An online petition calling for a public inquiry into the shooting death of Colten Boushie has garnered thousands of signatures — but the provincial government says the incident has already been thoroughly covered during a criminal trial.
Colten Boushie, 22, was shot and killed after he and four others from the Red Pheasant Cree Nation drove onto Gerald Stanley's farm in August 2016.
In the subsequent criminal trial, Stanley, 56, testified he was trying to scare the group off and accidentally shot Boushie in the head.
The jury found Stanley not guilty of second-degree murder, igniting a firestorm of debate in the weeks that followed.
"The conditions for an inquest have been fulfilled by the criminal trial and there is nothing further to establish in this case that has not been covered by a public criminal trial," according to a statement provided by Saskatchewan's Ministry of Justice.
"We understand some people were disappointed in the verdict," the statement went on. "However, there is no indication that the jury's decision was guided by anything other than the trial evidence and the judge's instructions."
Acquittal 'enforces systemic discrimination'
The petition was launched last week on change.org by Andre Bear, an Indigenous law student at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. As of Friday, it had garnered 3,979 virtual signatures.
In the petition, Bear wrote that Stanley's acquittal "enforces systemic discrimination embedded in the legal system and has failed to uphold justice in Canada."
Bear, who is Cree and a member of the Canoe Lake First Nation, cited "the selection of an all-white jury" as a concern.
CBC News cannot verify the race of the 12 jurors selected for the trial, but at the time, the Boushie family said they were angered that Indigenous-looking jury candidates were challenged and excluded by Stanley's defence team.
"We have a right to be to be judged by or among our own peers," Bear said Friday. "If there is an Indigenous person that is [a] victim....there should be at least one Indigenous person on that jury no matter what. That is our charter right."
The federal government has now eliminated the practice of peremptory challenges, although at least one judge has since overturned that decision.
Bear's petition outlined a number of other concerns, including the "flawed" RCMP investigation (already the subject of an ongoing civilian review) and the Saskatchewan Crown's decision not to appeal the Stanley verdict.
"This had been one of the most important cases in my lifetime as a young person in this province," Bear said. "I think it's irrefutable — the fact that there was not a public inquiry that's been done. And so I'm hoping that this petition can create more awareness and keep this on the agenda."
Bear said he has the support of Boushie's mother and uncle.
"The [case] serves as just one stark example of the failure of the criminal justice system to treat Indigenous victims, offenders, and their families fairly with dignity and respect," according to Bear's petition. "The need to address it remains increasingly important to meet the Government's commitment of reconciliation."
5 Indigenous provincial judges appointed
In its statement, the Saskatchewan Ministry of Justice said five judges who have self-declared as Indigenous have been appointed to the Provincial Court of Saskatoon since January 2018, the month the Stanley trial began.
The province also cited ongoing work with the Elders Advisory Committee, which gives advice on justice-related issues and programs.
"Racism and intolerance have no place in Saskatchewan," the statement said. "We need collaborative, respectful dialogues about the issues facing our communities."
The government is working on the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that fall under provincial authority and jurisdiction.
"We know that reconciliation will require continuous and respectful engagement with Indigenous people to ensure every community's voice is heard within the justice system."
'Much work still needed': feds
Bear said his petition was also directed to the federal government.
"The death of Colten Boushie was a tragedy, and our government continues to share in the grief of the Boushie family," a statement provided Friday by the Office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada said. "We are committed to advancing reconciliation and addressing systemic issues involving Indigenous peoples and the criminal justice system."
The statement pointed to the abolishment of peremptory challenges.
"We have also worked in partnership with Indigenous communities, provinces and territories to increase the use of restorative justice programs," according to the statement.
"There is much work still needed and we are committed to continuing to make progress in partnership with Indigenous peoples. This includes working hand-in-hand with First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples on the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples."