Sask. chiefs accuse RCMP of fuelling racial tensions in wake of deadly shooting

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations says the way RCMP initially described the shooting death of an unarmed Indigenous man is fuelling racial tensions in Saskatchewan.

FSIN says initial media release issued by Mounties showed bias against shooting victim

Colten Boushie was killed on a farm near Biggar, Sask. on Tuesday. (Facebook)

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations says the way RCMP initially described the shooting death of an unarmed Indigenous man is fuelling racial tensions in Saskatchewan.

Colten Boushie, 22, 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.

RCMP have charged 54-year-old Gerald Stanley, who is from the Biggar area, with second-degree murder.

"The news release the RCMP issued the following day provided just enough prejudicial information for the average reader to draw their own conclusions that the shooting was somehow justified," wrote FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron in a media release.

"Initial investigation has revealed five individuals entered onto private property by vehicle in the rural area and were confronted by property owners who were outside and witnessed their arrival," one press release reads, which was issued on Aug. 11. "A verbal exchange occurred in an attempt to get the vehicle to leave the yard and ultimately a firearm as discharged, striking an occupant in the vehicle." 

Saskatchewan RCMP said in an email that they are reviewing the FSIN's media release and will be providing an update at 5:30 p.m. CST. 

'A crime based on race'

Vice Chief Kimberly Jonathan said the FSIN is calling for an immediate review of RCMP communication policies and writing guidelines.

The organization, which represents 74 First Nations in the province, is also demanding an assurance that "this tragedy will be investigated for what it is, a crime based on race," Jonathan states.

The Assembly of First Nations also issued a press release on Friday, offering condolence's to Boushie family but also calling out racist comments being made online since the shooting.

"To see racist, derogatory comments about this young man and about First Nations people online and on social media in response to this tragedy is profoundly disturbing," National Chief Perry Bellegarde wrote.

On one Facebook group, the Saskatchewan Farmer's Group, people posted derogatory comments about the victim. Some even cheered and expressed support for the accused shooter.

"Poor f--ker is going to be put through hell just because he shot a Native I'm sure," wrote one person, whose Facebook profile says he's a farmer from Kelvington, Sask.

The Facebook group has since disappeared.

Fundraising campaign

Meanwhile, a friend of the Boushie family has begun a GoFundme campaign to help pay for funeral expenses, including travel for extended family who live in the United States. 

The funeral service is going to be held on the Red Pheasant First Nation and the campaign, launched on Friday, raised half of its $10,000 goal in under two hours. 

"I'm at a loss for words," said Arlysse Wuttunee, who created the GoFundMe campaign. She said her cousin was in the vehicle when Boushie was shot.

"I've never seen our community come together like this before," she said, adding that donations have come in from across the country.

Alleged shooter's campaign shut down

While the family's fundraising campaign has been embraced on social media, another campaign was quickly launched and shut down.

That campaign, apparently to raise money to pay for a legal defence for the accused shooter, raised $1,000 before it was shut down. The crowdfunding site has a policy against fundraising in support of people accused of being involved in criminal activities.

With files from CBC Saskatchewan