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Book about Gerald Stanley case upsets Colten Boushie’s family due to lack of consultation

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When Jade Tootoosis came across a new book about her cousin’s death, she says she felt insulted that her family was not properly consulted.  

Canadian Justice, Indigenous Injustice by Kent Roach puts “Gerald Stanley’s acquittal for killing Colten Boushie in the context of Canada’s colonial and systemic discrimination against Indigenous peoples,” according to the publisher. It was released last month, not too long before the first anniversary of the acquittal.

In August 2016, Gerald Stanley shot and killed 22-year-old Colten Boushie, an Indigenous man, in his Saskatchewan farmyard. He was charged with second-degree murder. His defence rested on a “hang fire” argument — that Boushie was accidentally killed after the gun fired late following Stanley’s warning shots.

In February 2018, a jury with no visibly Indigenous members acquitted Stanley. The verdict further stoked racial tensions in the province that had been inflamed by the case.​

“My family had no idea. We had no idea that this was happening,” Tootoosis said of the book’s release. She said she has not been able to bring herself to read the book but did tell the author she was upset about it. She said some of her family has read the book and is OK with what he has written.

“We understand that it is going to be used for educational purposes.”

Tootoosis said the family was contacted one week before the book was released.

“My family and I, we expressed a lot of our displeasure in him writing a book without consulting. We had questions of where he gathered his information from and he said that he mainly got his information from public records, such as the court transcripts.”

Tootoosis said she found the cover of Roach’s book particularly triggering.

“It’s just tough to look at and brings up a lot of hard feelings.”

The cover of the book written by Kent Roach and published by McGill-Queens University Press. (McGill-Queens University Press website )

Roach, a University of Toronto law professor, said he published the book with an academic publisher with the intent of using it for educational purposes in the classroom.

He spent eight months parsing trial transcripts and putting them into the wider context of Indigenous people’s history — particularly in the legal world — and the social context of the province, he said. He previously told CBC what qualifies as justice under Canadian law often doesn’t provide a sense of justice for Indigenous people.

“It was a deliberate decision not to contact any of the participants in the trial process … if we were going to go that way, we would have to get proper ethical permissions for dealing with human subjects,” Roach said in a new interview.

After being interviewed by CBC and hearing the concerns from the family, Roach said he is asking the McGill-Queens University Press to change the cover of the book. However, he stands by his methodology in using only public records and not consulting with the family sooner.

Control of the narrative

Seeing the book wasn’t only jarring for the family. Nickita Longman, who is a Saulteaux writer from the George Gordon First Nation in Saskatchewan, said it was “pretty unsettling” to see the first book about the case released “by a non-Indigenous author” so close to the one-year anniversary of the Gerald Stanley verdict.

Writer Nickita Longman, a Saulteaux woman from Saskatchewan, is critical of the timing of the release of Roach’s book and the lack of consultation with Colten Boushie’s family. (Nickita Longman/Facebook )

“This isn’t the first time — and it won’t be the last time — that settlers, particularly white men, control a narrative of our history,” she said. “I can’t help but feel that the way that we process pain and the way that we process our histories are very different than the way that settlers and academics and scholars and even lawyers would process it.”

She said Indigenous authors have an understanding and a sense of responsibility to their communities to tell their stories accurately and with care and respect.

“And I don’t know if that same care and respect is as much of a priority to non-Indigenous authors and reporters … so of course there’s a big need to have so many more indigenous reporters to tell our stories in these ways that are mindful and respectful to families that are grieving.”

Writing on Indigenous history

James Daschuk has dedicated more than 20 years of his life to studying and writing about Indigenous issues. He said a focus on consultation and ownership of stories was always part of his approach. The non-Indigenous associate professor at the University of Regina wrote the award-winning book Clearing the Plains, about the intentional starvation of Indigenous people on the Prairies by Sir John A. Macdonald. 

“I’m pretty conscious of, or try to be as conscious as I can, not to speak on behalf of Indigenous people, right? So I’ll be as clinical or whatever it will be, using the documentary evidence,” Daschuk said.

James Daschuk, author of Clearing the Plains, says he uses means of consent and consultation along with what he calls ‘white privilege’ to get messages of Indigenous history out to people in power. (Kendall Latimer/CBC)

Daschuk said that at times he uses his “white privilege” to assist Indigenous people to get their message to people in power or audiences they may not have access to.

