Here and There by Dominique Liboiron
One of the most talked about court cases in recent years is coming to an end.
The closing arguments in the Gerald Stanley case began at Feb. 7. As we in Saskatchewan wait for the jurors to deliver their verdict, I think this is a good time to consider what the legacy of this trial might be. So far, it has revealed a deep political division between some of Saskatchewan’s residents.
You’ll recall that Stanley, 56, was charged with second-degree murder after a confrontation on his North Battleford area farm on Aug. 9, 2016. The victim, Colton Boushie, 22, died from a gunshot wound to the head; the Cree man was from Red Pheasant First Nation.
Accounts of what happened that day vary. Boushie’s friends who were with him when the shooting occurred say Boushie drove into Stanley’s farmyard to get help with a flat tire. They allege Stanley shot at them to chase them off.
According to Stanley, one of the occupants in the SUV got out and attempted to steal one of Stanley’s vehicles. Stanley admits to firing two warning shots to scare the intruders away. After hearing the shots, Boushie backed into a parked car, but didn’t leave, Stanley alleges. He says that when he fired a third warning shot the gun didn’t go off, a situation known as a hang fire. Stanley says he then approached Boushie’s SUV to pull the key out of the ignition and that when he did the hang fire ended and his gun went off. The bullet struck Boushie in the head and killed him.
Since the story broke, I’ve been following the case with interest. Of course, I’m not the only one. People across the province and even across Canada have taken an interest. Citizens have been expressing a variety of opinions for months. When I listen to people talk about the Stanley case, I’m struck by how often they don’t talk about the facts or the evidence. Instead, what they usually talk about is their underlying political beliefs.
For example, I’ve heard some people say the shooting happened because of racism. Their contention is that the murder is a result of white oppression or colonialism. They say Gerald Stanley is guilty because his ancestors stole land from Natives.
On the other hand, I’ve heard people say that Boushie got what he deserved. In their belief system, Stanley was only protecting his property – frontier style. People in this camp say criminals need to be dealt with harshly to maintain order.
There are elements of truth in both camps, but I don’t think the truth lies exclusively with one side or the other.
Let’s be honest, Saskatchewan’s Native population was largely forced onto reserves through starvation. Obviously, that’s a shameful history that shouldn’t have happened. It was wrong. But Saskatchewan’s past isn’t just a story of starvation and oppression. There’s more to the story.
The farmers and ranchers who settled Saskatchewan aren’t the same people who starved First Nations. The province’s agricultural settlers were too busy homesteading and trying to survive. Saskatchewan’s history is also about people who overcame considerable hardship turning this province into one of the breadbaskets of the world.
I believe that order is vital to maintaining peace in our province. Because we’re only a few generations removed from the frontier I can understand that some people believe in frontier justice, but I don’t think that’s a road we want to go down.
We only have to look at our neighbours to the south to see what happens when guns become the go-to solution to conflict. I’ve travelled quite a bit in the States and I found that people fear each other more than in Canada. In large part, this mistrust is because people are afraid of getting shot. We’d suffer as a nation if this fear became the norm in Canada. I would rather see Canadians live in the current climate of respect than fear.
We’ll soon hear the jury’s verdict. Regardless of the outcome, the case revealed deep political divisions between people in Saskatchewan. One valuable lesson that could come from this case is the reminder there’s more than one side to a story.