Gein Wong, Barbara Manitowabi and Bob Goulais at The Justice for Colten Boushie Vigil | Image source: Stan Williams
Last Saturday February, 10th 2018, Indigenous community members and their allies gathered together to honour the life of Colten Boushie in a vigil at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto. Colten Boushie was shot and killed last summer by Saskatchewan farmer, Gerald Stanley, who was found not guilty for his murder by an all white jury on Friday night. Not even a manslaughter charge was laid for “accidentally” shooting someone.
Indigenous and non-Indigenous community organizers, Idle No More Toronto, Defenders of the Land, No One Is Illegal Toronto, and No More Silence organized the event as soon as the news broke. Throughout the vigil, the atmosphere had a sad and somber feel. People seemed gutted and in disbelief at news of the verdict the night before. There was a terrifying awareness that the Canadian justice system will not hold non-Indigenous people accountable for the murder Indigenous people.
“We know many people have said that we do not anticipate justice in the courts because this [colonial] system is designed to further white supremacy; it is designed to kill; it’s intention is to disappear Indigenous people, racialized people, and black people,” said Syed Hussan, one of the organizers and an ally, in a passionate speech to the crowd. “what happened with Colten Boushie is unacceptable.”
Hassan was one of the many inspirational individuals to speak at the vigil which included AJ Withers, Sarain Fox, Gein Wong, Nanook Gordon Fareal, Eve Saint and members from Black Lives Matter. He spoke about what it means to be an ally to Indigenous people which is important at this moment in time.
“We need to stop and deal with the society that we are a part of, that is capable of centuries of genocide,” continued Hussan. “In these settler colonial territories it is our responsibility to deal with our family members, with our institutions, with our schools, with our courthouses and the police that will allow this murder to go unpunished.”
For people shocked or surprised at the verdict they need to wake up and realize that this is the reality. When I heard the news Friday night, I cried myself to sleep knowing that Indigenous lives don’t matter in Canada – a country that has false notions of reconciliation. This is your country full of ‘nice’ and ‘polite’ Canadians, but where Indigenous women go missing and the police don’t care; where Indigenous men and children get murdered and their perpetrators walk away scott-free. After knowing all of this one must ask: how are we better than in the United States of America when it comes to racial issues? Many Canadians think that we are better than America. We are not.
Racism is a problem in Canada. Gerald Stanley used his white privilege to get away with murder. His lawyers dismissed anyone who was visibly Indigenous from sitting on the jury and then used fear and dehumanizing racist stereotyping of Indigenous Peoples as a tool in the courtroom. Now Gerald Stanley has a Go Fund me campaign set to reach $100,000 with hundreds of people donating to his ‘cause’,which signals support for the justification of the murder of an innocent Indigenous youth.
As the vigil continued, it was made apparent that for things to change there needs to be a shift in consciousness with the settler population. Settler people do something. Learn about and become aware of Indigenous issues, read Indigenous literature by Indigenous authors, take in art by Indigenous artists. Rally and stand with us.
Our issues are your issues. We fight for clean drinking water, healthy biodiverse land to live on and clean air to breathe. Indigenous people have already paid too much so that European settlers could make a life for themselves here in Canada. We had our lands stolen, as well as our children, our languages and our culture. Settler Canadians it’s your now your turn to demand justice and reset the relationship. As an ally, Hassan highlighted this when he spoke, “…it is our duty to reckon with this; it is our responsibility to ask what can we do together to ensure that not one more death happens. That would require action. That would require struggle. That would require rage and love and hope. We have to build it together every moment of our lives.”
The vigil for Colten Boushie ended with the Healing Song performed by the Hidden River Singers. As the song played, I couldn’t help but think about how Colten Boushie brought us together that snowy Saturday afternoon not only in Tkaronto, but in rallies and vigils across Turtle Island. His untimely death has strengthened our resolve to fight for justice, our rights and to create a safe and equal society for all. Settler Canadians must learn and listen to Indigenous people with open minds and hearts. Major change can only be done if we work together. Indigenous lives do matter!
To put these words into action consider donating to help Colten Boushie’s family through this difficult time: www.gofundme.com/justice4colten