February 9, 2018, is a date too many First Nation members remember far too well. It is the day a jury rendered their not-guilty verdict for Gerald Stanley on the charge of second-degree murder. Stanley shot and killed Red Pheasant Cree man Colten Boushie in August 2016.
As noted by CBC, “Indigenous people who were part of the jury pool were peremptorily challenged by the defence and none was selected to sit on the jury.” The not-guilty verdict deepened the social and political wedge that was long ago lodged between non-Indigenous Canadians and First Nations by a government whose policies were intentionally designed to destroy Indigenous cultures, languages, and ways of life. The verdict exacerbated racial tensions and fanned the flames of fear between Whites and Indigenous.
Using history as a guide, the not-guilty verdict should have come as neither a shock nor a surprise. Canadian First Nations’ only hope for a guilty verdict was in hope itself, not history. Canadian Indigenous are relegated to second-class citizenship in a nation that takes pride in its collective decency as a people when compared to other nations. We must use this sense of pride to our advantage. Our goal must be Reconciliation, Justice, and Peace and we must never become what it is we despise in our pursuit of these Rights.
The path to these ends means working within the system to change the system. If laws are needed, then we must run for office, get elected, and then write the law. As non-elected, we must lobby and engage non-Indigenous lawmakers with the aim of turning them away from their political indifference and turning them into a political partner. These things need to happen at the city, province, and national level.
As noted by CBC, the jury could identify with Gerald Stanley. They didn’t identify with the young people of the Red Pheasant Cree Nation so they feared them. Our government seems not to identify with us as a people, so let’s become more a part of the government since we already identify with ourselves and show them there is no reason to fear. It’s time for a political plan and peaceful political action that yield results.
The best way to honour the life and never forget the tragic and unnecessary death of Red Pheasant Cree Colten Boushie is to never stop working toward positive social change.