Faculty of Law, University of Windsor – A Statement on Stanley Trial Verdict
Gerard Stanley shot Colten Boushie (Red Pheasant First Nation) in the head. The jury found him not guilty. The judge accepted the verdict. The lawyers all played their roles. Some say the jury was the problem. Others may blame the lawyers or jury selection or the judge for failing to properly manage the process. While these may be problems, we think they are symptoms of a much bigger problem. Law. It can be good but it can also be violent. Canada has used law to perpetuate violence against Indigenous Peoples and too often protects those who commit acts of violence against Indigenous Peoples. Just like racism, law is learned. This means legal education is part of the problem too. We know and are working on that. Here’s how.
As a law school, we strive toward social justice. We take that commitment seriously. While we’ve been doing our work at Windsor’s Faculty of Law for 50 years now, we recognize that Indigenous Peoples have been working hard to respond to law’s violence since the advent of colonization. We know that small amendments or tinkering with the system are not enough. It has never been enough. It is the architecture of law that must change. This means our system must change to not only recognize but include Indigenous laws. A reimagining and reinvention of our legal system is necessary. Change cannot be cosmetic or quick and it will not be easy. But it will be easier than healing from grief, loss and anguish that Colten Boushie’s family, friends, community and nation must live with, like so many other Indigenous Peoples that our system has failed.
While recognizing we are not perfect and have more work to do, Windsor’s Faculty of Law takes our role in changing legal education seriously. We have a standing Truth and Reconciliation Committee comprised of faculty, students and staff who help us internally confront our own assumptions and practices while promoting change as we continue to strive to implement the Calls to Action set out by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. We work to support the production of critical scholarship from our faculty and students who will challenge the system. We believe in reshaping legal education. We know it is part of what must change. For starters, we have mandatory courses in Indigenous Legal Traditions and Access to Justice with the hope that when our students become lawyers, they will know something about Indigenous laws and they will not accept status quo. We do not accept the status quo.
What happened to Colten Boushie and law’s response to his murder are tragic, unnecessary and unacceptable. We stand with Colten Boushie’s family. We stand with Red Pheasant First Nation. We stand with Indigenous Peoples. We stand with Indigenous scholars, students, activists and families who remind all of us of our moral responsibilities as guests in the Territories of the Three Fires Confederacy to generate change. But we are not only standing. We are also awake and we publicly commit to doing better by doing what we do really well. Research. Educate. Teach. Advocate. These are some of our contributions toward systemic change. We are working on more. What will your contribution be? Because whether you love this land or this country or both, we all have a lot of work to do and the status quo is not sustainable.
- Adopted by Faculty Council on February 27, 2018