means fundamental change and justice.
The capitalist class benefits from such racism, using it as a tool to weaken resistance to neoliberalism and austerity. The Communist Party of Canada calls for unity of all working people – Indigenous and non-Indigenous – against the corporate drive to extract and export raw materials from the traditional territories of Indigenous peoples. The struggle for justice within the Canadian state can never advance without a consistent fight by the labour movement and all democratic forces against every form of exploitation and oppression, including the denial of the national equality rights of Indigenous peoples, Quebec, and the Acadians. This includes the right to social, economic and political equality, the right to self-determination and nation to nation relationships, and the inherent right to land and resources. The campaign to win justice for Colten Boushie and his family is an important part of this wider struggle. We will continue to support their just demands and fight for equality and justice and an end to the genocide against Indigenous peoples in Canada.
Central Executive Committee, Communist Party of Canada