The hundreds of people who attended the Justice for Colten Boushie rally and candlelight vigil in Prince Albert on Sunday were repeatedly urged to demonstrate love, peace and forgiveness.
The event was one of dozens held across the country over the weekend in the wake of the controversial acquittal of Biggar-area farmer Gerald Stanley in his second-degree murder trial in Battleford on Friday.
Several First Nations leaders who took the podium Sunday pleaded with rally participants to rise above the hate and racism seen on social media since the jury’s verdict.
Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Vice-Chief Kimberly Jonathan said she was approached by some individuals claiming to be from a gang, asking for her blessing to “take up arms in the face of what’s been going on.”
She said she thanked them for their love and desire to protect, but told them: “This isn’t what we do.”
“We need to not feed into the hate,” she said. “We need to not go there.”
However, she said she shared the encounter to show “how dangerous it is right now out there.”
Jonathan updated the audience about her conversations with the Boushie family over the weekend, noting the family is heading to Ottawa this week to speak with federal politicians to ask for an inquiry into the justice system and this case, in particular.
Jonathan also described to the audience how Premier Scott Moe met with Boushie’s family on Saturday and listened for hours as family members relayed their experiences and their grievances with the justice system.
FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron said the Moe government has an opportunity to effect change.
“We’re going to see if this provincial government wants to make change,” he said. “If they’re going to come and walk side by side with us and make those changes in the justice system. First and foremost, an appeal. An appeal is a priority right now for the family.”
While there was a general theme of demonstrating forgiveness and not taking revenge, several First Nations leaders did express their disgust with the outcome of the Stanley trial.
Lac La Ronge Indian Band Chief Tammy Cook-Searson called the jury’s verdict “totally unacceptable.”
Prince Albert Grand Council Vice-Chief Joseph Tsannie was especially critical of the idea of killing someone while trying to protect property.
“It was our people who showed them where the resources are – the millions of dollars that they are extracting from our lands,” he said. “Not one time we shot a person for stealing all our resources in our backyards.”
The crowd in attendance also heard that the Thunderchild First Nation would be donating $5,000 to the Boushie family, while the Prince Albert Grand Council would be donating $10,000.
There was also a ceremony held where two men were honoured with star blankets for undertaking a walk from Saskatoon to Prince Albert in recent days. Conrad Burns and Pernell Ballantyne set out on the trek in the hopes of convincing the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls to hold a hearing in northern Saskatchewan.
Sunday’s gathering began outside Prince Albert’s Court of Queen’s Bench, but was moved to the Senator Allen Bird Memorial Centre gymnasium because of the frigid temperatures.
(PHOTO: Hundreds attended Sunday’s Justice for Colten Boushie rally at Prince Albert’s Senator Allen Bird Memorial Centre gymnasium. Photo by Kelly Provost.)