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Racism and the Gerald Stanley Jury

Put yourself in the place of the jurors in the Gerald Stanley trial. (Stanley is the Saskatchewan farmer who shot Colten Boushie, a young Indigenous man who was on Stanley’s property.) Out of a sense of civic duty, you agree to spend weeks away from your family and your regular job in order to sit on a jury. As compensation, you are given a ludicrously low payment—nowhere near minimum wage, let alone the many thousands of dollars the lawyers and judge are paid. For weeks, you listen to detailed evidence and testimony. You wrestle with what should be the proper verdict in a complex and murky case in which none of those involved is blameless. When you finally reach a verdict, the prime minister of Canada, who has not spent all that time listening to the evidence, declares that your verdict is wrong, implying that you are a racist since you are a white juror who unjustly exonerated a white defendant. Under Canadian law, you cannot even defend yourself against this very public accusation by the most powerful man in the country. And he is not alone in making the accusation.

Given all this, who in his right mind would ever agree to serve on a jury?

Racism is a serious issue, and there are significant racial tensions between Indigenous people and non-Indigenous people in Saskatchewan, as well as elsewhere in Canada. But accusing the Stanley jurors of racism just because they are white is unwarranted. Racism does not exist only among white people, and not all white people are racist.

The jurors might be racist, but none of the critics has produced any evidence of this by checking into their backgrounds and attitudes. They have just assumed it because the jurors were white. In this case, it was not the jurors who saw a complex situation only in terms of race. It was Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the other critics.

As an aside, it seems that it is not even known for sure that the jury was all white since that information is not made public. The Boushie family complained that “the jury didn’t appear to have any visibly Indigenous people.” Even if it is true that there were no Indigenous people on the jury, it does not necessarily follow that the jury members were all white. After all, Canada is a multiracial country, and some might have belonged to other races or have had mixed ancestry.

 

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