The Chief of the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation wants to move towards reconciliation between the province, federal government and Indigenous leaders by addressing concerns in the Canadian justice system.
Following the not guilty verdict handed to Gerald Stanley Feb. 9, Indigenous leaders and people from across the country called for change in the justice system. The calls were heard by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, who responded through social media over the weekend and again during Question Period in Ottawa yesterday.
Provincial leaders also heard the calls for change, with Premier Scott Moe saying the province needs to listen carefully to the concerns.
Chief Peter A. Beatty was with a group of Indigenous leaders who met with Moe yesterday. Beatty said he’s unsure how to move forward from the jury’s decision, but noted the province and the federal government are open to working with Indigenous people moving forward.
“[It was] a really good show to start working together. We’re starting off on the right foot,” Beatty said. “Reconciliation and the justice system took a hit that night, for all Indigenous people across Canada.”
During speeches at a rally hosted in Prince Albert Feb. 11, Beatty said the shooting of 22-year-old Colten Boushie and the events which followed need to be addressed, and change needs to be brought about. Beatty said change needs to happen quickly for Indigenous people to have their faith restored in the justice system. The chief said he was crushed when he heard the verdict.
“When we were brought up, we were told to respect the law, abide by the law, and if somebody breaks the law and does you harm, the justice system will protect you and will punish that person,” Beatty said. “We were taught to have faith in that system.”
Beatty said he would like to see changes to the challenge system used during jury selection, which allows the Crown and defence to reject potential jurors based on physical appearance.
Beatty said the death of Boushie is something which transcends politics; it’s a people issue and people need to come together to find solutions. The chief acknowledged there is anger over the decision, but called for people to get past their anger to make change for the future.
“It’s not just us that we worry about; it’s going into the future, it’s our children. After we are all gone they’re going to have to deal with this system we set up,” Beatty said.
“This is a system that’s been there for over 100 years that hasn’t changed… and we have to change it.”
On Twitter: @BryanEneas
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