The trial of Gerald Stanley for the shooting of Colten Boushie was, in a sense, a “dull”, very simple, single-issue trial.
It wasn’t a “who dunnit”, there was no quarrel over the basic facts and the legal issues – differentiating murder, from manslaughter, from a not guilty verdict – were straight-forward.
Why then the publicity and the national attention? Because a white man was acquitted of shooting an aboriginal man, and the jury pool and selection process resulted in no aboriginal jurors.
Dealing with the latter, and the concept of “stand asides”, about 30 years ago a man was twice convicted of assaulting women (R v Biddle). In each case the Crown made certain, through its use of the “stand asides”, that the juries were all-female. Such a manipulation of the jury selection process was eventually found to be an abuse by the Supreme Court of Canada in the case of R v Bain – and Parliament amended the process.
However, as pointed out, in a subsequent inquiry, Justice Iacobucci determined that there were still problems – but this time due to the jury pool systems created by the Provinces, which result in juries that often do not reflect the demographics of where the jury trial is taking place.
That on-going problem is serious and should be discussed and corrected.
As for the facts of this case: as stated, as a murder case, the case was straight-forward and focussed on the sole issue of the accused’s intent. An intent that the law requires the Crown to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.
It is not that every attempted theft ought to lead to a death. That was never the issue – and for the Toronto Star’s Shree Paradkar to allege that it was, is to deceive the readers as to what this murder trial was about. And what it was not, was a trial of ethics. What it was, was a trial in which the Crown was required to prove the accused’s intent to murder – and any doubt had to benefit Mr. Stanley.
Returning to the jury selection process; to extrapolate from what was a very real issue – being the need to reform the jury system – into declaring, as Shree Paradkar did, that this is a “national shame” that should “shake you to the core” and makes Battleford, Saskatchewan and Canada the equivalent of “1950’s America” shows an outrageous ignorance of the Charter concepts of the presumption of innocence, and the Crown’s onus of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Furthermore, it is a remarkably sweeping insult of all 12 jurors: effectively saying that they deliberately ignored their oaths, the legal concepts, and the judge’s admonitions – and insinuates that they were hell-bent on acquitting a white man solely because he was white and because the victim was indigenous, and that they were all unrepentant racists.
Such assumptions – without one iota of proof or any respected academic study of this jury – have absolutely no validity in fact, in law, in common sense or in social science.
Nobody claims that the criminal justice system is perfect. It needs improvement, but the writing of such an inflammatory and baseless article serves no useful service.