Montrealers gather to honour memory, call for justice for Colten Boushie

About 200 Montrealers gathered near Concordia University Tuesday afternoon for a vigil in honour of Colten Bushie, a 22-year-old Cree man shot to death after venturing onto a farm near Biggar, Sask., in 2016.

Not-guilty verdict in shooting death of 22-year-old Cree man in Saskatchewan sparked outrage across Canada

More than 200 Montrealers gathered downtown to pay homage to Colten Boushie, a 22-year-old Cree man killed in Saskatchewan in 2016. (Navneet Pall/CBC)

About 200 Montrealers gathered near Concordia University Tuesday afternoon for a vigil in honour of Colten Bushie, a 22-year-old Cree man shot to death after venturing onto a farm near Biggar, Sask., in 2016.

The event, called Justice for Colten Boushie, is just the latest protest happening in towns and cities across Canada to call for reforms to the justice system.

Dozens and dozens of people at the vigil in downtown Montreal wore bands calling for 'Justice for Colten Boushie.' (CBC)

"We want to give some acknowledgment to the family in Saskatchewan that we're behind them, that we support them, that we're here for them in some way," said Nakuset, executive director of Montreal's Native Women's Shelter, who is originally from Saskatchewan.

"That's my community. That's my people. That's my children's community, so we need to do better so that we can make a change."

The Buffalo Hat Singers, a group of contemporary powwow singers, beat on drums at the start of the vigil, and then Vicky Baldo, co-chair of the Montreal Urban Aboriginal Community Strategy Network, addressed the crowd.

"On Friday, when the news came out, it was just so disheartening," Baldo said. "It's draining us of our energy, but to make change, things have got to get a little messy — like cleaning out the closet. Colten and his family and his friends are so close in my heart."
Vicky Baldo, co-chair of the Montreal Urban Aboriginal Community Strategy Network tells the crowd at the vigil that, 'Colten and his family and his friends are so close in my heart.' (Navneet Pall/CBC)

Justice system under review

Last week, a jury in Battleford, Sask., found the shooter, farmer Gerald Stanley, not guilty of second-degree murder.

Boushie was shot and killed after he and four others from the Red Pheasant Cree Nation drove onto Stanley's rural property in August 2016.

Boushie was shot in the head after an altercation with Stanley, his son and wife.

Stanley testified he never meant to shoot anyone and that the handgun he was holding went off accidentally.

Some people at the Montreal vigil held signs that said, "'The gun went off by itself is not a valid defence."

The federal Justice Ministry has been tasked with reviewing the criminal justice system — including sentencing, trial delays, the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in prisons and so-called 'peremptory challenges,' where defence lawyers and Crown prosecutors in a second-degree murder case are allowed to reject as many as 12 people from a jury without giving any reason.

Talia Bellerose, a First Peoples Studies student at Concordia University, said she was 'astonished and proud' to see people come together for the vigil. (Melissa Fundira/CBC)
Talia Bellerose, a First Peoples Studies student at Concordia University who is Indigenous from Saskatchewan, said the large turnout at Tuesday's event leaves her feeling hopeful.

"We're uniting, and it's making me happy because it's showing me that there is hope for the next generation," she said. "People will realize that we are human and that this will stop." she said. "

"We have strength in numbers, and if we come together and show our support then we can make positive change."

With files from CBC's Navneet Pall and Melissa Fundira