Canadians divided on Gerald Stanley verdict: poll

A new Angus Reid poll suggests that most people surveyed in Saskatchewan think the jury’s decision to acquit Gerald Stanley was “good and fair.”

While Canadians split, Angus Reid poll suggests most Sask. respondents think verdict was 'good and fair'

Colten Boushie, left, was fatally shot in August 2016. Gerald Stanley, right, was acquitted of second-degree murder in the death of Boushie. (Facebook/Liam Richards/Canadian Press)

A new poll by the Angus Reid Institute suggests that overall, Canadians are divided regarding the verdict in the trial of Gerald Stanley, the white Saskatchewan farmer acquitted earlier this month in the 2016 death of Cree man Colten Boushie.

The results of the poll, conducted earlier this month, were released Monday. Respondents were asked if they thought the jury's verdict in the trial was "good and fair" or "flawed and wrong."

The poll suggests that 30 per cent of Canadians surveyed thought the jury's verdict was "good and fair" while 32 per cent thought the outcome was flawed and wrong. Thirty-eight per cent weren't sure, according to the poll.

The results were different among Saskatchewanians, however.

According to the poll, 63 per cent of respondents from Saskatchewan said the opinion the verdict was good and fair, compared to 17 per cent who said it was flawed and wrong.

A graph showing the nation-wide breakdown of opinion on the the verdict in the Gerald Stanley trial, according to the Angus Reid poll conducted the week after he was acquitted of second-degree murder in Colten Boushie's death. (Angus Reid Institute)

Stanley, a 56-year-old farmer from Biggar, Sask., was charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of Colten Boushie, a 22-year-old man from the Red Pheasant Cree Nation.

He was acquitted of the charge by a jury in Battleford Court of Queen's Bench on Feb. 9.

Most would welcome jury reform: poll

There were no visibly Indigenous members of the jury in the Stanley trial. 

"The Boushie family was angered by the fact that Stanley's lawyers rejected several Indigenous-looking potential jurors during jury selection," the Angus Reid Institute said in its breakdown of the poll results.

"These objections were legal, and part of a privilege enjoyed by lawyers on both sides during the selection process known as 'peremptory challenge.' Each legal team is allowed to exclude any would-be juror from consideration and is not required to provide a reason for the objection."

Based on that, the poll also asked respondents whether they thought "juries generally deliver good verdicts regardless of their composition," or if they believed rules around jury selection should be reformed to "ensure juries reflect the whole community better."

Fifty-nine per cent of Canadians said they would welcome jury reform, while 41 per cent said answered in agreement with the statement "This is the way it works, and juries generally deliver good verdicts regardless of their composition."

Rallies were held across Canada following the verdict, and the federal government promised "concrete changes" to the justice system following a meeting with members of Boushie's family.

Methodology

This poll was self-commissioned by the Angus Reid Institute. It was an online survey conducted from February 15-19, and 2,501 Canadians who are members of the Angus Reid Forum were polled.

A probability sample of this size would have a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points 19 times out of 20.