In the trial of Gerald Stanley, an all-white jury runs from justice

[guest post by Robert Jago]

Last night, a crowded Saskatchewan courtroom heard the verdict of the 12-person jury in the trial of 56-year-old Gerald Stanley, the white farmer charged in the 2016 shooting death of Red Pheasant First Nation member Colten Boushie. The decision to find Stanley ‘not guilty’ of the second-degree murder of 22-year-old Boushie set off a firestorm of reaction across social media, on both sides of the case. Here, Indigenous entrepreneur and commentator Robert Jago shares his perspective on what we should take away from the verdict.


There is a video from outside the courthouse in Battleford, Saskatchewan last night. It shows a screen which is split in four and displaying the courtroom, the jury box, the judge, and the accused in the Gerald Stanley case.

As the verdict is announced, there are gasps and shouts; Colten Boushie’s mother cries out. Bailiffs grab Gerald Stanley and run out of the frame, and to a waiting truck under heavy RCMP protection.

In the jury box, a dark-haired woman in a short dress, and long hooded sweater jumps up as Stanley passes, and runs off camera herself—getting away from the family and the assembled Indians in the courtroom.

I would like to think that she ran because she was ashamed of what she had just done. But the likelier answer is that she ran for the same reason that she and her fellow members of the all-white jury found Gerald Stanley not guilty of killing 22-year-old Colten Boushie. They were afraid of Indians, especially angry Indians.

And let’s dispense, for a moment, with those words “First Nations” and “Indigenous,” because those imply respect, and progress. Today, it is clear that we’re still “Indians.”

“Fights with Native kids were a too-common part of [my friend’s childhood] experience … It’s no overstatement to point out that such kids were, on average, rougher than the white kids, or that they were touchier…”

That is a quote from the best-selling non-fiction book in Canada this week, Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life. Natives are rougher, touchier. The Indians are restless—run.

Some people in this country are worried about schools engaging in social engineering to manipulate children into holding certain political views. They’re right to be worried. It is school that taught that woman when to run. It was newspapers, TV, films, it was books. It was every comment and joke that taught her to run; it was the Premier of her province urging “calm” after the verdict. It was what her boss told her at her part-time job—’Watch that Indian over there, I think he’s stealing.’ She was taught to run, and to think that Indians, especially young male Indians, are scary—subconsciously, it sunk in, that they’re wild and dangerous animals.

If a fox is stealing chickens, it’s not enough to chase it away, you need to put it down. Gerald Stanley put Colten Boushie down at point-blank range, and because these jurors were raised to see us as scary animals, to think of us as wild “wagon burners”—a slur you hear on the Prairies—it was easy for them to see why he was justified. ‘It could have been me and my family,’ they undoubtedly thought—and who wouldn’t do anything to protect their families?

Gerald Stanley had a family, and one that looked like those of the all-white jury. Colten Boushie didn’t have a family. Indians don’t have “families.” They have braves and squaws, chiefs and papooses, bitches and thugs—but not a mother and father like the Stanleys are.

When you hear the mother of a deceased child wail in agony for the verdict you’ve brought down, you hang your head, and quietly and respectfully leave. On the other hand, when you get between a wild animal and its mother, you run. That woman in the jury reacted like Colten Boushie’s mother was a charging bear, not a grieving mother.

Don’t say that this is about Saskatchewan, or the defence, or those racists over there. And don’t say that Canada failed Indigenous people—Canada just failed. It wasn’t a mob of racists that released a killer onto the streets—it was 12 regular Canadians.

These are Canadians who have lived their entire lives hearing excuses for why they don’t need to care about Indians. Why care about tainted drinking water on reserves? ‘Those greedy chiefs are probably taking the money, those Indians need to sort themselves out first.’ Why care about the crisis in Thunder Bay? ‘It’s Indians killing Indians, Indians drinking too much and falling in the water, what are we supposed to do?’ For every problem that Indians face in this country, there is a ready excuse, a fig leaf, to shield Canada from blame.

The defence presented a case that centered around a magic bullet. It is a hard story to believe, but you don’t have to believe it. You don’t need a hard sell to get an addict to buy your meth. And you don’t need a hard sell to push a fig leaf on people who don’t know how to live without one.

