As It Happens

Racial tensions running high in Saskatchewan after shooting death of Colten Boushie

Following the killing of a young Indigenous man in Saskatchewan, the chief of Red Pheasant Cree Nation, Clint Wuttunee, says the racial divide has gotten worse.
Colten Boushie was killed on a farm near Biggar, Sask. on Tuesday. (Facebook)

It's been nearly a week since the fatal shooting in Saskatchewan. But the response has been so heated, that it prompted Premier Brad Wall to weigh in with a statement.

"Racism has no place in Saskatchewan," Premier Wall wrote on Facebook. He's referring to what he calls "hate-filled comments" on social media. Comments that haven't stopped since an Indigenous man was shot and killed on a rural property near Biggar, Sask. Colten Boushie was 22. The property owner, Gerald Stanley, has been charged with second-degree murder.

Chief Clint Wuttunee of Red Pheasant First Nation, Saskatchewan wants to see justice for the shooting of Colten Boushie. (Battlefords Agency Tribal Chiefs)

Chief Clint Wuttunee is echoing the Premier's remarks. He has seen his community of Red Pheasant First Nation gripped by confusion, grief and anger following Boushie's death.

"You have to let go," Wuttunee tells As It Happens guest host Laura Lynch. While the community's grief is still fresh, he says, "You can't let the spirit stay."

Last Tuesday, Boushie was a passenger in a car with four other people when he was shot and killed near Biggar, Saskatchewan. He and his friends had stopped at Stanley's farm to ask for help with a flat tire, according to his family. It was then that Gerald Stanley allegedly shot Boushie. Stanley is charged with second-degree murder.

The funeral for the young man was held on Saturday. Wuttunee also attended a barbecue on the weekend, and noticed there was a feeling of anger among a lot of community members.

"Of course, the initial feeling was, to get [back at] them, but we have to refrain from taking the law into our own hands. You know, family members, when someone is taken away so brutally, the initial response is 'let's go find that guy, and let's cause him harm.' But that's not going to solve anything," Wuttunee says.

Wuttunee also worries that mistrust has taken hold of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous community members. 

"There's a very wide divide," Wuttunee says. "There's a lot of work that needs to be done to bridge the gap."

Wuttunee says there's a sense of paranoia on the part of rural landowners, who may have been targets in the past for break-ins and thefts. In the case of Boushie, many residents believe he and his friends had stopped at the farm to steal something.

But Wuttunee believes that part of what fuels that paranoia is racism.

"Racism is always going to be out there. We're kidding ourselves if we don't believe that."​

Stanley will appear at a hearing on August 18th, and organized rally will accompany the event.

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