'Deck is stacked against us,' says family of Colten Boushie after jury chosen for Gerald Stanley trial
'Every single visible Indigenous person' was challenged by defence attorney, according to Boushie's cousin
A relative of Colten Boushie says "the deck is stacked against us" following the selection of jurors in the trial of Gerald Stanley, the farmer accused of killing the 22-year-old Indigenous man.
Alvin Baptiste, Boushie's uncle, said the family has lost almost all of its faith in the justice system after no visibly Indigenous people made it onto the jury.
The CBC has no way to independently determine at this time whether any of the jurors have Indigenous backgrounds.
"Where is the First Nations say in this?" said Baptiste from his home in North Battleford, just across the North Saskatchewan River from Battleford where the jury was chosen Monday.
"We don't have a voice."
Jade Tootoosis, a cousin of Boushie's who watched the selection process, said the resulting jury is "not surprising but extremely frustrating."
"It's something we feared has come true," she said. "It was really difficult to sit there today and watch every single Indigenous person be challenged by the defence."
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Crown and defence attorneys selected seven women and five men for the jury. They were picked from a pool of 204 people summoned to the Alex Dillabough Centre, a gymnasium that served as a courtroom.
The jurors will decide the fate of Stanley, who is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Boushie, a Cree man from the Red Pheasant First Nation reserve.
Boushie was shot on Stanley's farm near Biggar, Sask., in August 2016. Stanley has pleaded not guilty.
Chris Murphy, the lawyer for the Boushie family, did not speak but stood beside Tootoosis during her statement.
Scott Spencer, Stanley's attorney, declined to comment. He said he's focused on the evidence to be presented in the trial.
Large jury pool, small turnout
The sheriff's office summoned 750 people for Monday's jury selection from the immense Battleford jury boundary. The proceedings were moved to the gymnasium to accommodate a larger-than-normal jury roll.
But only 204 potential jurors showed up.
"It is not uncommon to see one-third to one-half not attending," said Brian Pfefferle, a Saskatoon-based defence lawyer who, like many of his peers, is watching the trial closely.
"To have only 200 jurors show would be an unusually low percentage in my experience. Two hundred still provides enough to choose from, however. Some of the 750 could have been excused by the sheriff's office prior to today."
Glen Luther, a criminal law professor at the University of Saskatchewan, called the turnout "disappointing."
"As we learn about the size of the judicial boundary, it seems obvious that many people in the far north would not be able or willing to travel to Battleford," he said.
One female juror expressed concern about having to travel for 45 minutes to and from the courthouse during the trial.
Chief Justice Martel Popescul asked the sheriff's office if they could arrange daily transportation for her.
The rest of the trial will unfold in the Court of Queen's Bench courthouse. It is expected to last two weeks.
Stanley, dressed in dark pants, a dark jacket and green shirt, sat with his hands in his lap between the desks of the Crown and defence attorneys during the jury selection.
'Peaceful every moment of the way'
Last week, RCMP confirmed they will have a security presence in Battleford.
"There's been a bail hearing, there's been a preliminary inquiry, there have been pre-trial motions and Colten's family and supporters have been absolutely peaceful every moment of the way, " said Chris Murphy, the Boushie family lawyer.
Spencer has said Stanley will not be giving interviews or statements during the proceedings.
Spencer sent out a statement Friday aiming to stub out racial tensions, saying the "trial is not a referendum on racism."