Fear and Distrust in Rural Saskatchewan

On March 14th, a resolution was overwhelmingly passed by delegates to the annual convention of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) that calls for the federal government to expand self-defence laws.

According to a CBC report, “The resolution argues Saskatchewan residents do not have the rights they need to protect themselves or their property, in the wake of increased concerns over rural crime.”

The report further quotes Lionel Story, a councillor in the R.M. of Kindersley, where the resolution originated, as saying that the resolution was not inspired by the shooting death of Colten Boushie.  Many who know the history of the tensions between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in the area are not easily convinced.

Twenty-two-old Colten Boushie, a member of the Red Pheasant First Nation, was shot and killed in August of last year by farmer Gerald Stanley after Boushie and four of his friends drove into Stanley’s yard with a flat tire and two of the men tried to make off with one of Stanley’s vehicles.  The incident resulted in Boushie, as he was trying to start his own vehicle, being shot once in the head by Gerald Stanley.  In November, the RCMP charged Stanley with second-degree murder.

The claim that the resolution doesn’t target Indigenous people was strongly rejected by the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations.  The FSIN said they were “shocked and disgusted at the violent intentions behind the resolution.”  FSIN Vice-Chief Kimberly Jonathon told the media, “Any strengthening of the rights of individuals to defend their property will result in an increase in violent confrontation and the death of more innocent people.”

The CBC quoted Saskatchewan Justice Minister Gordon Wyant as saying that the province would oppose legislation that would allow people to take the law into their own hands.  “The answer to addressing (rural crime),” Wyant said, “is through policing and through programming at the community level.”

The extent of the fear and distrust that exists between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in rural Saskatchewan has been brought into full view, and it would be a mistake to think that the problem is confined to rural areas only.

The hopeful news is that schools, churches and other community groups are engaged in cross-cultural education and in attempts to build positive relationships between people of the two cultures.  Senator Murray Sinclair, who chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, has said that it was a broken, ill-conceived education system that divided us over the years, and it will be an education system built on truth and good will that will bring us together.

All My Relations Network

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