RCMP respond to FSIN statement on fatally shot Indigenous man
FSIN chief said an RCMP media release about a shooting death is fuelling racial tensions in province
RCMP in Saskatchewan are responding to concerns raised by the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations relating to the shooting death of an Indigenous man.
The shooting death of Colten Boushie, 22, on a farm Tuesday has generated concerns about how information about the incident has been shared.
The FSIN said Friday that the way RCMP initially described the shooting death of an unarmed Indigenous man is fuelling racial tensions in the province.
Boushie was a passenger in a car with four other people when he was shot and killed on Aug. 9 on a farm near Biggar, Sask. His family says the group was simply going to ask for help with a flat tire.
- Family devastated after Colten Boushie shot and killed on farm near Biggar, Sask.
FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron expressed concerns about information on the case released by the Mounties.
"The RCMP news release kind of leads readers to believe that a crime was about to be committed and therefore deserved retaliation that obviously resulted in the tragedy of a young man," Cameron told CBC News.
"People can draw all sorts of conclusions out of it," he added. "They can say any type of crime was about to happen."
At a news conference Friday night, RCMP Supt. Rob Cameron said the force saw the FSIN statement and was moved to respond.
"It is deeply concerning," Cameron said, about the FSIN statement.
"We will be reaching out to them," he added. "We now have a chance to hear their concerns and work together and move forward."
The FSIN's Cameron said his organization would like to have had some input on the communications that came from the RCMP.
"We would get all sides of the story before actually sending something out," he said. He noted it is not a routine practice of the RCMP to consult with the FSIN in that way, but some officers do touch base with the leadership on sensitive issues.
"In some detachments they have the decency to call the local chief and council and say, 'Well here's what we heard on this side'," he said.
During the RCMP's media conference, Supt. Cameron said the force strives to be inclusive.
"It is a priority for us to work to contribute to the long-term wellness and safety of Saskatchewan communities through an inclusive and culturally competent police service," he said.
The RCMP also cautioned people who may be active on social media to consider their words.
"Over the past few days, there have been comments made on social media that are concerning and could be criminal in nature," Supt. Cameron said. "It's understandable that during a situation like this emotions run high, but it is important to let the court process run its course. Therefore, I ask everyone to remain respectful in their online communication."
The FSIN's Bobby Cameron also observed that some social media commenting was concerning.
"It's unfortunate," he said. "There's a whole slew of racist comments and pretty derogatory comments."
Robert Innes, a University of Saskatchewan Indigenous studies professor in Regina, said the situation shows the community divide.
"You can see that the racial tension is basically a tinder box in Saskatchewan," said Innes.
Speaking generally, Innes said some farmers are blaming First Nations people for rural crime. Their mentality is to protect their property, he said.
"So there's this real fear and contempt towards Indigenous men by many white people, to the point where they will shoot before asking questions."
Innes said Indigenous people are angry that Boushie was killed.
He notes that some Caucasians are angry that the young people were even on the farm and believe Stanley is being railroaded by political correctness.
"A lot of people who are talking on social media are happy that the person was shot and killed and believe it was justified. That, to me, is kind of disturbing in a lot of ways."
Gerald Stanley, 54, is charged with second-degree murder. He is to make his next court appearance in North Battleford on Aug. 18.
With files from The Canadian Press