If you don’t know how it is that so many reserves live in poverty, or why the prisons are full of our people, or why there are so many suicides, boil-water advisories, why there are so many Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, why any of the dysfunction and failure and tragedy that is the “Indian Problem” in this country exists, look for your answer in the Gerald Stanley verdict.

To find Gerald Stanley guilty, would be to find him responsible for his actions—actions which resulted in the death of Colten Boushie, an Indian. But we don’t do that in this country. White Canada is not to be held responsible for what has happened to Indians.

The school that teaches you to run, also teaches you that you’re the good guys in this story, and that everything that has befallen our Indian race was inevitable, it came on us like a force of nature. Who can blame you for a flood or an ice storm? Who can blame you for tainted water, or blame Gerald Stanley for just doing what any of you would do in the same situation? The jury decided that blame, as always, belonged to the Indian, for trespassing on this farm and putting himself in harm’s way. The best of you will shake your head and pity him, the poor animal, for not knowing better—but what can you do?

I feared that the jury would come down with a manslaughter conviction instead of the murder conviction that was due. No part of me thought they would let him go and believe this story. I honestly thought it was hyperbole to think that Stanley could get away with what he did, because as bad as some people say it all is, people claim to have good intentions, and things are better, aren’t they?

But they’re not. That’s what the verdict shows. That’s why she’s running.


This important piece by Robert Jago was originally published on
MEDIA INDIGENA.


post script: Robert Jago gave permission to readers to repost his article on their own sites.  Distributing work in this way can help spread it all over the Internet, making it harder to erase.
And shortly after it was published someone did indeed try to erase it:

Indigenous media site knocked offline following Gerald Stanley critique.

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Proportionality #ERRE #Q

back to #ERRE #Q Meetings & TranscriptsAhead to The Poll’s The ThingCanadians Deserve Better -Proportional Representation - on Canadian Flag backgroundThis is the sixteenth in the Whoa!Canada: Proportional Representation Series

Not so long ago I had no idea there was any other way for Canadians to elect our government than the system we use now.  When I began getting frustrated that no one I ever voted for ever got elected (no matter which candidate or party) it never even occurred to me the solution to my problem could lay in our voting system.  All I knew was that the time I invested in Canada’s democracy ~ time spent learning about the candidates and issues and then voting for the candidate I thought would best represent me ~ the whole process had proven to be a futile exercise.  In more than 30 years of voting, no one I had ever voted for got the chance to represent me in Ottawa.  Or Queen’s Park, for that matter.   It got even worse when I moved back to my home town to raise my family, because it was a “safe seat.”

Since there didn’t seem to be any point to voting, I began wondering why I should keep doing it. Every time an election rolled around, there was a lot of talk about how awful our low voter turnout.  But maybe all those Canadians who weren’t wasting their time casting ineffective votes were smarter than I.

The lightbulb only went on over my head when I found myself listening to what people were saying at local Fair Vote events.  They talked about why 39% of the votes shouldn’t equal 100% of the power.  That made more sense than what happens when 39% of the voters elect a majority government.  I learned that the only reason we use this system is because it was the same system England had been using… a system forged in the middle ages.  Nor did I realize that a large part of the problem with our Westminster plurality electoral system had not even been designed to be democratic until I heard Canadian electoral system expert Dennis Pilon tell this to the ERRE Committee.

The reason is that the system was not designed to be democratic. Its origins are in the pre-democratic era, and it has been kept in place for electoral self-interest. Canadians have struggled to make their system democratic despite these institutional barriers. Proportional representation systems, by contrast, were designed to represent voters effectively, even if the motives of reformers were not always democratic.”

Dennis Pilon, speaking at the Thursday, July 28, 2016 Erre Committee

At first I felt pretty silly for not having figured it out myself.  But the more I learned, the less foolish I felt. The first time I saw the John Cleese on Proprotional Representation video (yes, that John Cleese), I was a little jealous that our British friends found out about Proportional Representation decades ago.  But I have to tell you, I was shocked when I discovered they hadn’t adopted it for UK General Elections in spite of the clarity Mr. Cleese brought to the subject.  Although the new voting systems established for Scotland and Wales are proportional.  Just as Ireland uses Proportional Representation.

