Saskatchewan

Responses flood in after Sask. premier asks for racist comments to stop after shooting

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall's plea for people to stop posting racist comments following the slaying of an Indigenous man has sparked a flurry of racially charged comments on his Facebook page.

Brad Wall says hateful comments on social media must end

On his Facebook page, Premier Brad Wall urged people to stop posting racist comments. A massive response followed. (CBC)

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall's plea for people to stop posting racist comments following the slaying of an Indigenous man has sparked a flurry of racially charged comments on his Facebook page.

Hundreds of responses streamed in after Wall said racist and hate-filled comments on social media and other forums must stop.

"These comments are not only unacceptable, intolerant and a betrayal of the very values and character of Saskatchewan, they are dangerous," Wall wrote in a Facebook post Sunday.

"There are laws that protect citizens from what this kind of hate may foment. They will be enforced."

Wall's call to tone down the rhetoric was in reference to the case of Colten Boushie, a 22-year-old Indigenous man who was shot to death last Tuesday on a rural property near Biggar, which is nearly 100 kilometres west of Saskatoon. 

A man associated with the property, Gerald Stanley, 54, is charged with second-degree murder.

According to RCMP, five people were in a vehicle that came into a farmyard in the Rural Municipality of Glenside around 5:30 p.m. CST. The owners of the property did not know the people in the vehicle. A verbal exchange happened and a shot was fired, striking a man in the vehicle.

Following the events, hateful conversations emerged online about the people in the vehicle, with some commenters making accusations about why the group was at the farmyard.

Chiefs accuse RCMP of fuelling racial tensions

On Friday, the Federation of Soveriegn Indigenous Nations said the RCMP's media release made it appear that Boushie's killing was justified. The federation blamed the RCMP release for the wave of recent racially charged social media posts.

Supt. Rob Cameron said the RCMP is deeply concerned the federation found the media release to be biased and would be reaching out to the organization to "work together and move forward."

Colten Boushie died after a shooting on a farm near Biggar, Sask., on Aug. 9. (Facebook)

If Wall was hoping to pour oil on troubled waters, it appears there's a mixed result.

Some people congratulated him for taking a stand on an issue that has polarized some members of the public.

"You are the great leader Brad! As a new Canadian, I'm highly impressed by your anti-racist view in Saskatchewan," was one response.

Others criticized the premier.

"I am deeply offended though that you'd support laws that infringe upon peoples' freedom of speech especially in the face of a calamity such as this," one person wrote.

Many commenters were angry, focusing on the actions of the man who was charged or the five people who entered the property on the day of the shooting.

Racism, from both an Indigenous and a non-Indigenous perspective, was a common theme.

"Wanna stop racism? Revamp those obsolete treaties and make every adult in Saskatchewan pay taxes. A society that treats people differently because of their race is an unjust society," a commenter wrote.

"The issue isn't all about racism but about this 'white privilege' (if I am I allowed to say 'white') that colonization has created on these Indigenous lands," another person wrote.

"Is the racism of white people from the native people going to be tolerated still 'cause I've been called more names by Natives than I can count," one man said.

More than 500 comments appeared on Wall's page in response to his request.

RCMP monitoring online comments

A spokesperson for the RCMP's F division said it is "actively investigating" all social media posts for hate speech. They have not laid any charges.

Robert Innes, a University of Saskatchewan Indigenous studies professor in Saskatoon, said he's not surprised by racist posts in Saskatchewan on social media — it's the openness that surprises him.

"A lot of these people making these comments are not making them from false accounts — these are their own personal accounts and they feel perfectly safe and comfortable expressing these views publicly. That part is surprising," Innes said.

He said the premier showed leadership by speaking out.

"We as a society, we have to really acknowledge that there is racial tension in this province and we have to really deal with those racial tensions," Innes said. 

"We live in this province together, we need to work on this together. Certainly white people have to work on their views on Indigenous people. Indigenous people have our own work to do," Innes said.

A funeral for Boushie was held on the weekend.

Meanwhile, Stanley is scheduled to appear in court in North Battleford on Thursday.  

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