(Treaty 6 Territory) – As International Chief, the current Grand Chief of the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations and based on the years of experience in the Canadian legal system, I stand beside my fellow Chiefs in Saskatchewan during these days ahead as we come to grip with what appears to be a miscarriage of justice in the Colten Boushie case.
Having chaired the previous commission on First Nations, Metis Peoples and Justice Reform in Saskatchewan, I am very disheartened by the outcome of the verdict. A decade and half ago the Commission was established following deaths of Indigenous men in what became known as the “starlight tours”. The Commission made recommendations to the Government of Saskatchewan to support and encourage First Nations and Metis people on juries with provision of resources. While some very progressive work to improve the justice system has been evident in Saskatchewan, this now brings us a giant step back to one of the reasons the commission was established. We had already made recommendations to the government to ensure access to justice on an equal basis with others.
The Calls to Action in an effort to promote reconciliation, the Truth Commission of Canada also made several calls to action for the improvement of the justice system. We called, for example, upon the federal government to develop a national plan on the criminal victimization of Indigenous peoples related to homicide.
As a former Member of Parliament, a Commissioner and now Chief, the elimination of violence in all forms and in all places has also been a personal goal of mine. As recently as August 2017, I appeared in front of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination where I addressed a disturbing pattern of violent forms of racial discrimination targeting First Nations people. From individual acts of violence, such as the shooting death of Colten Boushie in Saskatchewan to suspicious deaths and disappearances of First Nation youth in Thunder Bay, among others. The CERD in responding to our interventions called on Canada to develop a concrete action plan to implement the TRC ninety-four Calls to Action in consultation with Indigenous peoples.
We support and uplift the independence of justice institutions including Indigenous juridical systems. The international Human Rights community recently also concluded, “there can be no rule of law without access”. How many more Indigenous people have to die before the needed justice system reform happens? As Elders stated to the Commissioners during the work involved with the 2004 Saskatchewan Justice Reform Report, “We have had enough words now – what we need is positive action”. I echo their words and call upon Canada to follow their advice.
Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations