It’s hard to put into words the emotions I feel over the Colten Boushie case. Although I cannot help but feeling that we’ve been here before, this time is different. With Colten, I see me. I see my friends. I see any youth who walked the fine line between right and wrong. If we evaluate this case at face value and remove race, the facts are simple. Gerald Stanley is responsible for the death of Colten Boushie. Mr. Stanley intentionally armed himself and he intentionally put the bullets into the gun. Mr. Stanley admittedly pointed the gun at the back of Colten’s head. The trigger was pulled and anything and everything that Colten could have been will never be. Mr. Stanley is responsible for that; Colten’s death is on his hands.
When we add Colten’s indigeneity to the equation, it only complicates the situation that much more. I want to make this clear, I believe that racism was the determining factor in whether Colten lived or died. I believe that racism was the determining factor in how the RCMP handled the case. I also believe that racism was the determining factor in the verdict. Canada has a racism problem. It is hidden in society’s veil of ignorance. Veil, in this case, refers to Canada’s claim to diversity. While Canadians may be diverse in skin colour and country of origin, that diversity could be a burden when understanding racism and its relationship with Indigenous people. How can an individual understand racism when they don’t know the subtleties of it? How can an individual understand Canadian racism when they don’t know the history of it? Citizens have been conditioned to view Indigenous people as less than long before 1867. Those views have been reaffirmed by racist and restrictive policy and reinforced by laws. Look no further than the evolution of the Indian Act.
My first experience of racism occurred when I was six years old. I was raised in an urban environment in a relatively big city. In a class discussion, the teacher proposed the question, “What are you going to be when you grow up?”. All students responded with obvious answers like a teacher, doctor, or police officer and my response was relatively similar. However, after informing the classmates and teacher of my career choice, her response was simple and her view of me was clear. She said, “You’ll probably drink lots”. I was six years old. While I laughed it off, it left me puzzled. Her view of me and who I would be, has stuck with me all this time. It wasn’t until much later that I realized what she meant. It wasn’t until I became aware of the struggle some indigenous people have with substance abuse that it all became clear. It hit me like a ton of bricks. After that realization, I began to experience racism on a regular basis. Instead of talking it out, fists became my words and anger was my story.
Racism as a societal construct of bias has always been a part our narrative. It is those lived experiences that have shaped our realities. It is those racist or discriminatory subtleties that often go missed. However, it is also those experiences that have united us. Our stories are unique and Colten is the mirror of many images I have encountered in my life. Colten is my son; young, careless, and free. He wore his indigeneity like a badge of honour. However, what an indigenous person interprets as an honour society often mistakes it for a target.
His name was Colten. He was 22 years of age. Gerald Stanley took his life, but racism killed him. So as the Boushie family grieves for the loss of their son, I want them to know that history will remember his name. Colten will be the catalyst for change.