The shooting death of a young man on a farm in Saskatchewan in August 2016 triggered a media feeding frenzy — one that would get Canadians [‘from coast to coast’] all riled up.
It wasn’t because the victim — 22-year-old Colten Boushie — died in the company of his buds, some drunken thieves. No. It was because Boushie was Aboriginal and the man who pulled the trigger was Caucasian.
When a murder trial got underway, a year and a half later, a run-of-the-mill crime story had morphed into a huge racial issue.
And for that, we can thank the mainstream media.
What is the truth? … and can we handle it?
The mainstream media — we’re talking CTV, CBC, Global TV plus some major radio and print outlets — sunk their teeth into the tragic death, often focusing on racially-charged comments from people living on the victim’s reserve and from those who bought into the allegations of racism.
It was, as we say in the biz, a sexy story. “Saskatchewan’s racial divide” and all that.
Colten Boushie’s friends spoke highly of him. “He was awesome,” they said. A local pastor described him as the ‘Rodney King of Western Canada.’ Family member Marie Baptiste upped the hype scale … she told The Globe and Mail that Colten’s reserve “is the Mississippi of the north.”Family, friends, and supporters of Colten Boushie were quick to point out that because no Natives were on the jury, it was therefore racism. That meant the jury was biased and the farmer should have been sent packing to the Big House.
Is that true??
Damning information shared on social media, however, shows a much different ‘backstory’ to the fatal shooting — one the mainstream media doesn’t appear to be paying much attention to.
A criticism of reporters is that we’re too politically correct and that we live in a bubble. Another is we’re not interested in news, only noise.
Is that also true??
One final question: Is the controversy surrounding the Boushie killing a case of reality vs political correctness? You decide.
I’m no stranger to Canada’s Aboriginals and the huge issues they face.
For more than 30 years, I did news items for public and corporate mainstream media outlets — plus stories for a number of independent outlets.
No system is perfect, but I can say that the mainstream media has a far greater interest in protecting the status quo. And it’s not hard to connect the dots … it all comes down to money. Heard that before?
The downside to social media is that it can be factually-challenged. However, it’s still a good barometer of what people are thinking, and why.
The bulk of my career was spent covering criminal justice and Aboriginal issues. From the mid-1980s to the early 90s, while with CBC Radio in Edmonton, Alberta, I was on what we called at the time an ‘Indian beat.’
Most of my Native stories involved the Lubicon, a group of Cree living in the sticks in northwestern Alberta. I often pointed out to our audience that the Lubicon had not signed a treaty with the federal government, nor had they been ‘conquered.’
I focused on the plight of the small band in the face of massive oil and gas development on land they hadn’t given up title to. The issue of land ownership turned out to be a hot potato, grabbing the attention of editors across North America and Europe — not to mention bureaucrats at the United Nations that characterized Ottawa’s treatment of the Lubicon Cree as ‘cultural genocide.’
Along came retroactive legislation by the Alberta Government, a tactic that hadn’t been deployed since a certain German administration used it in the 1930s. Just to screw the Indians.
The CBC was at the forefront of all that coverage.
In addition to CBC Radio in Alberta, my articles appeared on CBC Radio National News as well as on our flagship documentary radio program, Sunday Morning.
Oh. And in the late 1980s, I was presented with an eagle feather for helping Native prisoners. [Aboriginal people make up about 10 percent of Canada’s population — yet 40 percent of its prison population.] In turn, I presented the eagle feather to a top student in my class of native journalism students.
Now that we have that ‘full-disclosure’ stuff out of the way, let’s get back to the story …
A Fatal Shooting
22-year-old Colten Boushie was killed in a farmyard near Biggar, in northwestern Saskatchewan, on August 9, 2016. He took a bullet in the back of the head while sitting in a parked SUV.
Boushie was a Cree Indian from the nearby Red Pheasant First Nation.The fatal shot was fired by 56-year-old Gerald Stanley, the property owner.
Stanley’s version of events is that using a handgun, he fired off two warning shots after some trespassers entered his yard and starting stealing his stuff.
One guy, he said, attempted to drive off with his all-terrain vehicle — then tried to run his wife over when she tried to stop him.
Stanley claims the third bullet — the one that took out Boushie — was the result of his gun going off accidentally. He told police he didn’t mean to kill him.The RCMP charged Gerald Stanley with 2nd-degree murder. The man was handcuffed, put behind bars … but eventually released on a $10,000 cash bail.
Stanley’s trial began in late January 2018 and ended about two weeks later.
Stanley’s lawyer, Scott Spencer of Saskatoon, told the jury in his opening statement that Boushie was the victim of a “freak accident that occurred in the course of an unimaginably scary situation.”
“Is it reasonable to fire warning shots to get them to just leave? That’s what it comes down to in many ways. Stanley was faced with intruders and didn’t have the luxury to wait for police.”
“This is really not a murder case at all,” Spencer said. “This is a case about what can go terribly wrong when you create a situation which is really of the nature of a home invasion.”
