On August 9, 2016, 22 year old Colten Boushie, was shot and killed by Gerald Stanley on Stanley’s farm just outside Biggar, Saskatchewan. Boushie and his girlfriend, Kiora Wuttunee, Belinda Jackson, her boyfriend, Eric Meechance, and Cassidy Cross-Whitstone, all from the Cree Red Pheasant First Nation, drove an SUV onto Stanley’s property while he and his son, Sheldon, were repairing a fence, with Stanley’s wife mowing the lawn nearby.
The events that followed were the subject of a 2 week trial in which Stanley was tried for second-degree murder in the death of Colten Boushie. Both the Crown and Defence witnesses described a scene of chaos. Stanley testified that he kicked the tail light of the SUV because he thought the SUV was headed for Sheldon, while Sheldon admitted smashing the front windshield of the SUV with a hammer. The SUV then smashed into a parked vehicle, with Meechance testifying that the smashed windshield made it difficult for Cross-Whitstone to drive. Stanley then approached the SUV while 2 of its occupants fled. He testified that he grabbed his loaded gun, fired two warning shots in the air and kept pulling the trigger to make sure the gun was rid of bullets. He testified that he thought the gun was empty. Stanley then approached the front driver’s side of the SUV, still holding the gun, while Boushie was seated in the passenger seat. He attempted to turn off the ignition of the SUV, when the gun discharged, killing Boushie. Stanley said it was a case of hang fire, a delay, from when he had fired the gun earlier.
The jury assembled for Stanley’s trial apparently did not include any Indigenous people, in part due to peremptory challenges. On February 9, 2018, he was found not guilty of the second-degree murder of Colten Boushie, nor of any lesser included offences.
Two years earlier, almost to the day, on August 17, 2014, Tina Fontaine of the Sagkeeng First Nation, was found wrapped in plastic and a duvet cover and weighed down with rocks in the Red River. She was 15 years old. Fontaine had been in the care of Manitoba Child and Family Services at the time of her death.
Raymond Cormier, 56, was charged with the second-degree murder of Fontaine. The Crown’s case relied heavily on secretly recorded statements made by Cormier dubbed Project Styxx, in which it appeared that Cormier had sexually exploited Fontaine. The Crown also relied on testimony from witnesses who said they saw Cormier and Fontaine together in the days before she disappeared on August 8, 2014. They further relied on the testimony of several witnesses who had seen Cormier with a duvet similar to the one that Fontaine’s body had been wrapped in when she was found.
On February 22, 2018 — less than one month after a jury found Stanley not guilty of the second-degree murder of Colten Boushie — a different jury found Cormier not guilty of the second-degree murder of Tina Fontaine.
These two acquittals — and the broad public discourse they initiated — are the catalyst for the conversation that follows in this edition of Law Matters.
Jessica Robertshaw is a Calgary-based lawyer practicing civil ltigation at Field Law. In her free time, she volunteers with the Court of Queen's Bench Amicus Project, and is on the Board of Directors of West Village Theatre. Jessica is also a member of the CBA Alberta Editorial Committee.