Midweek: Colten Boushie's family meets Justin Trudeau

On The House midweek podcast, Chris Hall talks to Kathy Hodgson-Smith, an indigenous rights and criminal defence lawyer based in Saskatoon, and Bill Trudell, the Chair of the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers, about the issues that have been raised in the aftermath of the not guilty verdict in the trial over Colten Bushie's death.
Lawyer Eleanore Sunchild, second from left, and Jade Tootoosis, second from right, speak on Parliament Hill Tuesday after meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (CBC News)
Listen to the full episode35:04

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sat down with the family of Colten Boushie on Tuesday, just days after a not guilty verdict in the trial over the young man's shooting death prompted a wave of anger and calls for justice system reform.

Boushie's cousin Jade Tootoosis, his mother Debbie Baptiste and his uncle Alvin Baptiste also met with several cabinet ministers during their visit to Ottawa, including Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould.

"This is only the beginning of the conversation and calls to action," Tootoosis told reporters after meeting with Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott and Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett on Monday. "We have little to no faith in the justice system and we're here to talk about that."

"I think it's a crisis in terms of the relationship of Indigenous Peoples in Canada with the state and with other Canadians.I think, you know, we have to revisit that relationship," Kathy Hodgson-Smith, an indigenous rights and criminal defence lawyer, told The House.

Family members did not come to Parliament Hill with specific demands, but one issue where they have acknowledged they would like to see progress on is the way juries are chosen in Canada.

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould has said the government is looking at that very issue and that reforms were coming "soon."

Observers criticized the makeup of the jury that heard the Boushie case for its alleged lack of Indigenous members, although CBC News has not independently determined that was the case.

Hogson-Smith argued it`s also important to look at multiple factors.

"I think we have to look a bit broader than just the peremptory challenge and say how do we make juries more representative. What is standing in the way of Indigenous Peoples' full participation in juries?," she said.

Government interference?

After meeting with the Goushie family, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould defended the comments she made on Twitter after Saskatchewan farmer Gerald Stanley, 56, was acquitted last week.

"As a country, we can and must do better," Wilson-Raybould tweeted on Friday, which lead some opposition MPs and legal experts to say that she was going too far in criticizing the country's judicial system.

On Tuesday, Wilson-Raybould argued her comments were not only appropriate, they also helped trigger an important conversation.

"We have elevated this discussion to a place where it needs to be, because we can always improve the justice system,"
she told reporters on Parliament Hill.

Bill Trudell disagrees.

The  Chair of the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers shared his concerns over those comments with The House.

"I don't think that those comments were helpful because it invites people to go to their separate corners. It invites interpretations as to exactly what they meant by it. And it calls into question, for some people, that the trial wasn't fair or wasn't done properly. And that's not at all helpful."

"We need to tone down the rhetoric and the pointing of fingers. And the government needs to be very careful about being seen to take sides. And we need to look at this as an opportunity to go forward, to figure out how to solve this problem," he added.

"We have a respect for the system."

On The House midweek podcast, Chris Hall talks to Kathy Hodgson-Smith, an indigenous rights and criminal defence lawyer based in Saskatoon, and Bill Trudell, the Chair of the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers, about the issues that have been raised in the aftermath of last week's verdict in the trial over Colten Bushie's death. 35:04