The high-profile murder trial of Gerald Stanley is set to begin next week in Battleford and the RCMP is well aware of the potential realities the racially-fuelled case could illicit.
Stanley faces a charge of second-degree murder — a charge he’s pleaded not guilty to — in the shooting death of 22-year-old Colten Boushie at a farm near Biggar in August 2016. The case has brought racial tensions to the surface in Saskatchewan with Stanley being Caucasian and Boushie being Indigenous.
While Mounties understand the public interest in the case, and the likely possibility of large crowds showing up to court throughout the three-week trial, Staff Sgt. Rob Embree explained they can’t release their specific security plan.
“We can’t confirm or disclose any of the details around our security operation, for safety reasons obviously, but we are monitoring the situation,” he said.
Embree indicated they’ll be watching closely and will bring in more officers if needed.
The RCMP previously looked into the potential of laying hate speech charges spurred by comments made on social media.
The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) has criticized RCMP for its initial news release on the crime, taking aim at the wording of the information. Chief Bobby Cameron said the FSIN was “extremely disappointed” in the way the shooting incident was presented by Mounties.
Premier Brad Wall has also addressed the matter, stating racism isn’t unique or more prevalent in Saskatchewan while also expressing his belief that youth seem to be getting a better grasp on eliminating racism.
On Wednesday afternoon, Wall referenced the case and reiterated those previous online comments were not helpful and even dangerous.
“This is going to be a difficult time for the province, but I believe we’re up to the test. I believe we’ll meet the challenge together. Notwithstanding how difficult it is, people need to respond with reason and with care,” the premier said.
Many have turned up to court in the past as this case has moved forward, with dozens holding signs and wearing clothing in support of Boushie. If they choose to continue to protest or demonstrate during the trial, Embree is hopeful they’ll do so respectfully.
“We’re always encouraging the citizens of Saskatchewan to be respectful and peaceful, online and in person, and allow the legal process to move forward,” Embree said.
Security inside the courthouse is under provincial control. The court said seating will be limited, and those who do find a spot can expect a tight airport-style security screening before entering.
During a media event Wednesday morning at the downtown YMCA location in Regina, federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale was asked whether he had given any special direction to help maintain order, if the need arises, surrounding the trial.
“The operation of police forces in Saskatchewan, whether that be municipal forces or the RCMP when they’re on contract to the province of Saskatchewan, the operation of policing in Saskatchewan is very clearly a provincial responsibility,” Goodale explained.
Jury selection happens on Monday at the Alex Dillabough Centre in Battleford with the trial itself expected to start Tuesday at Court of Queen’s Bench in the community.