Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde says the entire Canadian judicial system needs to be overhauled following three acquittal verdicts in murder cases involving First Nations victims this year.
He says these verdicts tell the First Nations community that their lives do not matter.
“What it says to Indigenous Peoples, it shows there is systemic racism that exists in the justice system, and there’s no justice system for Indigenous Peoples. It’s a court of law, it’s a court of common law and civil law,” Bellegarde stated. “It also sends a troubling signal to Canadians that they will not face consequences for acts of violence they commit on First Nation individuals.”
His remarks come following the not guilty verdict in the trial of Ontario man Peter Khill, who was charged with second-degree murder of John Styres.
Bellegarde says this case and the Gerald Stanley verdict indicates to him that a person’s property is more important than someone’s life.
“Someone’s property is viewed to be more important than a human life. There’s a very serious problem there. Looking at the facts of the case, when someone takes a shotgun, kills someone, instead of dialing 911, it’s a very serious problem.”
Raymond Cormier was acquitted in the killing of Tina Fontaine in Winnipeg.
Bellegarde says the treatment of First Nations in the justice system stands in stark contrast to other Canadians. He wants to see changes in the overrepresentation of First Nations in the justice system, high youth incarceration rates, fairness in jury selection and to institute restorative justice.
Bellegarde says he will be lobbying the federal government and premiers to make these changes.
(PHOTO: AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde. Photo courtesy of afn.ca)