'Justice for Colten': Hundreds gather for Boushie support rally in Saskatoon after Stanley not-guilty verdict

People gathered in Saskatoon, Regina and other Canadian cities Saturday to show their support for the family of Colten Boushie after Gerald Stanley, a Saskatchewan farmer, was acquitted Friday of responsibility for Boushie's death.

Other gatherings happening across Canada after farmer Gerald Stanley acquitted in Colten Boushie shooting

People gathered Saturday in Saskatoon to show support for Colten Boushie's family. Gerald Stanley, the Saskatchewan farmer who stood trial for Boushie's fatal shooting, was found not guilty by a jury of 2nd-degree murder. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

People gathered in Saskatoon, Regina and other Canadian cities Saturday to show their support for the family of Colten Boushie after Gerald Stanley, a Saskatchewan farmer, was acquitted Friday of responsibility for Boushie's death.

Liz James and her partner Gary Groot were among the 1,000 supporters who rallied in downtown Saskatoon.

"We came out today partly because we're heartbroken," she said. "We want to be with other people who are feeling the same way as we do. I think also because this isn't the country that we dream of."

Saskatoon rally attendee Kim Laliberte said she thought the verdict was a joke when she first heard it on the radio. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

Premier reacts

There was a mix of anger in the speeches at Saturday's rally but also calls for change to the Canadian justice system, particularly the jury selection process for cases involving Indigenous people.

The composition of the jury in the Stanley trial came under fire for what people said was its apparent lack of Indigenous members, though CBC News has not independently determined whether that was the case.

"There definitely has to be changes," said David Pratt, second vice-chief for the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN), on the front steps of the Saskatoon Court of Queen's Bench courthouse. 

David Pratt, the 2nd vice chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, called for changes to the Canadian justice system, particularly the jury selection process. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

"We're urging the federal justice minister to take that action immediately.​ I'm hopeful that the premier will take notice and work with us to ensure that justice is done for the family and that the life of Colten Boushie will not be in vain."

Pratt spoke after Boushie's cousin Jade Tootoosis, who at one point was offered words of comfort from someone yelling from the crowd: "You are not alone."

The rally finished with supporters chanting, "Justice for Colten! Justice for Colten!"

In a statement released Saturday afternoon, Premier Scott Moe said, "I am listening, our government is listening, and it is important that we continue to listen to the many voices involved in this discussion."  

He said that he plans to meet with FSIN and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau "over the coming days."

'I grieve for my country'

On Saturday morning, Sen. Murray Sinclair, who headed Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, wrote an emotional poem on Facebook about the verdict.

"Today I grieve for my country," it begins. 

Speaking to reporters in Los Angeles on Saturday, Trudeau said, "our hearts go out to Colten Boushie's family, his mom Debbie, his friends and the entire community."

Although he wouldn't comment on the court process itself, Trudeau said, "we have come to this point as a country far too many times."

"Indigenous people across this country are angry, they're heartbroken," he said.  "I know Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians alike know that we have to do better."   

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau comments after a jury found Gerald Stanley not guilty in the shooting death of Colten Boushie 0:41

At a news conference in Regina, Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said that despite multiple inquiries into how Canada's justice system has failed Indigenous people, it remains rife with systemic racism.

"We have to call on governments to work with us and develop [an] anti-racism plan and strategy," he said, adding there should be a complete overhaul of the justice system.  

At least a dozen rallies in support of the Boushie family are expected throughout Canada on Saturday, in cities like Toronto, Winnipeg, St. John's and Yellowknife.

Supporters also gathered at Regina's Court of Queen's Bench courthouse. 

Supporters of the Boushie family gather in Regina on Saturday. (Emily Pasiuk/CBC)

One of them, Nickita Longman, said she travelled to the trial on Monday to support the Boushie family. 

"We need to see strong support from non-Indigenous allies," she said. "We need to have them dismantle conversations that invoke racism, because as much as people like to think that this case didn't create a racial divide, we'll see it now more than ever."

Case's closing arguments

Stanley, 56, was charged with second-degree murder in the death of the 22-year-old. Boushie and four others from the Red Pheasant Cree Nation drove onto Stanley's property on Aug. 9, 2016. After an altercation with Stanley, his son and wife, Boushie was shot in the head.

The jury had been deliberating over its verdict for just over 24 hours, though the actual amount of private discussion time was much shorter than that, given breaks and the several hours spent in court Friday relistening to nearly four hours of testimony from Stanley and his son Sheldon.

Stanley and his defence attorney, Scott Spencer, said the gun held by Stanley fired accidentally on delay, in what is referred to as "hang fire." Spencer has not issued any comment on the verdict yet.

Gerald Stanley leaves the Court of Queen's Bench in Battleford, Sask., Friday night after a jury delivered a verdict of not guilty of killing 22-year-old Colten Boushie. (Liam Richards/Canadian Press)

Crown prosecutor Bill Burge said Stanley intentionally pulled the trigger and lied about the events that led to that moment.

Expert witnesses said the gun, which had Boushie's DNA on it, was working properly and that the trigger had to be pulled in order for the gun to go off. 

  • Revisit our live-tweeting from the rally below. On mobile? Click here

About the Author

Guy Quenneville

Reporter and web writer for CBC Saskatoon

Story tips, ideas, complaints, just want to say 'Hi'? Write me at guy.quenneville@cbc.ca

With files from Emily Pasiuk, Jason Warick, Charles Hamilton and Ashleigh Mattern