Colten Boushie’s mother Debbie Baptiste speaks before the Assembly of First Nations in Vancouver on Thursday calling for changes to the justice system. She said she feels the pain of losing her son every day. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC ) Jon Styres and Colten Boushie didn’t know each other.
But now, their families are coming together, demanding changes to the justice system after the men who shot Styres and Boushie to death were found not guilty of second degree murder this year.
They want First Nations leaders and the Assembly of First Nations to stand with them in advocating for those changes.
"We didn’t have a chance for justice. That needs to change," said Debbie Baptiste, speaking on behalf of her late son Colten before the assembly on Thursday morning.
Baptiste was invited to speak at the annual general assembly, alongside the family of Jon Styres, by Chief Ava Hill of Six Nations in Ontario. The community is just west of the rural area of Hamilton where Styres lived.
"We need to do something about the justice system in this country. Not only federal governments, but provincial governments. And we as chiefs need to do that," said Hill in her opening remarks.
Twenty-nine-year-old Styres was killed in February 2016. A father to two little girls, Sophia and Zoey, Styres was shot by a former Canadian Forces reservist, Peter Khill.
Khill’s legal team argued in court that he feared for his life when he woke up that night to find a Styres breaking into his 15-year-old GMC pickup truck. Lindsay Hill, the partner of Jon Styres and mother to their two children, speaks to the Assembly of First Nations on Thursday. “He was so happy and proud to be a father.” (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC ) "I’m asking everyone here, all the chiefs, I’m begging you, to change this broken system so that children like Sophia and Zoey don’t have a to lose a parent to such senseless violence," she said.
"All the areas of the system need to be thoroughly examined."
Styres’ mother also spoke briefly, and tearfully, saying Khill’s acquittal proves to her that trucks are "more valuable than my son’s life" under Canadian law.
The Crown is appealing the not guilty verdict. ‘I don’t want any more deaths’
Boushie, 22, was shot to death in August 2016 after he and group of friends drove onto the rural property of Gerald Stanley near Biggar, Saskatchewan.
Relatives of the young Cree man from the Red Pheasant First Nation have become outspoken advocates for changes to the justice system, especially after Stanley was acquitted of second degree murder.
Stanley’s acquittal led to rallies demanding "Justice for Colten" across the country. A couple of weeks, later Raymond Cormier was found not guilty of killing Anishinaabe teen Tina Fontaine in Winnipeg and people took to the streets again demanding justice system reforms.
"Something has to be done with the RCMP and the justice system. This can’t go on anymore. I don’t want any more deaths. I don’t want a whole bunch of families lined up behind me telling the same story," said Baptiste, surrounded by family.
"It’s not okay they killed my son. That was my baby."The audience rose in a standing ovation after the families spoke.The Assembly of First Nations is gathered in Vancouver this week for its annual general assembly. Newly re-elected national chief Perry Bellegarde has spoken out about the need for changes to the justice system — most recently after Khill’s acquittal. Debra Styres, mother of Jon Styres (centre), holds up a photo of her late son as she addresses the Assembly of First Nations. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC) "We see once again that Canada has a […]
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