The more I’ve learned about proportional Representation the more flabbergasted I am to realize more than ninety countries around the world have adopted Proportional Representation systems but Canada has not.  But not for want of trying.  Most Canadian electoral reformers date the need for Proportional Representation to the 1920’s, when Canada shifted from being a two party system to a multiparty system.  The reason for this is that when you have a 2 party system, whoever wins a First Past The Post election will have has done so with an actual majority of votes.  But because FPTP is a plurality system, the winner needn’t have a majority.

Still, even before we had more than 2 parties, not everyone was happy with our system.

History

There have been Canadians looking for electoral reform since before Confederation when the British government decided to pass The Act of Union amalgamating Upper Canada (Quebec) and Lower Canada (Ontario) in 1840.  Each province received 42 seats in legislature.  Unsurprisingly French Canada got the short end of the stick because of it’s larger population of 697,084.  This meant on average 16,597 French citizens shared a representative, while an average of only 10,849 English Canadians shared a representative.  Naturally the French Canadians protested this, clamouring instead for Representation by Population or “Rep By Pop”… or at least until the English population began outstripping the French when the tables turned.

In the late 19th Century, noted Canadian Sir Sandford Fleming offered a thousand dollar reward for anyone who could come up with a better way to elect our parliamentarians in An appeal to the Canadian Institute on the rectification of Parliament (1892)  So there have always been Canadians dissatisfied with the inequities inherent in our system.  And over the years there have been changes made, it took a while, but we finally managed to achieve universal that allowed every adult Canadian, regardless of race or gender to have a vote.  Bur even so, Canada’s democratic deficit has been growing.  In recent decades, our system more and more Canadians have disengaged from politics, leaving the job of voting up to only about 60% of the eligible voters.  Even more alarming has been the fact a growing number of Canadians have largely stopped voting for what they actually want because they know there is little or no chance of getting it.  After all, we live with a system in which a party seeking the dismantlement of Canada managed to become our Official Opposition Party decades before the NDP could.  The fact is that voting “strategically” — not for the candidate who will best represent us, but for the candidate we think is the least worst.  So many Canadians feel compelled to try to game the system that doesn’t work for us is a sure sign we are not getting the representation we want and we dare not even try.

ERRE

The main reason for all of this is that our FPTP system does not deliver the results most Canadians want.  When a party with a 39% plurality wins the election, that means 61% of eligible voters didn’t vote for that party.  But the way our system works, that party can walk away with 100% of the power, because the winner only needs to get more votes than the others  to get majority power.  (And that is without factoring in the uncast votes of the 40% of eligible voters a constituency comprised of more eligible voters than those who voted in a 39% majority Liberal Government in 2015 or a 39% majority Conservative Government in 2011.   In our multi-party FTTP system, we get far more phony majorities than actual majority governments.  As the Liberal Party did in 2015, and the Conservative Party did in 2011.

The problem with disproportional results is too many voters don’t get representation in Parliament.  And the problem with phony majorities is that a Majority Government without the support of a majority of voters has the power to make policy and law without the support of a broad base of Canadians.  That’s why proportionality is important.

Nathan Cullen's proposed committee

The Liberal Party promised electoral reform during the 2015 election, and the system we have gives them the power to deliver.  And they have.  The LPC Government has gone so far as to accede to the NDP request to restructure the composition of the Parliamentary Committee studying electoral reform to be proportional.  These are good signs.

The ERRE Special Committee on Electoral Reform has been tasked with consulting with Canadians to find out what we want out of Electoral Reform.  The ERRE Committee is reaching out to Canadians in a variety of ways, both online and off.  One of the most important pieces of the process ought to be the ERRE Committee’s Cross Canada tour so they can consult with ordinary Canadians face to face.
Bardish Chagger in Waterloo
This is a natural part of any consultation process.  Earlier in the year I was the photographer for all 5 Fair Vote Waterloo delegations to the Waterloo Region MPs elected in 2015.  Fair Vote asked each Liberal MP to do what they could to bring the Electoral Reform Committee to Waterloo Region.  So I was surprised when I saw that Waterloo Region was not included on the itinerary the ERRE Committee had set out for the real world part of the consultation.

Some of my Fair Vote friends have suggested Waterloo Region might have been omitted because their group is so active here.  After all, Waterloo Region might even be considered responsible for the fact the Federal Government is holding an Electoral Reform Consultation at all.

