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Legal and systemic issues left unexamined in Stanley trial – Policy Options

The trial about Colten Boushie’s death exposed flaws in the criminal trial process and the justice system, including a reluctance to consider racism.

In many ways, I am inherently made and professionally paid to witness what the Stanley trial verdict in February 2018 revealed about the justice system, criminal trials and the place of Indigenous people and history within them. I am a writer, a lawyer and an instructor. I am also a Métis woman from Saskatchewan. When the jury’s decision to acquit Gerald Stanley was released, I ached. I had rules of evidence in my head, professional experiences in my memory, glimmers of a quiet confidence spurred by news reports. But the result seemed like an admonishment of my naiveté. Given the racism that plagues my home province, it was as if the acquittal was my slap back into what I might call “reality.”

Despite what I had learned and what I teach about criminal procedure, evidence and legal standards, so many things I was learning about the Stanley trial appeared to run contrary to the basic tenets of those subjects. After getting off the phone with my mom in Saskatoon, I reached out to people who, like me, worked in areas I knew were part of the larger story of R. v. Stanley. They included lawyers and scholars. How were they doing? What reaction did they have? What was their response when they were, like me, trained as lawyers and aware that a trial’s result might not go your way, while employed to openly analyze reasons why trials go whatever way they do? And were they, like me, leaning to the view that the trial did not seem to illustrate the rule of law in ways that we knew it?

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