Hundreds rally in Toronto to protest Colten Boushie verdict

The acquittal of a white farmer in the shooting death of a young First Nations man rocked Canada to its core this weekend, inspiring protests and rallies across the county over what’s been described as a “moment of national shame.”

Gerald Stanley of Battleford, Saskatchewan had been accused of second-degree murder in the death of 22-year-old Colten Boushie, a resident of the Red Pheasant First Nation reserve.

Boushie died after being shot in the head by Stanley, at blank range, on the farmer’s rural property in August of 2016.

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Stanley testified that the shooting was accidental during his two-week-long trial, which culminated on Friday evening with an all-white jury handing down a verdict of “not guilty.”

What’s followed has been a steady outpouring of anger, grief and disbelief from Boushie’s family, community, and fellow Canadian citizens, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“I am going to say we have come to this point as a country far too many times,” said the PM to reporters on Saturday. “Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians alike know that we have to do better.”

Hundreds of people gathered in Nathan Phillips Square this weekend to demand justice for Boushie, and to protest the continued mistreatment of Canada’s Indigenous people.

“This is not what reconciliation looks like,” read a sign at the rally on Saturday. “End Indigenous genocide now!” read another.

Speakers voiced the “exhaustion of elders & young Indigenous people in the long struggle against colonial violence,” as one attendee so eloquently put it. “Settlers must help shoulder the burden.”

The rally continued for hours, despite unfavourable weather conditions. Snow did nothing to quiet to voices rising out of Nathan Phillips Square on Saturday afternoon.

Protestors and high-profile advocates like Canadian Justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and Indigenous services minister Jane Philpott continue to speak out in support of Boushie and his family this week. 

“Canada sometimes you break my heart,” wrote Toronto City Councillor Krystyn Wong-Tam on Twitter. “Property is never more important than people, especially Indigenous people.”

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