BATTLEFORD, Sask. — Family members of a Cree man shot and killed on a Saskatchewan farm say they are upset no visibly Indigenous people were chosen as jurors to oversee the murder trial.
A jury pool of over 200 people showed up Monday in Battleford, Sask., and 12 were chosen to determine the guilt or innocence of Gerald Stanley.
Stanley, 56, was formally arraigned on a charge of second-degree murder and pleaded not guilty before jury selection began.
Colten Boushie was 22 when an SUV that he was a passenger in drove onto a farm near Biggar, Sask., on Aug. 9, 2016. An altercation ensued and Boushie, from the Red Pheasant First Nation, was shot and killed.
In the end, seven women and five men were chosen for the three-week trial as well as two alternates.
A lot of my family didn't come today because they already felt that a decision had been made.Jade Tootoosis
During the selection process, a number of both middle-aged white men and visible minorities were rejected.
"A lot of my family didn't come today because they already felt that a decision had been made and I came with hopes that it would be different," said Jade Tootoosis, who is Boushie's cousin.
"It was really difficult to sit there today and watch every single, visible Indigenous person be challenged by the defence. It's not surprising but extremely frustrating and it's something that we feared has come true."
Stanley's lawyer released a statement on the weekend urging potential jurors to keep an open mind.
"Despite any online comments or media stories, Gerry's trial is not a referendum on racism. If jurors feel that they have to pick a 'side,' then it will be very difficult for there to be a fair trial," said defence counsel Scott Spencer.
"Unfortunately, racial tensions existed in Saskatchewan, and across Canada, before the Boushie tragedy and they continue today."
Spencer said the rest of Canada will be watching Saskatchewan closely over the next couple of weeks, noting how participants conduct themselves during the trial. But he said one fact shouldn't be forgotten.
"A young man lost his life. That was, and remains, a terrible tragedy."
Saskatchewan's Chief Justice Martel Popescul, who is presiding over the trial, told the jury they can only consider evidence presented in court.
A young man lost his life. That was, and remains, a terrible tragedy.Defence lawyer Scott Spencer
"It's probably fair to say that this case has attracted some considerable attention in the media but again I say anything you have heard or seen in the media is not evidence and you must disregard it completely," Popescul said.
He also noted that Stanley is presumed to be innocent until the Crown has proven his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
"There is no burden on Mr. Stanley to prove that he is innocent. He does not have to prove anything," Popescul said.
"A reasonable doubt is not an imaginary or frivolous doubt. It is not based on sympathy or prejudice against anyone involved in these proceedings. You must not find Mr. Stanley guilty unless you are sure he is guilty. Even if you believe Mr. Stanley is probably guilty, or likely guilty, that is not sufficient."