An independent watchdog report has determined that the RCMP discriminated against the family of Colten Boushie following his death and also expressed that there were missteps in evidence handling.
The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission report was started in response to allegations of discrimination following Boushie’s death in 2016. Boushie, then 22 and from the Red Pheasant First Nation, was fatally shot after he and four others drove onto the property of Gerald Stanley near Biggar.
During an altercation, Boushie, who was still inside the vehicle at the time, was shot. Stanley was charged with second-degree murder but acquitted in 2018, testifying that he had fired warning shots and that the gun “just went off” at the time Boushie was struck.
Officers questioned Boushie’s mother’s sobriety, mishandled vehicle and body, report finds
In the report by the CRCC, they found that while the RCMP, for the most part, conducted a thorough and fair investigation, they raised questions about how officers handled themselves working with the family.
The report found that when officers went to the home of Boushie’s mother Debbie Baptiste, they made several derogatory remarks. The allegations include officers telling the mother to “get it together” when she collapsed upon learning of her son’s death, questioning her sobriety, smelling her breath for alcohol and also looking inside her microwave to verify her statement that she had put her now-deceased son’s dinner there.
The CRCC report also found that police had visited Boushie’s wake, contributing to a further deterioration of the RCMP’s relationship with the family.
The report also found that officers did not properly cover the vehicle Boushie was shot in and took an unreasonable time to get a search warrant of the area, leading to important blood evidence being lost due to bad weather.
Family, First Nations Organizations, RCMP and Union respond
On March 22nd, both the family of Colten Boushie and their representatives responded to the CRCC report.
Eleanore Sunchild, a lawyer for Debbie Baptiste, stated of the RCMP’s actions that ” if that doesn’t speak of discrimination and racism, I don’t know what does.”
She also pointed to the commission’s finding that initial police reports about the death mostly focused on alleged property crimes instead of a homicide investigation, stating that opened the family to attacks by the public.
Sunchild also noted that since the CRCC made their findings public this weekend, a barrage of hatred has been thrown the family’s way.
Chris Murphy, another lawyer for the family, also expressed concern about the actions the RCMP took after the fact to address root issues.
While the RCMP said over the weekend as well that they had already implemented 16 of the 17 findings in the report since they received it, and Public Safety Minister Bill Blair has said that all officers will need to complete mandatory cultural awareness training by April 1, Murphy says this was not enough.
Murphy pointed to the statement from the National Police Federation, a union for front-line RCMP officers, that questioned the report’s findings of discrimination. Murphy says watching anti-racism videos doesn’t do the job, and that the RCMP must make changes, either from the top up or bottom up.
Chief Perry Bellegarde with the Assembly of First Nations said the RCMP should make changes in terms of oversight and in member recruitment.
Also during the Monday conference, Baptiste rose to speak, saying that the experience hurt her family heavily, but from the support of the Indigenous community, they fought for this justice and will continue to fight.