Last week's news placed Gerald Stanley under the noses of the nation's incredulous. Accused of manslaughter in the death of Coulten Boushie, for what seemed a tipping point, I gather most folks are waiting until it all blows over without any favourable chances of justice for the Boushie family. Everything I learned in Sociology confirms the reality of racialisation of a people almost wiped out of existence as a consequence of genocidal actions of ruling institutions. Assisted by the RCMP, Catholic, United, and Anglican Churches established their isolated Indian Residential Schools as tools to systematically erase a culture. With brutal physical and sexual abuse children and teenagers were forced into a daily routine of scrubbing walls with bleach (Wagamese p-44) amounting to an enduring symbol of identity replacement with a foreign ideology.
Canadian society's perspective of Coulten Boushie as an irresponsible drunk who trespassed on a white man's property is a typical scenario that has been historically and legally normalised since colonialism to justify the lethal response. The difference in this case was a flat tire in need of repair. Our government created a legal system written in favour of the white man's superiority and his interests - a strategy that has segregated indigenous people into marginalised depravity. With a history of human rights violation before the courts none of this mattered to the all-white presiding jury. So, even if the law offices of the Canadian government are ordered to make the necessary changes to the way they treat indigenous peoples it would be a rewrite of the books and who would pay for that? Besides, how would this exercise benefit the white privileged who hold all the power?
If you look at the linguistics of this situation, Stanley, who presents as your stable white hetero-social regular Home Depot customer, a clean-cut hardworking farm owner representing normalised tool and gun buyers, and a sure part of the white male collective certainly doesn't fit the criminal profile. Aside from the fact, of a news column misspelling Boushie's name it could be "Bosch" for all anybody cares - a name for a machine tool of lesser known reputation and obviously inferiorly foreign. Gerald Stanley lives in a community that would condone gun ownership because police would never arrive in time to save farm owners from threats to them and their property. We consider Stanley's response of this magnitude reasonable only if we don't recognise the underlying moral panic which is also at the root of the American mindset around gun ownership. However, we must give Stanley the right to defend himself even if we are ignorant of the extent of the danger facing him. Were there any verbal exchanges, questions or communication signals during this daytime encounter? Were the invaders ever threatening, or did they try to break into his house? Stanley reserved entitlement to carry and discharge a gun for this situation but was he aware of the potential of his weapon to bring down another human being? I cannot fathom ignorance of that. Since guns are perceived as the ultimate defence and the most dependable, even as we hail innocence on Stanley himself, the accused is not only acquitted but is exonerated for his bravery. Regrettably, the bias in Canada's so-called rule of law favours the white-skinned and ignores the injustice of poverty and the deep fears aboriginals must experience.©
Wagamese, Richard. 2012. Indian Horse. Douglas & McIntyre.
Photo by Erika Wittlieb