Windsor Indigenous leaders heartbroken, unsurprised by Colten Boushie decision

University of Windsor law professor Bev Jacobs and Theresa Sims from the CanAm Indian Friendship Centre say the acquittal in Saskatchewan of Gerald Stanley in the case of Colten Boushie's death is further proof that Canada's justice system does not treat Indigenous people fairly.

Bev Jacobs and Theresa Sims explain concern to CBC Windsor's Melissa Nakhavoly

Two Indigenous leaders in Windsor, Ont. say the controversial acquittal of Gerald Stanley in the case of Colten Boushie's death demonstrates that the treatment of Indigenous people in Canada's justice system is broken. 4:47

Two Indigenous leaders in Windsor, Ont. say the controversial acquittal of Gerald Stanley in the case of Colten Boushie's death demonstrates that the treatment of Indigenous people in Canada's justice system is broken. 

On Friday, a Saskatchewan jury found Stanley not guilty of second-degree murder in the shooting death of 22-year-old Boushie. The verdict led to an outcry across the country and rallies in many cities.

"My first initial reaction was shock, anger, sadness for the family. I know that I cried," said Bev Jacobs, a University of Windsor law professor. "Then it was almost like this feeling of reality, that this has always been this way."

Theresa Sims, the cultural resource coordinator at the CanAm Indian Friendship Centre in Windsor was not convinced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's expression of condolences to Boushie's family after the verdict was delivered.

She noted that not much change has actually occurred, even after multiple government commissions and inquires have made recommendations to improve the treatment of Indigenous people in the justice system.

"So what are you going to do about it?" she said of Trudeau. "We need action — because we're still below justice."

A sign from a rally in London, Ont. demanding justice after a jury delivered a not guilty verdict in the trial of Gerald Stanley, the Saskatchewan farmer who was acquitted in the shooting death of Colten Boushie. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

Sims called on allies of Indigenous people to help create change.

"We seem to be invisible — First Nations," she said. "If we're invisible, lets get some people that aren't and help us ... start healing."

Jacobs said education is key to preventing similar situations in the future.

"The problem is that ... the whole education system doesn't talk about the history of Indigenous people and treaties and treaty rights and our relationship to each other," she said.

"The only way to erase that [systemic discrimination] is to learn, to become educated and to understand why things are happening the way they are."

with files from Melissa Nakhavoly and CBC Manitoba