OTTAWA, ON– The Indigenous Bar Association (‘IBA’) expresses outrage at the acquittal of Peter Khill in the death of Jon Styres, a Six Nations member. The IBA also extends its sympathy and stands in solidarity with the Six Nations community and the Styres family.
Khill’s not guilty verdict in Styre’s death is part of a series of verdicts that demonstrate systemic bias made by Canadian courts in regards to Indigenous people. Khill was charged with second-degree murder and testified that he believed his life was in danger when he interrupted Styres, while he was allegedly attempting to steal his truck in his Hamilton driveway. Khill believed Styres had a gun and as such argued that he was acting in self-defence when he discharged two shotgun blasts which resulted in Styres’ death. This is one example among many that Canada’s justice system, and in-particular the jury system, is sending to the Indigenous community— that Indigenous people’s lives are expendable and unworthy of fundamental protections afforded to others because of race.
The IBA’s President, Scott Robertson, a Six Nations member says, “it feels like every time Canada takes one step forward in its relationship with Indigenous people, it takes three steps back … Justice Stephen Glithero’s reliance on Khill’s military experience as justification for his actions being ‘reasonable’ is particularly concerning”.
Legal reforms are urgently needed to address systemic discrimination and bias within the justice system. The IBA recommends that legal reform must take into consideration the conclusions of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples:
The Canadian criminal justice system has failed the Aboriginal peoples of Canada—First Nations, Inuit and Metis people, on-reserve and off-, urban and rural—in all territorial and governmental jurisdictions. The principal reason for this crushing failure is the fun-damentally different world views of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people with respect to such elemental issues as the substantive content of justice and the process of achieving justice (Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, Bridging the Cultural Divide (Ottawa: Canada Communication Group, 1995) p 309).
The IBA calls on Indigenous, Federal, Provincial, Territorial and Municipal governments to immediately adopt the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action 42, which calls upon them to commit to the recognition and implementation of an Aboriginal justice system in a manner consistent with the Treaty and Aboriginal rights of Aboriginal Peoples and the Constitution Act, 1982.
The Indigenous Bar Association is a national association comprised of Indigenous lawyers (practicing and non-practicing), judges, legal academics and scholars, articling clerks and law students, including graduate and post-graduate law students. We are mandated to promote the advancement of legal and social justice for Indigenous peoples in Canada and the reform of laws and policies affecting Indigenous peoples.
For further information contact Scott Robertson, President of the Indigenous Bar Association at firstname.lastname@example.org and 705-325- 0520 or visit our website at www.indigenousbar.ca.