Debbie Baptiste, mother of Colten Boushie, holds a photo of her son during a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Feb. 14, 2018. A newly released document show prosecutors in Saskatchewan weighed the backlash and remorse felt by those accused of posting hateful messages online after the high-profile death of the young Cree man. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Debbie Baptiste, mother of Colten Boushie, holds a photo of her son during a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Feb. 14, 2018. A newly released document show prosecutors in Saskatchewan weighed the backlash and remorse felt by those accused of posting hateful messages online after the high-profile death of the young Cree man. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Remorse a factor in no hate speech charges after shooting of Colten Boushie: document

Three-year anniversary of the acquittal of Gerald Stanley in the death of Boushie

REGINA — A newly released document shows prosecutors in Saskatchewan weighed backlash and remorse felt by people accused of posting hateful online messages after the high-profile shooting death of a young Cree man.

Tuesday marks the three-year anniversary of the acquittal of Gerald Stanley in the death of 22-year-old Colten Boushie of Red Pheasant First Nation, after he and his friends drove onto Stanley’s farm near Biggar, Sask., in 2016.

Stanley’s trial heard from Boushie’s friends, whotestified they had been looking for help with a flat tire. Stanley told court he thought they were trying to steal an all-terrain vehicle and his gun accidentally went off, firing a bullet into the back of Boushie’s head.

A jury found Stanley not guilty of second-degree murder.

Boushie’s death caused racial tensions in the province to flare and sparked debate on systemic racism toward Indigenous people and rural crime.

A deluge of online comments made after the shooting was the subject of a recently revised briefing note prepared for incoming Saskatchewan Justice Minister Gord Wyant by the public prosecutions branch. The partially-redacted document, dated last November, was released to The Canadian Press under Freedom of Information legislation.

“Some people made comments online approving of the violence done to Mr. Boushie, and lamenting that more of his group had not been killed that day,” it reads.

“A number of people who made comments like this were themselves subjected to an online shaming campaign, which included potentially threatening messages.”

The prosecutions office says it reviewed RCMP investigations into the comments and didn’t recommend charges because there was no reasonable likelihood of conviction.

“Public Prosecutions also considered the remorse of the suspects and the social media consequences they had already received in determining whether there was a public interest in pursuing charges,” the document says.

Chris Murphy, a lawyer for Boushie’s family, says he believes the comments fit the Criminal Code’s definition of hate speech towards an identifiable group.

He says he finds the rationale by the prosecutions office troubling because of the message it sends.

“(It) suggests that you can say hateful things about Indigenous people in Saskatchewan and you don’t have to fear reprisals from the police for those statements if you’ve been shamed online for saying them, which to me is frankly unbelievable.”

Murphy says remorse is a principle when it comes sentencing, but in this case it appears to have been applied with “a significant amount of leniency.”

“I don’t ask this lightly, but I ask whether or not the public would believe that Indigenous people who are the subjects of criminal investigations in Saskatchewan are granted the same sort of leniency.”

He also questions why neither Boushie’s family nor legal counsel were informed that some people accused of making the posts had expressed remorse.

RCMP spokesman Cpl. Rob King says about 85 online accounts were investigated for comments made about Boushie’s death and the Stanley trial. Different police forces were involved, depending on where the accounts were located.

Officers informed those who made complaints about the outcomes of the investigations, King says, and Boushie’s family didn’t file complaints.

He adds that details of investigations are usually made public once charges are laid, but are otherwise subject to privacy laws.

“Prosecutions recommends charges where there is a reasonable likelihood of conviction and it is in the public interest to prosecute. In these instances, neither of these two thresholds were met,” says Ministry of Justice spokesman Noel Busse.

“Depending on the situation, prosecutors may also take publicly observable information into account.”

Eleanore Sunchild, a lawyer based in North Battleford, Sask., who also represents Boushie’s family, says the briefing documentfails to mention the problem of racism.

“It’s like they feel if they don’t acknowledge the racism that exists here — it’s not an issue.

“The issue is far from over. We still see continued injustice occur everyday in Canada against Indigenous people.”

She says marking the anniversary of the verdict will be more difficult for Boushie’s family this year because COVID-19 restrictions mean they cannot gather in person.

“If everyone could just remember them and say a prayer for Colten.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 9, 2021.

Court

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Central Alberta Freestyle Ski Club is hoping to win $50,000 through the Mackenzie Investments Top Peak contest. (Contributed photo)
Central Alberta ski club trying to win $50K in online contest

A central Alberta ski club has entered a contest where it can… Continue reading

Ben King scores for the Red Deer Rebels during the third period of a Western Hockey League game against the Calgary Hitmen at the Westerner Park Centrium Saturday. (Photo by Rob Wallator/Red Deer Rebels)
Rebels complete comeback to pick up first win of season

Rebels 3 Hitmen 2 (OT) The Red Deer Rebels were able to… Continue reading

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Red Deer dips below 300 active COVID-19 cases

The number of active COVID-19 cases in Red Deer continued to drop… Continue reading

Lyn Radford, 2019 Canada Winter Games board chair, was named 2020 Sport Event Volunteer of the Year at the Prestige Awards. (File photo by Advocate staff)
WATCH: Lyn Radford wins award for volunteer efforts

The board chair of the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer… Continue reading

Mount Pearl Senior High in Mount Pearl, N.L., remains closed on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. The provincial health authority says there were 185 cases at 22 schools, including 145 infections among staff and students of one high school in Mount Pearl that was an early epicentre of the outbreak. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Daly
In Newfoundland and Labrador, three ingredients made for explosive COVID-19 outbreak

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — With her classes, three part-time jobs and a… Continue reading

A passenger places a tag on luggage at the departure terminal at Toronto Pearson Airport, in Mississauga, Ont., Friday, May 24, 2019. The economic and life disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted many recent immigrants to leave Canada and return to their countries of origin, where they have more social and familial connections. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
COVID-19 pandemic prompts recent newcomers to leave Canada for their home countries

OTTAWA — The economic and life disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic… Continue reading

Rail cars wait for pickup in Winnipeg, Sunday, March 23, 2014. The fierce debate over cross-border pipelines is putting more Canadian oil and gas on trains destined for the United States — a country experts fear is ill-equipped for the potential consequences. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
As debate rages over cross-border pipelines, U.S. analysts brace for more oil by rail

WASHINGTON — The fierce debate over cross-border pipelines is putting more Canadian… Continue reading

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

VICTORIA — Legal experts and a mother whose ex-partner was convicted of… Continue reading

Radio and television personality Dick Smyth is shown in an undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO
Dick Smyth, Canadian maestro of news radio commentary, dies at 86

TORONTO — Radio and television personality Dick Smyth, whose booming commentary filled… Continue reading

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, January 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Funeral for Walter Gretzky to be held Saturday in home town of Brantford, Ont.

The funeral for hockey legend Wayne Gretzky’s father Walter will take place… Continue reading

A sign for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service building is shown in Ottawa on May 14, 2013. A newly released audit report shows that difficulties with the judicial warrant process at Canada's spy agency — an issue that made headlines last summer — stretch back at least nine years. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Spy warrant shortcomings stretch back almost a decade, newly released audit shows

OTTAWA — A newly released audit report shows that difficulties with the… Continue reading

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
No winning ticket for Friday night’s Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — No winning ticket was sold for the estimated $29 million… Continue reading

Most Read