Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Faculty of Law Professor Kent Roach, Prichard Wilson Chair in Law and Public Policy, writes an op-ed for Policy Options on how the report into the RCMP's treatment of Colten Boushie's family should have pushed for fundamental cultural and governance change.

The under-resourced Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP did a valiant job in substantiating the discriminatory treatment of a Cree mother grieving the killing of her son. In its final and interim reports, the commission also raised a number of questions about how the investigation into 22-year-old Colten Boushie’s death was handled by police.

Still, the commission’s recommendations for improvements, including for cultural awareness training of officers, were not terribly ambitious. Indeed, the RCMP in Saskatchewan was able quickly to respond that all of its recommendations would soon be implemented. Much more reform of the RCMP is, however, required to improve its relations with Indigenous peoples and respond to systemic discrimination against them. These reforms need to go far beyond cultural awareness. They should attempt to change the very culture and governance of the RCMP.

Boushie, from the Red Pheasant Cree Nation, was fatally shot by Saskatchewan farmer Gerald Stanley in 2016. Stanley was subsequently acquitted of murder and manslaughter by an all-white jury who apparently accepted the defence’s portrayal of the shot in the back of Boushie’s head as accidental. The commission’s findings that the RCMP acted in a discriminatory manner when they asked Boushie’s mother, Debbie Baptiste, whether she had been drinking, have rightly sparked outrage, making headlines both in Canada and internationally.

Read the full opinion at Policy Options