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When the verdicts were announced in the Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine trials, the Indigenous justice coordinator at our Community.
When the verdicts were announced in the Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine trials, the Indigenous justice coordinator at our Community Legal Clinic approached me and asked if I was planning to write something. I proposed we co-write something, but in the end, she wrote a piece to share. As a white settler ally, I must centre the voices and perspectives of Indigenous folks. So, here is the piece that Lu Roberts wrote. She offers her reflections on the current state of affairs in Canadas justice system.
When the not guilty verdict was announced in the Gerard Stanley trial, my heart sunk. I was in shock. Not guilty of second degree murder, not guilty of manslaughter. Free. Colten Boushie got no justice. His family left in turmoil as the accused and the jury were rushed out of the courtroom. Just before Stanleys verdict was read I thought maybe as a country we were making progress. Maybe this time, I hoped, we would keep our dignity. After all, reconciliation is the buzz word of the day. Later that evening, I cried as I looked at my sleeping children knowing they are growing up in a country with a justice system that does not work in their favour.
Not even two weeks later, Raymond Cormier was found not guilty in the death of Tina Fontaine, who was found in the Red River in Winnipeg, wrapped in a duvet cover said to be Cormiers. Cormier was quoted saying, Tina was killed because I found out she was 15 years old.
There was a little girl in a grave someplace screaming at the top of her lungs for me to finish the job, he continued. And guess what? I finished the job.
How do I teach my children to be proud of their Cree heritage when there are constant messages that Indigenous people are worth less than property, that we are expendable? I grew up with that message every day, even within my own home. My mom went to a residential school. I didnt know what it meant to be Cree other than it was something to be ashamed of. It took a long time to unlearn, to not feel the humiliation of who I was and who my family was.
It is easier to justify Colten and Tinas death. He was a criminal, and she was an addict. They were from poor, broken families. It was their fault. They shouldnt have been there. Thats easier than Canada facing its own colonial history. Canada is built on the theft and murder of Indigenous people. Colten and Tinas cases are not isolated.
Systemic racism in our justice system is:
How do we go forward with reconciliation? We arent even there yet. We need to focus on the truth of Canadas colonial violence. Reconciliation isnt for Indigenous people. It is for the settlers that stole this land, stole children away from their communities and culture and murdered our loved ones.
We must keep this conversation going. We must keep talking about the systemic injustices faced every day by Indigenous people. In the words of a dear colleague, This is not the time to be silent.
Rachael Lake is a staff lawyer with Waterloo Region Community Legal Services, practising in the areas of Disability and Employment Insurance Law. Reasonable Doubt appears on Mondays.
A word of caution: You should not act or rely on the information provided in this column. It is not legal advice. To ensure your interests are protected, retain or formally seek advice from a lawyer. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Waterloo Region Community Legal Services.