Chauvin Trial in Canadian Context – Justice for Colten

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Justice for Colten, art by Zola.

The trial of Derek Chauvin, the officer charged in the murder of 46 year old George Floyd  began on Monday this week.

Chauvin faces a second-degree murder charge, a third-degree murder charge and a second-degree manslaughter charge.

Opening remarks were made on Monday by the Floyd family outside of the courthouse, beginning with kneeling in silence for eight minutes and 45 seconds, the amount of time Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck.

Floyd died in May 2020 after Chauvin placed his knee on Floyd’s neck while he pleaded, “I can’t breathe.”

His final moments, recorded on video, led to worldwide protests against police brutality and racism.

To localize the issues this trial has highlighted, just this past week a watchdog report on the RCMP’s mishandling of the 2016 Colten Boushie case came out to show that they destroyed records of the police communication of the responding officer’s the night of Boushie’s death.

Boushie, 22, was shot and killed after he and four others from the Red Pheasant Cree Nation drove onto Gerald Stanley’s farm near Biggar, Saskatchewan in August 2016.

The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission launched an investigation into the handling of the case by the RCMP after Boushie’s Uncle filed a complaint against them, citing improper conduct in the way they relayed the news of Colten’s death.

The CRCC determined Colten’s mother, Debbie Baptiste was discriminated against when officers told her about Boushie’s death. The police told her to get it together, asked if she was drinking and smelled her breath, the report states.

“Stanley’s family was treated entirely differently. They were treated with what I would call respect and compassion. The family of the accused in the report, Sheldon Stanley and Lisa Stanley, took a vehicle off the crime scene that they drove into the detachment to give a statement. They weren’t told not to talk about the evidence, they weren’t told not to talk about the case,” Baptiste’s lawyer said.

“Yet when you contrast that with how this family has been treated from the very start, there’s a big difference and that is systemic racism,” she said.

Stanley was acquitted of all charges against him in Colten Boushie’s death.

“This is the time that we step up now and we tell you the injustice of the racism in the courtroom, the discrimination needs to stop,” said Baptiste. “Things need to change.”

As the Chauvin trial unfolds, it is important to consider these issues in Canadian context.

“Indigenous people are treated like this all the time by the current justice system, by the RCMP and all of the parties in the justice system, who dealt with the family. They treated the family with systemic racism. They treated the family badly, all of them,” Baptiste’s lawyer shared.

The world is watching for outcome of the Chauvin trial.  The conversation is just the beginning.

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