We’ve heard it from friends, politicians, and repeatedly from our own Prime Minister: Canada takes pride in its multiculturalism. However, this perpetuated reputation of multiculturalism, acceptance, and a “mosaic society” falls flat when we look at what occurred on August 20th, 2016, regarding the life of 22-year-old Colten Boushie. When Boushie and his friends found themselves on a road in Saskatchewan with a flat tire, they pulled over onto a nearby farm to seek help. They were subsequently shot at, and Colten was killed. Gerald Stanley, the owner of the farm, is now being charged with second-degree murder, to which he pleads not guilty. Stanley claims that he did not mean to pull the trigger, and that it was accidental. The general consensus of the situation is that this is a telltale sign of racism in Canada, as Boushie was a Cree man who was killed for no apparent reason other than his ethnicity. During the recent trial, fourteen challenges were allowed, and the defence used these challenges on every single Indigenous juror. This resulted in an all-white jury, much to the dismay of Boushie’s family, and many Canadians.
Saskatchewan, being a rural part of Canada, is quite used to seeing racism daily. According to polling done in 2015, Saskatchewan and Manitoba are the most racist provinces of Canada by a considerably large margin. As a Canadian living in Vancouver, I am fortunate enough to not have much experience with racism in my region. However, this doesn’t mean that I can automatically write our country off as an accepting and welcoming place. We have flaws that are so incredibly ingrained in our society, and it begins with the lack of respect for our Indigenous populations. According to the Canadian Institute for Identities and Migrations, a slim six per cent of people within the two provinces mentioned previously would consider Aboriginal peoples to be “very trustworthy”, and one in three people believe that the racial stereotypes surrounding these group are accurate (Smith; GlobalNews.ca).
The key to the eradication of racism in rural areas, such as that which exists within Saskatchewan and Manitoba, is education on Canada’s colonial history and the treaty partnerships between the government and First Nations peoples. These concepts must be introduced at a young age in order to foster an understanding and respectful relationship with Indigenous populations. The perpetuated stereotypes regarding Indigenous peoples are a byproduct of inevitable Eurocentric views that have remained as time has gone by. As a country of immigrants, it’s crucial that we are able to understand and recognize that we have not only taken this land from the people who had it first, but that in the process, immigrants have also killed Indigenous populations, taken advantage of them, and discriminated against them heavily. The reality of our country is that it is tainted with social inequalities and injustices, much like any other country in the world. It is only respect, education, understanding, and recognition that has the ability to change it.
Friesen, Joe. “Family Upset as Jury Selected for Colten Boushie Trial.” The Globe and Mail, The Globe and Mail, 29 Jan. 2018, www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/familys-hopes-dashed-as-majority-white-jury-selected-for-boushie-murder-trial/article37784480/.
Friesen, Joe. “Trial Begins for Death of Colten Boushie, a Killing That Exposed Racial Divide in Saskatchewan.” The Globe and Mail, The Globe and Mail, 29 Jan. 2018, www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/trial-begins-for-death-of-colten-boushie-a-killing-that-exposed-racial-divide-in-saskatchewan/article37763962/.
News, CBC. “Treaty Education Key to Ending Racism in Sask., Says New Commissioner.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 2 Feb. 2018, www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/mary-culbertson-treaty-education-racism-saskatchewan-1.4516869.
Smith, Kim. “Bleak Picture Painted of Racism in Saskatchewan.” Global News, Global News, 24 Jan. 2015, globalnews.ca/news/1790493/1790493/.
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Our thoughts are with those who are continually impacted by prejudices and stereotypes that wound, scar, and often take the lives of innocent people. Globally, people are being terrorized, assaulted, withheld, and broken simply because of the skin they're in, the religion they believe in, or how they choose to identify themselves. We hope that the leaders and citizens of countries affected will think, act and react with kindness, empathy and a sense of justice. We pledge to do the same when we are affected by events like these. We pledge to be mindful of events occurring, to be grateful for our safety, to share the stories of our fellow humans, and take action wherever we can to prevent further crises from occurring.