Simultaneously proud and ashamed of my country

Gold medal winner Mikaël Kingsbury: CBC.ca
Colten Boushie (left), killed by Gerald Stanley. Photo: CBC.ca.

Patriotism is a strange thing. It has always seemed to me to be a little artificial to claim some personal credit for things that other people do in the name of the group or country you come from.

But at the same time, the shame on behalf of your country feels very real.

This weekend, Canada’s Olympic team in Pyeongchang did incredibly well, taking in 7 medals, including two gold. The figure skating team won a “team gold”—something else I’m a little unclear on—and Mikael Kingsbury won gold in Men’s Moguls. Justine Dufour Lapointe won silver in Ladies’ Moguls, and Canadians medaled in slopestyle snowboarding and speed skating, as well. And we expect more medals in figure skating, downhill skiing and, of course, hockey.

For whatever reason, that feels good.

What doesn’t feel good

is the not guilty verdict for Gerard Stanley for shooting and killing Colten Boushie in Saskatchewan in 2016.

This is something else that I cannot understand. Colten Boushie was part of a group of young men who drove onto Stanley’s property two years ago. Maybe he should not have been there, but that’s not the issue.

The issue is this: Stanley fired two “warning” shots from his rifle, then pointed it at Boushie. Then the rifle discharged, killing Boushie.

Stanley said it was “accidental.” But he fired twice, then his gun killed Boushie.

The RCMP then did all sorts of things wrong in the investigation.

Here’s the wrinkle: Boushie was Indigenous, from the Red Pheasant First Nation. Stanley is white.

In short, a white man killed an Indigenous man, and got away with it.

If the victim had not been Indigenous, would Stanley have gotten away with it? If the racial situation had been reversed, does anyone have any doubt but that the justice system would have dealt with the shooter differently?

Gerald Stanley admits he brought a loaded rifle to a confrontation. He admits to firing it. But he denies responsibility for taking a life, and the Canadian justice system agreed with him.

A problem in Canada

I understand his desire to protect his family and his property. But I reject the murder.

We have a problem in Canada, one we don’t want to admit. It’s racism.

We Canadians like to portray ourselves as the ideal society in the world, the best place to live. Like if the U.S. or U.K. got things right. And we have a lot to be proud of.

But we still have this problem with race. Too many people in authority treat Indigenous and other identifiably different people badly. Wrongly. Like they’re not human.

And too many of the rest of us choose not to notice it. To dismiss it.

Too many of us think of discrimination as something that happens somewhere else. In the U.S. Deep South, in South Africa, in Russia or Saudi Arabia.

Well, it happens here. It is happening here.

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