“If they would have just stopped — stopped drinking, stopped drinking and driving, stopped breaking into people’s places, stop vandalizing stuff, stop crashing into things …”
The farmer had chosen to be tried by jury instead of a judge alone.
In the end, seven women and five men had to figure out if Gerald Stanley was, in fact, a cold-blooded killer. They came to the conclusion he wasn’t.
Stanley was therefore acquitted. He was free to go.
The Race Card
There was immediate outrage from residents of the Red Pheasant First Nation. ‘Racism’ they cried because no jury member was Aboriginal.
The proverbial race card got tossed around and that got the mainstream media worked up. A run-of-the-mill theft/murder story soon elevated to a burning national concern about racism. The old race card whips people into a frenzy — but it does help the TV ratings and newspaper sales …
There’s nothing like a good race story for finger-pointing and dividing a society with guilt trips. It’s Kryptonite.
There are always two sides to a coin. Here’s the other side. Many say the issue was never about race, it was always about crime.
Here’s what Gerald Stanley’s lawyer told reporters: “Gerry’s trial is not a referendum on racism. If jurors feel they have to pick a ‘side,’ then it will be very difficult for there to be a fair trial.”
Spencer was referring to comments made by Native jury prospects who announced the farmer should hang for what he did. Brilliant move, Einstein. Mind you, this is before the trial even started. File that under ‘How To Get Out Of Jury Duty.’
Entering the fray was Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who immediately took the side of the Natives. He promised changes would be made to Canada’s judicial system.
Trudeau is not a lawyer. But he spoke with authority as though it was a fact that Natives in Canada aren’t getting a fair shake.
[Note to Mr. Dressup: Special sentencing guidelines have been in place for decades for Natives convicted of serious crimes. So there’s already a bias favouring them — and it’s the law. Thanks to a Supreme Court ruling, judges have no choice but to give Natives lesser sentences than non-Natives.]
Enter Social Media
There was a time when social media meant leaning on a fence and chatting with your neighbour, a get-together with friends at a bar, restaurant, at the water cooler … listening in on a party line [who remembers those?] … or having a letter to the editor published. Back in the day, that’s how social media worked.
Not today. Because of the Internet, computers, smart cell phones, and tablets, all that has changed. And gosh has it ever … there are websites, blogs, tweets, cheap long-distance telephone calls, and billions of emails.
It’s a whole new world.
Social media — described as opinionated and underground — is now a powerful influence, and so the reason for this post …
Let me put this out there: the public has never had 100 percent trust in the mainstream media — and for good reason. Because of easy access to alternative sources and therefore more information, trust in traditional media outlets has diminished. And it’s getting worse.
As a profession, journalism is now one of the least trusted and respected and the mainstream media is paying the price.
There are those who believe that a once [fairly respected] industry is now on life-support. They point to the massive layoff of reporters over the past 20 years, suggesting its days are numbered.
‘Why Are We Not Hearing This on the News?’
Bruce, a former Calgary Police sergeant, points out that the three Natives directly involved in the incident lied to the police — then lied again … to the jury.
[Correct. Put another way, if these witnesses had been strapped to a lie detector they would’ve blown every gasket in the machine.]
It’s worth noting, the retired policeman points out, that the three Caucasians who testified at the trial did NOT lie to investigating officers, nor did they lie in court. “In addition,” he says, “forensic evidence gathered by the police at the crime scene supported the evidence and testimony of the three Caucasian witness.”
And there we have it. Credibility versus no credibility. A defence lawyer’s dream.
In his opening statement, Crown Prosecutor Bill Burge warned the jury, “there may well be some serious contradictions to what people say.” No kidding. That was code for ‘some goofs have been lying through their teeth, you’ll soon meet them — and they’ll lie to you too.’
Given this information, Bruce says, “Who do you think the jury had reason to believe was more likely to be telling the truth?”
“That’s why Gerald Stanley was acquitted,” he says. That’s how our justice system is supposed to work.”
Bruce doesn’t stop there …
“The Prime Minister and the federal Attorney General contacted the Boushie family and offered their condolences and say they will take steps to ensure this never happens again. They were insinuating that Natives would now receive preferential treatment before the courts.”
“For that,” Bruce says, “they should immediately resign from their positions. That is not their job and they’re clearly indicating there will be a greater bias towards Native persons to the detriment of the rest of the citizens in this country.”
“Further,” he says, “neither one has contacted the Stanley family to offer their condolences. Why not …?”
A rancher offers this insight: “The Indians who testified were the worst kind of liars in that they could not remember the lies they had told earlier on the record. No respectable jury could have convicted after their testimony.”
“The Red Pheasant reservation is notorious for this kind of stuff,” he adds. “Farmers and ranchers in the area regularly carry guns.”
“Every day I thank my lucky stars I don’t live near a reservation. Urbanites have no idea how defenceless we are in the country. The RCMP are useless and don’t care.”
An anonymous writer states in an email, “As near as I can tell, the media is obscuring true details of this case …”
The writer claims that those in the SUV are related to chiefs from the Red Pheasant reservation who have faced charges of assault, drunk driving, driving while suspended, poaching … and fraud, naming four chiefs that have been indicted for corruption in office and booted from their position.
