The family of Colten Boushie met with Canada’s justice and public safety ministers this morning and will sit down with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau later today in the aftermath of a not-guilty verdict in his shooting death.
A person with knowledge of the meeting, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the meeting with Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould was emotional and intense.
They said the family didn’t ask for specifics, but there was lots of talk about jury selection reform.
A spokesperson for the prime minister said Trudeau is looking forward to meeting with the family and listening to them, but wouldn’t give details of when the meeting would occur.
The Boushie case has dominated talk on Parliament Hill since farmer Gerald Stanley was found not guilty Friday of second-degree murder for his role in the 22-year-old’s death. The verdict sparked protests across the country over the weekend.
On Friday, Trudeau said he couldn’t imagine “the grief and sorrow” the Boushie family feels.
The justice minister also took to Twitter, arguing that “as country we can and must do better. I am committed to working everyday to ensure justice for all Canadians.”
A number of Conservative MPs cautioned the Liberal government against tweeting about the verdict.
“We need to let the many steps of an independent judicial process unfold without political interference,” Conservative Indigenous affairs critic Cathy McLeod wrote on Twitter.
Boushie’s family met with Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott and Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett on Monday.
“This is only the beginning of the conversation and calls to action,” Boushie’s cousin Jade Tootoosis said. “We have little to no faith in the justice system, and we’re here to talk about that.”
Some observers have argued the jury process was biased because the defence team excluded five potential jurors who appeared to be Indigenous.
CBC News has not independently determined the reason for their exclusion.
Under Canada’s Criminal Code, defence lawyers and Crown prosecutors in a second-degree murder case can reject as many as 12 people from a jury without giving any reason, through what are called “peremptory challenges.”
Critics say the long-standing procedure can lead to discrimination against potential jurors — and can deliver a jury that is biased or lacks understanding of Indigenous cultural and social customs.
On Tuesday, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said that process needs to be addressed.
“There is underrepresentation of equity-seeking people on juries. That is something people have noted for a long time. In particular, Indigenous people are very underrepresented in jury selection and juries in general,” he said.
Jury selection review underway
Singh said he’s used peremptory challenges in his career as a criminal defence lawyer, and hasn’t decided yet if he favours abolishing the custom.
“It’s a discussion we need to have,” he said.
The Justice department said it has already started a study of peremptory challenges, but the Boushie case and the resulting heightened public scrutiny of the Indigenous experience in the justice system have put the issue on the front burner.
“We are looking at peremptory challenges. We are going to consider how we can utilize the expertise in this room and across the country, about how we can substantially improve the criminal justice system and the jury selection process,” Wilson-Raybould said.
Boushie was shot and killed after he and four others from the Red Pheasant Cree Nation drove onto Stanley’s rural property in August 2016.
Eric Meechance, who was in the car that day, told the court he tried to start an ATV on Stanley’s property but denied trying to steal it.
Boushie was shot in the head after an altercation with Stanley, his son and wife.
Stanley testified he never meant to shoot anyone and that the handgun he was holding accidentally went off.
The jury could have found Stanley guilty of second-degree murder or manslaughter, or not guilty, according to Chief Justice Martel Popescul, who oversaw the trial.
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