Saskatoon

'I am used to racism': people outside Sask. court appearance continue call for change

Racism is a part of Saskatchewan’s culture, according to some of the people who were outside of the North Battleford court house Thursday.

Elder Howard Walker calls it a difficult time for Saskatchewan

Outside the court, as Gerald Stanley made his first appearance, people rallied for an end to racism in Saskatchewan. (CBC)

Racism is a part of Saskatchewan's culture, according to some of the people who were outside of the North Battleford court house Thursday as Gerald Stanley made his appearance.

Stanley, 54, pleaded not guilty to a charge of second-degree murder in the Aug. 9 shooting death of 22-year-old Colten Boushie.

Boushie, an Indigenous man, was one of five people in a vehicle that was shot at on a farm near Biggar. His family says the group was in the yard to ask for help with a flat tire.

Gerald Stanley is escorted into the Court of Queen's Bench in Battleford for a bail hearing at 1:30 p.m. CST on Thursday. (Don Somers/CBC)

The case has sparked heated debate online, prompting condemnations of racist messages from Premier Brad Wall and the National Farmers Union.

"It's a difficult time for Saskatchewan," Elder Howard Walker said outside of court. "We were all aware that racism exists — subtle racism, outright racism — and how we handle that is to try and create an understanding between societies."

Walker said there was a time when he used to be able to join friends off his reserve for a meal but even that isn't happening anymore.

"I am used to racism," he said.

But Walker was quick to add that discrimination exists on both sides.

Walker was part of a crowd of about 200 outside of provincial court, with some holding signs with anti-racism slogans and wearing "Justice for Colten" pins.

A rally was held outside of the North Battleford courthouse as Gerald Stanley made his first court appearance on second-degree murder charges in the death of Colten Boushie. A new series of Facebook posts is reviving memories of the racism and bitterness which surfaced after Boushie's death last summer. (CBC)

People lined up outside to get a seat in the courtroom for Stanley's morning court appearance and afternoon bail hearing at Court of Queen's Bench. Many were turned away when it became too full.

Among the crowd were two members of the faculty of education at the University of Regina.

Michael Cappello decided to make the trek to North Battleford when one of his students offered him a ride to go.

He said it was important to be there.

"This is the air we breathe in Saskatchewan. So when the premier says this isn't part of Saskatchewan, that's a wish, but that's not the truth," Cappello said.

"Unless we stand together and begin to work and unlearn and begin to live differently towards a different future, nothing changes."

Colten Boushie, 22, was killed on a farmyard near Biggar, Sask. (Colten Boushie's Facebook page)

Dr. Shauneen Pete of the Little Pine First Nation said as a parent, she is worried of the repercussions on not only young Indigenous people, but everyone.

"We are all dealing with the fear now. The ripple-off effects of these incidents impact all of us. It creates trauma for all of us."

After hearing nearly two hours of arguments, the judge said he would reserve his decision on whether Stanley would be granted bail until Friday or Monday. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Courtney Markewich joined CBC News in 2016 after working in radio for five years. She is based in Saskatoon. Born and raised in Saskatchewan, Markewich is passionate about sharing stories of the province's people. Her focus now is bringing these stories to social media on CBC Saskatchewan and CBC Saskatoon's platforms. Her work on The Pit was recognized by the RTDNA Canada National Awards for Excellence in Social Media in 2020. You can contact her at courtney.markewich@cbc.ca.

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