The Liberal government is planning a “broad-based review” of the criminal justice system after an all-white jury delivered a not-guilty verdict in the shooting death of Colten Boushie.
Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said the review will include peremptory challenges, which allow Crown and defence lawyers to reject potential jurors without stating a reason.
The jury acquitted Gerald Stanley – a white Saskatchewan farmer – in the death of the 22-year-old Cree youth on Friday. Critics say the defense team used its set of peremptory challenges to strike out Indigenous people from the jury pool.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Indigenous people are “significantly underrepresented” in jury pools, but overrepresented in prisons.
“We have a problem. We have much we need to do together to fix the system in the spirit of reconciliation,” he said during question period in the House of Commons on Monday. “That’s exactly what we’re going to be doing.”
NDP MP Charlie Angus called on the Liberals to cut the platitudes and fix the “huge legal inequity” that Indigenous peoples face.
“When the justice system fails an individual, there’s appeals, there’s legal precedence,” he said. “But when justice fails a people, it is incumbent upon leaders to take a stand because, let’s be clear, this system didn’t just fail Colten Boushie. This system has failed Indigenous people all the way back to Poundmaker and it has to stop.”
Angus was referring to Chief Poundmaker who was convicted of treason following the North-West Rebellion in 1885. He died just over a year later despite professing his innocence.
Wilson-Raybould and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale are scheduled to meet with the Boushie family and the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations on Tuesday.