The deputy grand chief of Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) says Friday's not-guilty verdict in the trial of Gerald Stanley is "disheartening," but not surprising.
Anna Betty Achneepineskum said Sunday that Indigenous people in Canada have "faced unjust results" in Canada's justice system.
"It's very disturbing that it's 2018, and we're still dealing with this," she said. "We're still facing it."
Stanley was charged with second-degree murder in the 2016 shooting death of Colten Boushie, a 22-year-old Indigenous man. The shooting occurred on Stanley's rural Saskatchewan property; during the trial, which was before a 12-person jury, Stanley testified the shooting was accidental.
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"This is the life of a 22-year-old young man, young Indigenous man," Achneepineskum said. "From the evidence that we've heard, him and his friends were just going out to look for some help."
"What kind of country are we living in?"
Verdict discussed at NAN Youth Gathering
Achneepineskum was speaking during the annual NAN Youth Gathering, which drew 120 youth delegates from across NAN territory to Thunder Bay for the weekend.
She said the verdict became a topic of discussion there.
"We had to tell them that we will be here to try to prevent these, and that they has Indigenous youth have to be more cautious to ensure their safety in this country," Achneepineskum said.
Achneepineskum wasn't the only NAN representative speaking out about the verdict on the weekend. NAN Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler also issued a statement, saying "it is outrageous that Colten Boushie was shot dead and no one will be held accountable."
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"The legal system has failed him, and our hearts are with his family, Red Pheasant First Nation and the people of Saskatchewan," the statement read. "This tragedy has exposed systemic racism in the justice system from the day Colten was shot, the peremptory challenges during jury selection, and the verdict delivered [Friday]."
Fiddler was not available for an interview on the weekend.
The verdict has prompted calls for changes to the Canadian court system, as well as shows of support for the Boushie family in the form of vigils that took place across the country, including in Thunder Bay.
'Many strong voices'
"I have hope," Achneepineskum said. "Because we have many strong voices, as well. Many strong voices that are willing to commit to making those changes."
"The governments, they need to be there as well," she said. "We have fully committed to addressing those issues, because we are saying that this can't continue here, and it can't continue in this country."