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Boushie family vows to seek justice-system changes

Senator Kim Pate, left, stands with Colten Boushie’s mother, Debbie Baptiste, second from left, and Alvin Baptiste, Mr. Boushie’s uncle, as he holds up an eagle wing at the conclusion of a news conference in Ottawa on Wednesday.

Justin Tang/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The family of slain Cree man Colten Boushie left Ottawa on Wednesday vowing to continue their fight for justice after securing from the federal government a commitment to change the jury-selection process.

Mr. Boushie's relatives were invited guests of the Prime Minister as he made a major speech on Indigenous rights in the House of Commons.

Justin Trudeau said that, as a country, Canada must commit to ensuring no family has to face what they've endured. He committed his government to making changes to the justice system that will include the way juries are selected.

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"Reforms are needed to ensure that – among other things – Indigenous peoples might once again have confidence in a system that has failed them all too often in the past," Mr. Trudeau said.

"That is why we will bring forward broad-based, concrete reforms to the criminal justice system, including changes to how juries are selected."

Colten Boushie’s cousin says the family felt like their voices were heard in Ottawa, after meetings with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and key cabinet ministers. But Jade Tootoosis says they will be back to continue fighting for change. The Canadian Press

Mr. Boushie, a 22-year-old man from Red Pheasant First Nation, was fatally shot in August, 2016, after a car in which he was a passenger drove onto a property belonging to Gerald Stanley, a white farmer. A jury in Saskatchewan acquitted Mr. Stanley of second-degree murder last Friday in Mr. Boushie's death.

The verdict reverberated around the country and, within hours, the Prime Minister and Justice Minister offered words of comfort to Mr. Boushie's family on Twitter. Over the weekend, a thousand people rallied in Saskatoon under the banner of "Justice for Colten" and there were similar demonstrations in many Canadian cities.

Less than 48 hours after the verdict, Mr. Boushie's relatives got on a plane for Ottawa determined to push for political change.

At a news conference that took place before the Prime Minister's speech, Mr. Boushie's cousin, Jade Tootoosis, said she was grateful for the reception the family received in Ottawa. They were able to meet with the Prime Minister, the ministers of Justice, Public Safety, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Indigenous Services as well as the Leader of the NDP, Jagmeet Singh, and Conservative Indigenous affairs critic Cathy McLeod and other MPs.

"Our voices have been made a priority here and we feel like we are finally being heard," Ms. Tootoosis said. "Colten is not able to stand with us physically so we stand here for him. We speak for him and we will continue to do that."

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Ms. Tootoosis said she sees this week's meetings as a beginning. She plans to be back in Ottawa to maintain pressure on the government to act.

"We will press for concrete changes within the system so that … no other Indigenous lives are taken before changes are made," Ms. Tootoosis said.

Eleanore Sunchild, a lawyer for the family, said that the work will also continue back in Saskatchewan. She mentioned pushing for reforms to legal aid, to ensure proper representation for Indigenous accused, as well as more sensitive treatment for the families of Indigenous victims of crime. "We hope that changes will be made to ensure the inclusion and fair treatment of Indigenous peoples in the Canadian justice system. The changes to jury selection is only one issue that needs to be addressed. There are other issues that were problematic in this case such as the RCMP's conduct," Ms. Sunchild said.

"The family chose to speak so that no more Indigenous people are forced to go through such a terrible ordeal. Justice for Colten is larger than the Gerald Stanley trial."

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