Except for the current chief who still faces criminal charges.
“Google each chief’s name, you will see their kids frequently have warrants issued for assault, armed robbery, and rape.”
“Red Pheasant has been spending a substantial percentage of their budget defending these corrupt chiefs since at least 2009. These scumbags rotate in and out of office.”
“Then along comes a distraction in the form of Boushie. It’s wonderful. It gets the band to circle the wagons and gets [current chief] Clint Wuttunee out of the news.”
“But when all the facts are presented, instead of the ‘damned white people’ to blame it appears that [those in the SUV] are merely doing what their family does. Thieving, drunk scumbags.”
Included in the email is a link to the [Saskatoon] Star Phoenix about Clint Wuttunee and corruption charges …
“Meanwhile, the people of Red Pheasant suffer as the corrupt chiefs engage in a media dog and pony show to distract everyone. Never let a good tragedy go to waste!”
“The media coverage has been full of so many holes …”
Here’s another ticked-off writer who has taken to social media to voice some strong opinions …
“Let’s backtrack a little bit here … Colten had been drinking. Other people in the car had been drinking. They admitted to it. There was a loaded weapon in the vehicle. That’s a fact. They had just come from a different farm after stealing stuff from it. Fact. One person in the car tried to steal an ATV. Fact. People in the car admitted to lying under oath. Fact.”
“Others in the car admitted to attacking Stanley’s wife. That’s assault.”
“A scuffle ensued and due to some unfortunate circumstances, Colten paid the ultimate price due to his own and his friends’ poor choices.”
“Agreeing with the verdict doesn’t make me a racist. It makes me a realist.”
“Criminals know that the response time for police to get to a rural area is astronomical and they’re using that to their advantage. And if they do get caught, they get a slap on the wrist. Steal a truck and wreck it? Pfft, three months in jail and probation.”
“People are getting fed up. They’re getting fed up with their vehicles getting stolen. They’re getting fed up with their houses being broken into. They’re getting fed up with criminals. And that’s what Colten and his friends decided to do that day. Be criminals.”
As for jury selection, the writer claims that during the interview process, every indigenous person in the waiting area — in the presence of police officers — was openly saying how they wanted to hang Stanley.
“That’s hardly impartial.” No kidding.
“Is it sad what happened? Yes, absolutely. No family should experience a loss like this. Is it Stanley’s fault it happened? No, absolutely not.”
“Stanley didn’t invite them onto his farm. He didn’t tell them to steal his stuff. He didn’t say they could have his ATV. He didn’t provide them with alcohol that made their blood alcohol content more than three times the legal limit.”
“Stanley was protecting himself, his family, and his property from criminals. End of story.”
Tamara Woroschuk begins her email by slamming three Native leaders …
“Chief Bobby Cameron, former Chief Wittunee and current Chief Wuttunee, I am disappointed at the example you are setting for our people. It’s ‘very dishonourable’ that you’ve pulled the racism card.”
“They [the trespassers] had attempted to rob another farmyard earlier that day. Half the witnesses were not thinking straight, add into that copious amounts of alcohol and you can’t say they wouldn’t have killed Gerald or his family in a split second …”
“Not once has anyone acknowledged that Gerald Stanley and his family did not ask to be put in the middle of this witch hunt … yet their lives are changed forever.”
“To hear that a dozen officers went to inform Ms. [Debbie] Baptiste of her son’s passing does not surprise me. RCMP members don’t go onto a reserve on their own.”
Woroschuk has a lot to say. “Farmers have had to arm their property for years against theft. It continually gets swept under the rug and is something we’re not supposed to talk about because it’s politically incorrect.”
“Was Gerald Stanley racist? Did he have prior incidents? Was he known to go looking for trouble? My guess is ‘no’ because if he was, the media would have been all over it.”
“Not once have I heard one of the chiefs say, “We have our work cut out for us when it comes to working with our young people and in teaching them right from wrong while also becoming productive members of the community.”
Woroschuk again slams Chief Bobby Cameron. “He talks about karma and how Gerald Stanley’s children and grandchildren will pay for this [‘you’re gonna pay’]. So he turns a blind eye [to] the facts and then threatens the Stanley family?”
“You, Chief Cameron, are part of the problem and the divide …”
“These adults [the trespassers] made a conscious decision to jump on Stanley’s quad and in a truck that Gerald had fixed, then tried to run over him and his son. And if they were too drunk to make a conscious decision, that responsibility falls on you.”
“You [Chief Bobby Cameron] were elected to take care of the people from Red Pheasant First Nation and make it a better place.”
“And then to have former Chief Wuttunee say, ‘I drive those back roads too and I can tell you that since the shooting happened, I don’t want to break down now.’ This wasn’t some random, unprovoked ghetto shooting targeting people with dark skin so please, stop the ignorance.”
But thank you,” she concludes, tongue in cheek, “for the fear-mongering and your work in uniting this province …”
Rival fundraisers …
Donations are rolling in for separate ‘GoFundMe’ campaigns for the Stanley and Boushie Families. Thanks to the CBC for this story …