VANCOUVER – The West Coast Coalition Against Racism (WC-CARS) strongly condemns the RCMP for its discriminatory treatment of the Boushie family in the course of its investigation of the murder of their son. In addition, the Coalition is outraged by our politicians’ continued tolerance of such behaviour by Canada’s national police force.
The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC) completed a Public Interest Investigation of the conduct of the RCMP officers involved in the investigation of the 2016 death of Colten Boushie. Mr. Boushie, a 22-year-old resident of the Red Pheasant First Nation in Saskatchewan, was shot and killed outside Biggar, Saskatchewan, on a rural farm property in 2016. A jury later acquitted Gerald Stanley of second-degree murder. Mr. Stanley testified at the trial that his gun “just went off.”
The case raised concerns about how the RCMP handled Boushie’s death. The shooting and the not-guilty verdict also cast a spotlight on racism and racial tensions in Saskatchewan.
The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC), the watchdog group charged with overseeing the RCMP, examined the police investigation and released its report of that investigation this week. The Commission found that the RCMP decision to surround the Bushies’ house with officers carrying carbines was not consistent with a reasonable risk assessment and was inappropriate under the circumstances. After Mr. Boushie’s mother, Debbie Baptiste, collapsed upon hearing the news of her son’s death, an RCMP officer reacted by asking her if she had been drinking. Then one or more officers smelled her breath. The CRCC ruled that these actions were insensitive and linked to a stereotypical view of Indigenous peoples. This led to the Commission’s finding that the RCMP investigation had been characterized by racial discrimination.
The Coalition notes Prime Minister Trudeau’s statement that “We have seen unfortunately examples of systemic racism within the RCMP, within many other institutions, and we need to do better.”
It is clear from this and countless other instances of RCMP mistreatment of other Indigenous people, Black people and people of colour, some of it bordering on the criminal, that fundamental change must be brought to the force. The pressing question is why this is not getting done. The Prime Minister declared more than a year ago that systemic racism runs throughout the RCMP. Why has he not taken action to eliminate it? Why is more training not being provided to RCMP officers to ensure that such racist behaviour is eliminated? Many politicians have uttered similar words to those of Mr. Trudeau, but the system remains unchanged. How many Colten Boushies must die before the system responds appropriately?
Our public officials must move beyond the utterance of carefully crafted press releases. It is time for them to undertake the serious effort necessary to generate fundamental change in the RCMP.