Viewers unhappy with Context’s coverage of Gerald Stanley acquittal

Viewers unhappy with Context’s coverage of Gerald Stanley acquittal

By Susan Ponting

“Terrible reporting, bush league.” “You should educate yourselves.” “Can you please come to Saskatchewan to hear all sides?”

The above comments are just a few of the many passionate and heated viewer emails we received on our show about the shooting death of 22-year-old Cree man, Colten Boushie and the subsequent acquittal, by a jury of his peers, of Saskatchewan farmer Gerald Stanley.

There is a lot of conflicting information on line and in TV, radio, and newspaper reports to decipher exactly what happened on that hot August day in 2016 in North Battleford, Saskatchewan – and while jurors in the U.S. can talk about a trial once it’s over, here in Canada jurors cannot. We may never know exactly what happened – only God, the jurors, the Stanley’s, and Colten Boushie’s friends know – were there 2, 3, or 4 friends with Colten that day? I’ve read all. Is Stanley 54 or 56 – I’ve read both – did Colten have a hacked-up shotgun between his legs in the truck, again I’ve read both accounts.

Colten Boushie and his friends were 57 kms from the Red Pheasant First Nation when they drove onto the Stanley farm in a stolen truck with a flat tire. Or was it a broken muffler? I’ve read that they stole a truck on the way there – the driver admitted to drinking 30 shots of liquor before getting behind the wheel – and I’ve also read they drove on to the Stanley farm to ask for help with a flat tire, but also that they drove onto the property with a damaged muffler dragging along under the stolen truck. I’ve also read that one of the eye witnesses admitted to punching Gerald Stanley’s wife in the face. But I can only confirm that through one report from CBC Saskatchewan.

As Steve Bonspiel, editor of the Eastern Door writes on CBC’s Indigenous Opinion Page, Were Boushie’s friends wrong to drive drunk, to attempt to steal an ATV, to do some of the things they did that day? Sure, but that shouldn’t mean you can just kill one of them and get away with it. Accidental or not, using a firearm that results in the death of another man should be open and shut.”

And herein lies the title of our show, Treaty People Pain. We are all treaty people — all Canadians hold the heritage of signed treaties and like it or not, all Canadian citizens live in a covenant with First Nations, a covenant relationship bound by treaties that few of us understand or acknowledge.  We must carefully consider the title of our program in order to understand this show. What matters in the event of a tragedy like this one? Healing matters. Mending deep wounds and hearing each other out matters.

We heard from Christian and non-Christian Aboriginal people who, for decades – and since the arrival of the first settlers more than 400 years ago – have lived in conflict and pain – and, I am told by two of our producers from Regina, Saskatchewan – especially there.

In the aftermath of our show, and days that have followed since with the Tina Fontaine tragedy, Canadian discourse on Aboriginal rights has exploded like never before. As for Context coverage, many feel the rights of residents and landowners were not heard. One viewer told us we had a, “City person’s view of the situation.”

So, thank you to the guests who were on our show, and to our viewers who took the time to write us. Our team works hard on this show – seeking to find God in the stories that bind us all together.

Your emails said we blatantly missed the points of view from other residents and especially farmers – and we hear you. Our Molly Thomas and Greg Howes will be going out to Saskatchewan next week to speak with farmers, residents, and faith leaders – air date: March 6 and then on our website, and social media to follow. 

A few important points about our show last week:

We did contact Gerald Stanley’s GoFundMe page, and we were told while they would give us information by email, they would not appear on the program – understandable considering the verdict had just been announced – and, borrowing an old PR phrase, that was originally taken from basketball – some in media, and some of our government leaders went ‘full court press.’

We interviewed people directly involved in the community – and – let them tell their stories. Trial lawyer and justice issues writer for the Globe and Mail, David Butt was on the program and said in an email after the show, “I was careful to say that the verdict may well have been the correct one, but that the appearance of a white-washed jury over-shadowed the result, so that even if the verdict was correct it did not seem so. That is the great irony of the case, that the appearances white-washing the jury may have deprived Mr. Stanley of the legitimacy of the verdict he received.”

Mr. Butt went on to say, “Under-representation of First Nations people on juries is not limited to the Stanley case, but is a very wide-spread systemic problem. In 2013, retired Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci authored a comprehensive report on this problem and called it a “crisis” – very strong language indeed for a judge.  He made 17 recommendations to fix the problem, none of which were implemented: including the recommendation I spoke to in the interview about the problem with peremptory challenges being used to exclude people of one race.”

Once again, we hear you – and we’re listening, and we will report back from Saskatchewan. If you have anyone you’d like to hear from – or – anyone you recommend we speak with, please pass it along to [email protected] thank you for watching, responding, engaging.

See our blogger Dr. John Stackhouse’s story on Treaty People Pain here – In Search of Truth and Reconciliation

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