Column: Disappointed by comments about local rally

Dustin Godfrey is a reporter for the Penticton Western News

“The people who believe this: ‘a man’s home is his castle, he has a right to defend it by any means necessary’ also believe this: ‘Natives who picket, march and petition against pipelines going through their own land are terrorists.’”

The death of Colten Boushie, a young Indigenous man, at the hands of Stanley, a white farmer, is a Rorschach test. As you gaze into the dark ink blots of newspaper coverage, how you interpret the shapes is an indication of your own life experiences.

The quote at the top of this column is a tweet Tuesday evening from Robert Jago, a man from the Kwantlen First Nation and Nooksack Indian Tribe and writer for The Walrus.

It resembles a view shaped by current and historical injustices faced by Indigenous peoples, which I shouldn’t need to detail here.

Related: Trudeau vows ‘rights-based approach’ to Indigenous affairs

It’s federally underfunded education, it’s access to clean drinking water, it’s mandatory minimums that disproportionately affect Indigenous people and it’s a jury system that leaves Indigenous people out of the equation.

In 2016, Maclean’s pointed out an Indigenous person is 10 times more likely to be incarcerated than a white person, a greater disparity than white and black incarceration in apartheid South Africa, a system designed to imprison black people, figuratively and literally. In Saskatchewan, 10 climbs to 33.

You don’t need to bring up those statistics with First Nations — they live it. But when I look at the ink blots, as a typically happy-go-lucky white male, I do require that context, just like I need the context from women around me to understand the struggles they face based on gender.

Related: Penticton rally planned in solidarity with family of Colten Boushie

This brings me to the Facebook comments on our article about an upcoming Penticton Indian Band rally over the Stanley verdict. To say I’m disappointed is an understatement.

Canadian racism and those who ignore it are ubiquitous in the case of Colten Boushie.

It’s in the RCMP’s treatment of Debbie Baptiste, Boushie’s mother — the Globe and Mail reported police officers searched her residence without asking, while she lay on the floor, shattered at the news of her son’s death.

It’s in the RCMP announcement shortly after Boushie’s death that his group was being investigated for property crimes, when police are so often silent about ongoing investigations — consider the homicide in Penticton last year that the public never learned about until several months later.

Related: ‘Absolutely perverse’: Outrage after white farmer found not guilty in Indigenous death

And it’s in the fact that while the defence didn’t take any kind of stance on defending Stanley’s property, Facebook comments overwhelmingly justify the death of Colten Boushie through false equivalencies between homicide and property crime.

At best, it followed the “both sides” rhetoric of Donald Trump, but at worst, and more commonly, it was a disturbing indifference to Colten Boushie’s death or worse.

Meanwhile, a GoFundMe page set up for Stanley on Feb. 9 has already raised nearly $180,000 by 3 p.m. Wednesday, while a page set up for Boushie’s family in September has raised just $165,000.

Baptiste lost her son, whom the Globe described as her “gentle one, the optimist.” That property crime happened is irrelevant. Property crime isn’t a cause for death; it’s a sign of struggle or despair.

If you stare at the blots long enough, you might find warped justification for Colten Boushie’s death, but I hope you’ll instead find the context around the ink that truly tells the tragedy.

Dustin Godfrey is a reporter for the Penticton Western News. He can be reached at Dustin.Godfrey@pentictonwesternnews.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Dustinrgodfrey.


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