A Saskatchewan restaurant worker has been fired for posting hateful comments about Colten Boushie online.
“Boston Pizza Meadow Lake does not condone nor share the viewpoints of this former employee in any way,” the company said on Facebook Saturday.
“We are offended by this hatred, and value our employees and community.”
A second national company has also distanced itself from racism being spewed online.
“We are shocked by the comment posted by someone posing as an employee of Lilydale,” said Daniele Dufour of Sofina Foods Inc.
“We quickly reached out to Facebook to investigate this and have received confirmation from Facebook that the account created to post the comment was fake and has been since closed by Facebook.”
The comment threatening violence was sent to friends and family members of Boushie, a 22-year-old Cree youth that was fatally shot on the Gerald Stanley farm near Biggar, Sask., in Aug. 2016.
Stanley, who is not Indigenous, was charged with second-degree murder and found not guilty in a jury trial that concluded last Friday.
The acquittal seemed to inflame racist tensions in the Prairie province and across Canada.
“Naming racism for what it is in this country is essential to any potential there is in moving forward collectively,” said Ryan McMahon, an Indigenous comedian and broadcaster who noticed a spike in offensive and threatening comments throughout the weekend.
“If you’re too afraid to name racism as a fundamental piece to Canadian history then there is no way in hell you are ready to have a conversation about reconciliation or the potential of creating a better future for this country.”
McMahon and other members of the group known unofficially as ‘Native Twitter’ were calling on non-Indigenous allies throughout the weekend to help diffuse the hate.
“As a white settler my hope is that other white people can use the list to identify people who are backing (Stanley),” said Bryan DePuy, who has posted a list on Twitter of donors to Stanley’s GoFundMe page.
“They deserve to be called out so other people in their lives can clearly recognize their racism. I hope that white people who know some of the individual donors will confront them and challenge their views.”
The list has helped people like Kerri Wiebe and Miranda Dyck identify donors and contact their employers to “publicly call out their racism and boycott their businesses.”
“People are tired of nameless and faceless trolls,” said Wiebe of the ‘name and shame’ campaign.
“People have to be held accountable for what they say and who they say it to.”
Dyck said it was “beyond belief” to see a campaign “financially reward” Stanley.
“I wanted to know who these people are and how they could do this,” she said.
Dupuy said their action has struck a nerve.
“Donors are angry to be called out,” he said.
Indigenous rights activist Gerald McIvor was busy throughout the weekend and Monday urging victims to save screen shots of unwanted posts.
“We will organize and give all that evidence to a lawyer or team of lawyers and a national human rights complaint filed against everyone who posted their racism and hatred,” he told APTN News.
“Let us use their colonial rights and freedom protections against them. Do not stoop to their level of violence. Do not respond to threats with more threats. Just tolerate it but save the evidence. We can and will win this if we unite and strategize.”
The RCMP in Saskatchewan wouldn’t comment on the likelihood of that, but McIvor said he noticed an “explosion of racist and hate-filled commentary” since the jury delivered its controversial verdict.
Cree lawyer Janice Makokis was part of a team that presented a comprehensive report about racism against Indigenous peoples in the media here in Canada to the United Nations.
She kept an eye on the trial and was “not surprised” by the racist reaction.
“As someone who has been involved in organizing through the Idle No More network…you get to know the institutional structures and how they operate to promote and maintain this image of Indigenous people,” she said in a telephone interview Monday.
That negative, often stereotypical, image is usually challenged online but Makokis says it’s new to see economic consequences.
“It makes me feel better as somebody who’s experienced online hate and death threats myself…that employers are looking at hateful comments or messaging,” she said.
She said it can be tough to shut down racism online because popular social media sites are usually headquartered outside Canada making them exempt from hate and privacy laws.
Complaints have been filed with GoFundMe, an American site raising money for Stanley’s family started by a Saskatchewan group called “Farmers With Firearms.
But spokesperson Rachel Hollis told APTN the campaign “does not violate” the company’s terms of service and will remain up.
There is also a GoFundMe site raising money for the Boushie family.