In the wake of the fatal shooting of Red Pheasant Cree Nation member Colten Boushie in Saskatchewan, Canada, tensions have been running high, with accusations of hate and racism flying. And now, another accusation has arisen in the wake of Boushie’s death; according to the National Post, a press release from the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) is saying that the RCMP issued a “biased” and “prejudicial” news release, in what many are calling a case of victim-blaming.
“I’m sorry to say it’s getting worse. There’s been more than 100 years of stereotypes and racism building, and the Battlefords here has a particular history,” said North Battleford lawyer Eleanore Sunchild.
“Our peoples are not equal. They have never been equal.”
Colten Boushie was fatally shot in a farmyard in rural Saskatchewan. According to witness Eric Meechance, they had a flat tire and had pulled into the farm to ask for help. Meechance said a man with a gun shattered the front window while swearing at the occupants (he did not indicate why, but there is a significant history of severe racism against First Nations peoples on the Canadian prairies, which might provide some insight into the unprovoked attack). Meechance and another passenger fled; seconds later, they heard shots, and kept running.
The RCMP press release indicated that the occupants of the vehicle were under investigation for theft and had been taken into custody. They were all released without charges the next day, but FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron claims that the RCMP “provided just enough prejudicial information for the average reader to draw their own conclusions that the shooting was somehow justified. The messaging in an RCMP news release should not fuel racial tensions.”
The FSIN release also quoted Chief Clint Wuttunee of the Red Pheasant First Nation.
“The family of Colten Boushie is devastated by the loss of their son. The media’s initial portrayal of the event made the incident sound like a crime was about to be committed by the passengers in the car. The media based their reports on the RCMP’s news release.”
Eleanore Sunchild agreed, saying that the RCMP press release “blamed the victim.”
While it’s impossible to determine whether it was intentional, it’s hard to argue that the RCMP press release and subsequent media reports inflamed racial tensions in Saskatchewan. According to CTV News, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall made a Facebook post Sunday afternoon condemning the “racist and hate-filled” comments he had seen on social media and elsewhere online in the wake of Boushie’s shooting.
“Racism has no place in Saskatchewan. In the wake of a shooting near Biggar, there have been racist and hate-filled comments on social media and other forums.
“This must stop. These comments are not only unacceptable, intolerant and a betrayal of the very values and character of Saskatchewan, they are dangerous. There are laws that protect citizens from what this kind of hate may foment. They will be enforced.
“I call on Saskatchewan people to rise above intolerance, to be our best and to be the kind of neighbors and fellow citizens we are reputed to be.”
CTV reports that not only were many of the comments anti-First Nations, there was also growing support for vigilante justice to be taken against Boushie’s shooter.
The FSIN said that they were “extremely disappointed” in the way the RCMP handled the news release, and that “the messaging in an RCMP news release should not fuel racial tensions.”
RCMP Superintendent Rob Cameron, in Regina, said that the investigation had been handled appropriately.
The First Nations people currently being targeted by hate speech feel differently.
[Photo by Shane Shaw/iStock]