Family members of a man who was shot to death at a farm near Biggar last year are questioning a higher level of security at the local courthouse, where the man accused of shooting Colten Boushie is appearing this week for a preliminary hearing.
Gerald Stanley's, 55, preliminary hearing, which began on Monday, will determine if there is sufficient evidence for the case to go to trial. Stanley was charged with second-degree murder after the Aug. 9, 2016 incident.
Boushie's family members are questioning the level of RCMP security which featured a traffic block on Monday and Tuesday this week. Both lanes of traffic were barricaded Monday, while on Tuesday only the West side of the road was blocked, where the court building is located. There was also several RCMP officers near the baricades and near the front of the courthouse.
The security extended beyond the street — individuals entering the court building were required to pass through a metal detector while security officers checked bags and purses of those entering the courtroom. There were also plain clothed officers present in court.
"I don't think we expected such an over presence," Jade Tootoosis, Boushie's cousin said. "To me it's too much... There is definitely a fine line between over policing and being present," she added.
While waiting in front of the courthouse she said she could see three or four RCMP officers each standing at opposite ends of the street and across the road.
Inside the court building, Tootooses said she noticed about 10 officers present.
"It doesn't necessarily make me feel safe, but more on-edge, as if I should I be watching myself," Tootoosis added.
"My question is: ‘Why so many, and what is it that they are expecting is going to happen?’"
She added she would like to see police checking in and communicating with the family more.
"If it's about building relationships and supporting, and protection, we should be consulted (to) work together on this," she said. "It feels like there has been a brief conversation before the [preliminary hearing], and they have been over-present thus far, without looking at what has been going on."
The Boushie family's legal counsel Chris Murphy wonders how the heavy police presence and security would impact the community.
"The RCMP is doing their job and want to make sure everybody is safe, but when people are coming into this courthouse and into the parking lots, they have to basically pass a security check point," he said. "I'm concerned the security is sending potentially the wrong message to the community."
Murphy highlighted that while there is a publication ban on the evidence heard at the preliminary hearing, the sight of all the cop cars could have an impact on potential jurors. He added there haven't been any threats which would warrant the level of security.
"If you are living in the Battlefords and driving past this courthouse, it looks like this block is on lockdown," he said.
RCMP media relations officer Paul Dederick said while he couldn’t comment on specific cases, he provided a statement regarding RCMP security procedures.
“Public safety is our number one priority. Situations are assessed and resources are deployed accordingly in order to ensure public safety. We then evaluate and adjust those resources as the situation dictates,” he said.
Stanley's hearing is expected to continue on Friday. None of the allegations have been proven in court.
Editor's Note: As this case is before the courts, commenting is closed.
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