In a divided courtroom, 1st day of Gerald Stanley preliminary hearing wraps up

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In a divided courtroom, 1st day of Gerald Stanley preliminary hearing wraps up

The families of accused murderer Gerald Stanley and victim Colten Boushie both say they're after only one thing — the truth.

"That's all they want at the end of the day," Boushie family lawyer, Chris Murphy, said outside North Battleford provincial court Monday during a break in Stanley's second-degree murder preliminary hearing.

"Let's get the evidence out. We can make decisions at that point," Stanley lawyer Scott Spencer told reporters. "That's a responsible way to deal with what was clearly a tragedy."

The case has become a metaphor for race relations in the province.

History is top of mind for many, particularly in the Battlefords region.

The region is site of key battles in the 1885 Resistance, as well as one of the largest mass hangings in Canadian history. 

It's home to First Nations rights icon John B. Tootoosis and renowned Cree painter Allen Sapp, whose work is on display next door to the courthouse. Tootoosis, from the Poundmaker First Nation, is the founder of what is now the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations. 

In the hours and days following Boushie's death last August, social media exploded with rumours of all kinds. Vitriolic posts wished violence on Boushie's friends and First Nations people in general.

A steak night was held to support Stanley's defence fund. 

Recently, the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities voted nearly unanimously to lobby the federal government for more latitude to defend themselves and their property. 

The motion drew condemnation from the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, which accused the rural association of harbouring violent intentions when introducing the motion.

SARM denied there were any violent intentions — association president Ray Orb said rural residents and farmers simply want to defend themselves properly. 

Provincial Justice Minister Gordon Wyant quickly shot down the idea, stating the solution was policing and community programming. 

North Battleford Mayor Ryan Bater and others have said there is much work to do, but reconciliation will improve things for everyone.

A divided courtroom

In court, Stanley's supporters filed in and sat to the left, Boushie friends and family members to the right. No one from either side spoke, nodded or looked over during the tense, emotional day.

Stanley had left his earlier bail hearing with an orange hoodie obscuring most of his face, but he walked in and out of court Monday past a throng of reporters.

He showed no visible emotion and declined comment, as did Boushie's mother, Debbie Baptiste.

Although the public is free to attend, contents of preliminary hearings are subject to publication bans.

At its conclusion, Judge Bruce Bauer will decide whether there's enough evidence to order a full trial.

The preliminary hearing continues Tuesday and is expected to last to the end of the week.