As the Honorable Bardish Chagger wrote,

The Liberal Party electoral reform policy plank, which received wide spread support from Liberals across the nation, originated right here in the Waterloo Region as a grass roots initiative within the Liberal Party Membership. It was one of my proudest accomplishments, as the past president of the Waterloo Federal Liberal Association, to work with a team of fellow volunteers dedicated to electoral reform.

I can understand why the ERRE Committee wishes to to seek out and consult with Canadians who are not as well informed about electoral reform issues as some Waterloo Region residents are, but I see no good reason for the ERRE Committe to avoid ordinary Canadians who do have some understanding of the issue.  Isn’t the point of a Parliamentary Consultation to consult with all Canadians, to find out what Canadians might want from electoral reform — even those who might already know what they hope for from electoral reform?

That is worrisome.

But even more worrisome is the proposed ERRE Committee Itinerary.

ERRE Cross Canada Consultation

Ontario Population: 13.6 million (January 1, 2014)
1. Toronto

Québec
Population: 8.215 million  (July 1st, 2014)
1. Québec, Québec
2. Joliette, Québec
3.  Montréal, Québec

British Columbia
Population: 4.631 million  (Jul 1, 2014)
1. Victoria, British Columbia
2. Vancouver, British Columbia

Alberta
Population: 4.146 million  (Oct 1, 2014)
1. Leduc, Alberta

Manitoba
Population: 1.282 million  (Jul 1, 2014)
1. St-Pierre-Jolys, Manitoba
2. Winnipeg, Manitoba

Saskatchewan
Population: 1.13  million  (Oct 1, 2014)
1. Regina, Saskatchewan

Nova Scotia
Population: 942,926 (Apr 1, 2015)
1. Halifax, Nova Scotia

New Brunswick
Population: 753,914       (July 1st, 2014)
Fredericton, New Brunswick

Newfoundland and Labrador
Population: 526,977       (July 1st, 2014)
1. St. John’s, Newfoundland

Prince Edward Island
Population: 146,283        (July 1st, 2014)
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

Nunavut
Population: 37,174    (est Jan. 1, 2016)
1. Iqaluit, Nunavut

Northwest  Territories
Population: 44,291   (est Jan. 1, 2016)
1. Yellowknife, Northwest Territories

Yukon
Population: 37,193   (est Jan. 1, 2016)
1. Whitehorse, Yukon

Fairness

I have no problem at all with this Parliamentary cross Canada Consultation stopping once in Nunavut, twice in B.C and Manitoba, or even 3 times in Québec. The point is to consult with Canadians across the country.

What I simply can not understand is how the ERRE committee can limit its itinerary to a single stop in the most populous province, Ontario.


back to #ERRE #Q Meetings & Transcripts

Ahead to The Poll’s The Thing

Proportional Representation Series So Far:

• Proportional Representation for Canada
• What’s so bad about First Past The Post
• Democracy Primer
• Working for Democracy
• The Popular Vote
• Why Don’t We Have PR Already?
• Stability
• Why No Referendum?
• Electoral System Roundup
• When Canadians Learn about PR with CGP Grey
• Entitlement
• Proportional Representation vs. Alternative Vote
• #ERRÉ #Q Committee
• #ERRÉ #Q Meetings & Transcripts
• Take The Poll ~ #ERRÉ #Q
Proportionality #ERRÉ #Q 
• The Poll’s The Thing 
• DIY Electoral Reform Info Sessions
• What WE Can Do for ERRÉ
• #ERRÉ today and Gone Tomorrow (…er, Friday)
• Redistricting Roulette 
• #ERRÉ submission Deadline TONIGHT!
#ERRÉ Submission by Laurel L. Russwurm
• The Promise: “We will make every vote count” #ERRÉ
FVC: Consultations Provide Strong Mandate for Proportional Representation #ERRÉ
PEI picks Proportional Representation
There is only one way to make every vote count #ERRÉ
Canada is Ready 4 Proportional Representation
Sign the Petition e-616
#ProportionalRepresentation Spin Cycle ~ #ERRÉ
• International Women’s Day 2017 ~ #IWD
• An Open Letter to ERRÉ Committee Liberals

and don’t forget to check out the PR4Canada Resources page!

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