With second murder trial over the death of a young Indigenous person in the prairies leading to an acquittal, a previously postponed rally has been set for Monday at Penticton’s courthouse.
The rally was originally planned for two weeks prior, but a death in the Penticton Indian Band community postponed the protest. It was intended to show support for the family and friends of Colten Boushie, a young Indigenous man killed by Gerald Stanley, a white farmer who was acquitted by an all-white jury in Saskatchewan earlier this month.
For many Indigenous and non-Indigenous people across Canada, the acquittal rang familiar as a systemic failure in the legal system for Indigenous Peoples, while critics claimed the issue had nothing to do with race.
“My uncle was beat to death in Vernon and the sentence for that was three months when I was a child, and this really triggered me,” said rally organizer Laurie Wilson, a PIB member and legal advocate with the Okanagan Nation Alliance.
“There are so many of us who have had this experience with little or no resolution. My family talked about our tragic loss for many years, but there was no explanation for the act of murder, therefore my ultimate conclusion, as a child, was you could be killed because you are an Indian.”
Though Stanley’s defence made no assertions about protecting his property — in fact, his defence claimed Boushie was the victim of a rare gun malfunction called a hangfire, a delay in the time between pulling the trigger and the bullet discharging — much of the controversy surrounded exactly that.
But the rally has seen renewed urgency among advocates, with another acquittal of a person accused of the murder of a young Indigenous person, this time in the case of Tina Fontaine, who was found wrapped up in a duvet, weighed down by rocks in a river in Manitoba.
Police charged Raymond Cormier of second-degree murder about a year after her body was discovered, after she had gone missing from a hotel in the care of youth services.
In that case, police had no DNA evidence or eyewitnesses tying Cormier to Fontaine’s death, aside from one witness who claimed to see Cormier with a duvet at around that time.
The case against Cormier was largely surrounding recordings from inside an apartment he was provided by undercover police, in which the Crown claimed amounted to an admission of guilt.
In the recordings, Cormier told a woman he would bet Fontaine was killed because he had sex with her and found out she was only 15 years old. In another recording, that a little girl was in a “grave someplace screaming at the top of her lungs for me to finish the job. And guess what? I finished the job.”
The defence countered that the Crown could not prove how Fontaine died, nor could they directly tie Cormier to Fontaine’s death.
“Rally against recent injustices of Colten Boushie, Tina Fontaine and our brothers and sisters who continue to suffer injustice and indignity,” a Facebook page set up for the Penticton rally said. “Standing with the families and communities who are hurting from continued brutality and injustice.”
The rally is set for noon on Monday at Penticton’s courthouse.