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

Watchdog’s report finds RCMP discriminated against Colten Boushie’s mother

REGINA — A watchdog’s report into how Mounties handled the high-profile shooting death of a young Indigenous man in Saskatchewan has found officers discriminated against his mother.

The finding is detailed in a report by the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP, which reviewed the investigation into the death of Colten Boushie.

The 22-year-old Cree man from Red Pheasant First Nation was shot and killed in August 2016, while sitting in an SUV which had been driven onto the farm of Gerald Stanley near Biggar, Sask.

A jury acquitted Stanley of second-degree murder after he testified to having fired warning shots and saying his gun “just went off.”

The commission found the way officers treated Boushie’s mother when they notified her of his death amounted to discrimination based on race.

The report detailed how one officer questioned Debbie Baptiste about whether she had been drinking, while someone also told her to “get it together.”

“The RCMP members provided Ms. Baptiste with little information about what had happened to her son, but proceeded to question her and look in places in her home where no person could be hiding,” it read.

“Not only did the RCMP members’ actions show little regard or compassion for Ms. Baptiste’s distress and pain, they compounded her suffering by treating her as if she was lying.”

It says one officer also checked a microwave where Baptiste told them she had placed her son’s dinner.

“After spending the evening fearing that something had happened to her son and just seeing her worst fears realized, Ms. Baptiste saw her home encircled by a large number of armed police officers and had to endure this treatment from the RCMP members who remained in her home for about 20 minutes,” the report read.

“She was then left with a lasting and painful memory of her interactions with the RCMP, and few answers about what had happened to her son.”

The watchdog said RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki accepted the finding that police discriminated against Boushie’s mother.

“She then stated that, ‘it is undisputed that the manner in which the next of kin notification was communicated to the family was insensitive and demonstrated poor judgment,’” the report said.

It recommended mandatory cultural awareness training for all RCMP employees, noting such programs were not mandatory when there were no Indigenous residents within a detachment area.

“The Commission found this particularly noteworthy for the RCMP, as it is the national police force responsible for policing approximately 40% of the Indigenous population,” the report read.

The station in Biggar — one of two involved in the Boushie case — was one of the detachments where such training was not compulsory, it found.

The watchdog found officers’ manner of notifying Baptiste of her son’s death “adversely set the tone” for the RCMP’s relationship with Boushie’s family.

The report, for instance, noted that two RCMP officers attended Boushie’s wake to update his relatives on the criminal investigation.

The report said officers started talking to Boushie’s mother when they saw her outside the funeral hall, which she left after the opening of the casket.

“Regardless of their motivation, the commission finds that the RCMP members’ presence at the wake was unreasonable and had a negative effect on the early communications with family,” the report said.

“At funerals, the emotional well-being of bereaved relatives is particularly vulnerable; allowing family members to have a few final hours of peace before their loved one is laid to rest would not have undermined the need to ensure that they be updated about the investigation.”

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