High-profile court cases highlight difficulties for Indigenous youth, say leaders

Two recent not-guilty verdicts in high-profile cases involving the deaths of Indigenous people is disheartening to young people, says a Saskatchewan youth leader.

'I value your life and you come from proud people and you are loved': Max FineDay

Fifteen-year-old Tina Fontaine (left) died in 2014. Her body was pulled from the Red River in Winnipeg. Colten Boushie, 22, died in 2016 after an altercation on a farm in Saskatchewan.

Two recent not-guilty verdicts in high-profile cases involving the deaths of Indigenous people is disheartening to young people, says a Saskatchewan youth leader.

Max FineDay runs the Canadian Roots Exchange, which fosters reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth, and attempts to help them unlearn stereotypes and advance their relationships.

"What Indigenous youth want more than reconciliation right now is justice," he said.
Max FineDay is the co-executive director of Canadian Roots Exchange, which focuses on reconciliation between young Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. (Submitted to CBC News)

Raymond Cormier, the man accused of killing 15-year-old Tina Fontaine in 2014, was found not guilty in Winnipeg Thursday afternoon, two weeks after the man accused of killing 22-year-old Colten Boushie in 2016 was acquitted in Battleford, Sask.

FineDay calls the justice system a "colonial institution" that isn't working for Indigenous people.

"Young people will not reconcile without seeing these colonial systems dismantled," said FineDay.

While the verdicts may be hard to take for some young people, it's the comments on social media that has brought injustice and racism to the fore, said FineDay. Some young Indigenous people have been reading comments on news stories about Boushie and Fontaine, which can greatly affect their self-esteem and self-worth, he said.

"I want to say to any Indigenous youth who is listening that I value your life and you come from proud people and you are loved," said FineDay.

Saskatoon mayor comments on Cormier case

Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark commented on Facebook about racism and reconciliation after Cormier's verdict was reported.

"It shouldn't feel like a stretch in Canada to believe that these young leaders should feel valued and supported to succeed like I have always felt supported and my children feel supported," he wrote of Indigenous youth.

"These last weeks have revealed the extent of the reality that this is still not happening in our country today."

Clark went on to write that racism has become apparent in the province, and that there are questions to be posed of the justice system.

He wrote that all children in Canada should be treated fairly and equally, and that if they are not "we are not living up to our promise as a country that is meant to be a model of compassion and inclusion."

Rallies planned

Rallies are being planned in both Saskatoon and Regina, to honour both Boushie and Fontaine.

While non-Indigenous youth may want to support and stand beside their Indigenous peers, FineDay said this is a good time to listen, and to amplify the voices of people directly affected by the injustices they are protesting.