Indigenous Bar Association seeks immediate protection of all indigenous peoples

OTTAWA – The Indigenous Bar Association (IBA) today expressed its outrage with the systemic racism within the justice system, particularly the jury selection process that allowed injustices to go unanswered in the death of Colten Boushie. The IBA also expresses its sincere condolences to the Boushie family and to the Red Pheasant First Nation for the loss of Colten Boushie.

The structure of Canada/s legal system has failed Colten Boushie, his family and Canada. A process built on ongoing colonialism and the continued oppression of Indigenous Peoples must end. Canada, as a bastion of equality and a beacon of human rights, must move beyond its racist and colonialist roots, not just for the Boushie family, not just for Red Pheasant First Nation, not just for Indigenous Peoples, but for Canada.

The ongoing reality is Canada remains a dangerous place to live if you are an Indigenous person.

A long history of commissions, reports and critical scholarship have underscored this stark reality, including the Manitoba Justice Inquiry, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, Justice Iacobucci’s Report entitled, First Nation Representation on Ontario Juries, the Commission of Inquiry into the death of Dudley George, the Commission of Inquiry into the death of Neil Stonechild, the Royal Commission on the Wrongful Conviction of Donald Marshall Jr., the current Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry, and the Report of the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. When is it enough? When does the consciousness of all Canadians awaken and move to action to implement much needed change?

This breadth of study and independent research continually calls on governments, lawyers, judges and police services to recognize Indigenous legal traditions, to obtain cultural competency training about Indigenous culture, history, societal and family structures. Reforms are needed to address the systemic racism which pervades the entire criminal justice system, from police services to the jury system.

Reconciliation should not perpetuate the historical power imbalance whereby Indigenous People’s lives are reduced to the point where the state can justify their extinguishment. This was certainly not the intent of the Nation-to-Nation agreements which form the basis of Canada’s creation nor is this an implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was endorsed by Canada without qualification in 2016, with a promise of full implementation in Canadian law.

In response to this latest tragedy the IBA calls on Indigenous, Federal, Provincial, Territorial and Municipal governments to immediately adopt those calls to action as set out in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which provide for the recognition and implementation of Aboriginal justice systems in a manner consistent with the Treaty and Aboriginal rights of Aboriginal peoples, the Constitution Act, 1982.

It is time for a meaningful recalibration of the relationship where Indigenous Peoples are respected and protected in order to pursue and express our own self-determination so that senseless deaths, such as Colten Boushie’s, can be avoided in the future.

The IBA is a national association comprised of Indigenous (First Nations, Inuit and Metis) lawyers, legal academics, elders, articling clerks and law students, including graduate and post- graduate law students. The IBA is a not-for-profit federal corporation mandated, amongst other things, to promote the advancement of legal and social justice for Indigenous peoples in Canada, as well as the reform of laws and policies affecting Indigenous peoples.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: contact Scott Robertson, President of the Indigenous Bar Association