In the Blog
Racism and Colten Boushie
Racism is defined as “the unequal treatment of a population group purely because of its possession of physical or characteristics socially defined as denoting a particular race. Racism is the deterministic belief system which sustains racialism, linking these characteristics with negatively valued social, psychological, or physical traits” (5 Satzewich).
Canada is widely believed to be a tolerant society, accepting a diverse range of ethnicities, cultures and religions. Yet Canada’s relationship with Indigenous people is complex to say the least.
The injustices against Indigenous people are longstanding. We have been seen as a race that is inferior to that of non-Indigenous peoples since the time of contact. We just need to look at the injustices against Indigenous peoples to see the wider picture. The implementation of residential schools and its effects on generations, the Sixties Scoop where Indigenous children were taken from their families and adopted out to non-Indigenous families across Canada and even to the States and other countries, the continuing travesty of over representation of Indigenous peoples in the child welfare system and in prisons, and the list goes on. There are also the thousands of Missing and Murdered Indigenous women that every February 14, people across Canada gather to remember through the Strawberry Ceremony.
As an Indigenous person in this country, I’m tired of the injustices against Indigenous people and it angers me to no end that once again there was no justice for Colten Boushie, a 22 year old Indigenous man from the Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan. On August 9, 2016, Boushie along with some friends drove onto Gerald Stanley’s farm for some help with a flat tire. Stanley went out to the car with his gun. He alleges he fired one warning shot, but the gun went off three times. The third time the gun was shot, Boushie, asleep in the car, was shot in the back of his head, execution style.
Fast forward to Stanley’s trial on February 9, 2018: the final verdict was that he was found not guilty, and freed. As I watched the CBC Indigenous news video of the trial verdict, I felt sickened by this injustice. Sickened because Boushie was a young man with a full life still ahead of him, and he was gunned down by Stanley who clearly did not care about a human life - an Indigenous life at that. The devastation of Boushie’s family has been immense. In articles detailing what happened after the shooting, it is hard to believe that the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) would treat a victim’s family as they treated Boushie’s family. They went to the door of Boushie’s house, coldheartedly told his mother that he was dead and then searched his house as if he was the one who was the criminal. They even went as far as smelling his mother’s breath and asking her “were you drinking?”
These actions bring me to the stereotypes that are prevalent about Indigenous people. Newspapers and mainstream media perpetuate the myth that Indigenous people are lazy and good for nothing. We are considered to be drunks, looking for free handouts, etc. This is not true - there are many examples of Indigenous people doing well in our society, but colonialist attitudes prevail.
Colonialism is such an important part of Canadian identity and yet it is misunderstood by many. According to the book Settler: Identity and Colonialism in 21st Century Canada, written by Emma Battell Lowman and Adam J. Barker, “It is not too bold to claim that colonialism more than any other force drove the creation and shape of Canada, and that it continues into the present.” (24)
Settler colonialism and its relationship to identity in Canada, including how it manifests in daily life, informs acts of appropriation and racism and Indigenous people are the people who are held to these strongly held national myths that are made up about them. To add fuel to the fire, after the acquittal of Gerald Stanley, there was a GoFundMe page established to help him with his legal costs. Though there were many reports made for the page to be taken down, GoFundMe has refused. It was here that the true racism of Canadian people was on display, with many people contributing and turning a blind eye to the true victim - Colton Boushie, who didn’t deserve to die.
When does this stop?