“I’ve been thanked by Indigenous people for writing the book, but also for being white and writing the book, which kind of speaks to my white privilege … and somebody said, ‘Because if we wrote it, people would just say we’re complaining,'” Daschuk said. “So by being non-Indigenous I have … the veneer of impartiality.”

He said this “points to the embedded racism in our society because if you wrote the same words … you might not get the same response at all.”

Sister might read book

Tootoosis said her family understands the importance of Roach’s book and she doesn’t want to discourage people from reading it. She might read it herself in the future, but she said she’ll have a critical eye.

“I’m curious to see what he’s written, but I definitely will be taking some precautionary measures just for my well-being and that will probably be asking a few of my friends to read along with me so we’re able to process it as we go through the book.”

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‘Too soon to celebrate’ Ottawa’s low case count, says Etches

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Ottawa Public Health (OPH) logged just 11 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the lowest daily total since Sept. 1.

Because of the lag between testing and reporting, the low number could simply reflect low turnout at the city’s testing sites on weekends — all month, new case counts have been lower on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. 

During a virtual news conference Tuesday, the city’s medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches said she doesn’t read too much into a single day’s report.

“I don’t think we can make too much of 11. Actually, it could be a lot higher tomorrow — I would expect that, on average,” she said. “It’s too soon to celebrate.”

Provincewide, public health officials reported 1, 249 new cases Tuesday.

OPH also declared 62 cases resolved Tuesday, lowering the number of known active cases in the city to 462. Two more people have died, both in care homes currently experiencing outbreaks, raising the city’s COVID-19 death toll to 361. 

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Santa Claus isn’t coming to Ottawa’s major malls this year

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Santa Claus may still be coming to town this Christmas, but he won’t be dropping by any of Ottawa’s major malls, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday, Cadillac Fairview said Santa won’t be making an appearance at any of its 19 malls across Canada, including Rideau Centre in downtown Ottawa. On Tuesday, Bayshore and St. Laurent shopping centres confirmed they, too, are scrapping the annual tradition.

“Due to the evolution of the situation in regards to COVID-19, we have made the difficult decision to cancel our Santa Program and Gift Wrap Program this year,” Bayshore spokesperson Sara Macdonald wrote in an email to CBC.

Macdonald said parent company Ivanhoé Cambridge cancelled all holiday activities “due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases across the country.”

Macdonald said families that had already booked an appointment to visit Santa will receive an email with more information.  

Virtual visits with Santa

Rideau Centre said based on customer research and discussions with public health officials, its North Pole is going online this year.

“Children will be able to have a private chat with Santa,” said Craig Flannagan, vice-president of marketing for Cadillac Fairview. “You’ll also be able to join a 15-minute storytime with Santa over Facebook Live.” 

At Place d’Orléans Shopping Centre, visitors are invited to take a “selfie with Santa” — actually, a life-size cutout of Santa Pierre, the man who’s been playing Santa at the east end mall for years.

“We understand that this is not ideal, but in lieu of this tradition we will be doing what we can to maintain and encourage holiday cheer,” according to a statement on the mall’s Facebook page.

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Ottawa Bylaw breaks up two large parties in Ottawa over the weekend

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OTTAWA — Ottawa Bylaw is investigating social gatherings of more than 10 people in private homes across Ottawa last weekend.

Mayor Jim Watson tells Newstalk 580 CFRA that Ottawa Bylaw broke-up two house parties over the weekend, with 20 to 25 people at each party.

“That’s the kind of stupidity that angers me, that’s where the bulk of the transmissions are taking place, if we exclude the tragedy of the long-term care homes; it’s these house parties with unrelated people,” said Watson on Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa at Work with Leslie Roberts.

“The message doesn’t seem to be getting through, particularly to some young people who think they’re invincible.”

In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, Bylaw and Regulatory Services Director Roger Chapman says, “There are still ongoing investigations from this past weekend that could result in charges.”

Chapman says recent investigations led to two charges being issued for social gatherings of more than 10 people in a private residence in contravention of the Reopening Ontario Act.

“In one case, up to 30 individuals were observed attending a house party in Ward 18 on Oct. 24,” said Chapman.

“The second charge was issued following a house party in Ward 16 on Oct. 31, where up to 16 individuals were observed to be in attendance.”

The fine is $880 for hosting an illegal gathering.

Alta Vista is Ward 18, while Ward 16 is River Ward.

Ottawa Bylaw has issued 24 charges for illegal gatherings since the start of the pandemic.

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