Colten Boushie’s mother, Debbie Baptiste, knows her son would be proud of the work they have done to acknowledge how their family was treated by the RCMP after he was killed.
“If Colten could hear me now he’d be proud that we continued fighting and we never gave up,” Baptiste said during a CBC live stream to discuss a Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC) report.
“I did not deserve to be treated the way I was treated. And for the RCMP to clear themselves of wrongdoing shows the injustice that continues.”
The RCMP’s internal report on the situation initially found no missteps in how they treated Boushie’s family after he was killed. An independent report by the CRCC — requested by Baptiste’s brother and Boushie’s uncle, Alvin Baptiste — found otherwise. The report found the RCMP acted in a discriminatory way toward Debbie Baptiste.
“Debbie Baptiste and her family were treated with discrimination the night that her her son was killed,” said Eleanore Sunchild, the family’s lawyer, referring to Aug. 9, 2016. “The RCMP surrounded her trailer, went into her trailer without a warrant and searched her house illegally.
“When she fell to the floor after they told her her son was dead, they had the nerve to smell her breath.”
The RCMP also told her to “get it together,” something Chief Robert Cameron of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) deemed inappropriate.
“No one can ‘get it together,’ ” said Cameron. “It takes many, many years to get it together.”
Cameron began his speech by asking the audience to imagine the emotions a mother would experience after being told her son was killed.
Chris Murphy, another lawyer speaking about the report, believes the RCMP does not fully understand the impact of their actions and this report on Debbie Baptiste and her family.
“From the beginning of this investigation we have attempted to talk to and meet with the RCMP to convey to them what Debbie has felt for the last five years and it was like banging our heads against a brick wall for five years,” said Murphy.
Boushie died of a gunshot wound fired when a group of friends drove onto farmland and a confrontation ensued. A Saskatchewan farmer was found not-guilty of killing Boushie.
The National Police Federation, the union that represents RCMP members, issued a statement disagreeing with the findings in the CRCC report.
“The CRCC report unconditionally accepts the Boushie family’s assertion of discrimination in the officers’ conduct related to the notification of Mr. Boushie’s mother, Ms. Baptiste, of his death,” read part of the union’s statement.
“The Commission outright discards the records and reports of seven attending officers who indicated they both felt and demonstrated compassion and respect toward Ms. Baptiste on the loss of her son.”
According to the Saskatoon StarPhoenix, RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki disagreed with only one part of the report. She believes the way the RCMP surrounded Debbie Baptiste’s home on Red Pheasant Cree Nation was acceptable.
To Cameron the answer is immediate, fundamental change, otherwise more Indigenous people are going to feel what Baptiste feels.
“We can’t wait another six months or a year because we’re going to lose more of our First Nations people to the justice system,” Cameron said.
While Baptiste mourns the loss of her son, she also thinks about the future generations.
“I refuse for my grandchildren to have to live in fear of the RCMP for our justice system that doesn’t exist for the natives,” Baptiste said.
“Change is called now. We are tired of waiting.”