SASKATOON – Debbie Baptiste fought in tears when she spoke publicly for the first time since a damn report about how the RCMP treated the family she shot after her son died.
“We wouldn’t be stuffed away,” Baptiste said at a media conference at the Dakota Dunes Casino and Hotel south of Saskatoon. “If Colten could hear me now, he would be proud that we kept fighting and never gave up.”
In August 2016, Colten Boushie, a 22-year-old indigenous man from the First Nation of the Red Pheasants, was shot dead on a Gerald Stanley farm. Stanley was charged with second degree murder in connection with Boushie’s death. A jury in North Battleford acquitted him.
However, concerns were raised about the police handling of Boushie’s death, and the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission is investigating the RCMP investigation.
The report, released March 20, describes how the RCMP questioned Boushie’s mother Baptiste about her sobriety, smelled her breath, and looked in her microwave to verify her testimony that she had put her son’s dinner there.
The commission found that officials told Baptist to “get together” after she collapsed on her porch after officials notified her of her son’s death.
“I don’t deserve to be treated the way I was treated and the RCMP, to get rid of wrongdoing, shows the injustice that continues and needs to change,” said Baptiste.
In response to the CRCC report, the Saskatchewan RCMP released a statement on Saturday that it will commit to implementing the report’s recommendations.
Eleanore Sunchild, attorney for the Baptiste family, said the RCMP showed a lack of compassion when they surrounded Baptiste’s trailer without a warrant and ransacked their home.
Sunchild welcomed the work of the CRCC and noted how it exposed how systemic racism dominated the narrative in this case.
“It is the family’s position that systemic racism has plagued this case since Colten was killed,” Sunchild said, adding that the RCMP’s original press release focused more on a property crime the night Boushie was killed, than the killing itself.
“That set the tone for the country to hate Debbie and her family and spit racism,” Sunchild said. “The CRCC found that the witnesses were being held inappropriately. A witness speaks about being held in a cell with Colten’s blood still on her.”
Sunchild urged the Saskatchewan government and the attorney general to investigate all of the online racism and social media hatred related to the CRCC report.
“People will keep spitting their ugly racism on this family and it has to stop.”
First Nations National Assembly chief Perry Bellegarde thanked the Baptiste family for fighting for the truth on this matter.
“This independent review clearly shows the discrimination you have suffered, it is clear the evidence is there,” Bellegarde said of Zoom.
“There are so many things that have gone wrong,” he said, citing the fact that RCMP had destroyed all of its communications the night of Boushie’s death.
According to the report, that night the Commission had requested records and transcripts of telephone calls and radio communications.
However, RCMP replied that the records had no evidential value for the investigation and had been destroyed after two years according to the guidelines for the retention of RCMP documents.
The commission said it was disappointed with this decision and noted that the family’s complaint and the complaint of the chairman of the commission had already started.
The National Police Federation (NPF) released a statement Saturday criticizing the RCMP for adopting the recommendations and questioning the watchdog’s own methodology.
“This extensive knowledge of our members – simply because they are police officers – is not constructive for reconciliation and does not even touch the real problem: the continuing lack of government investment and other support for marginalized communities, including indigenous peoples.” NPF said.
It also added that the CRCC report “is overlooking important facts and evidence” in the RCMP investigation into Boushie’s death.