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Tensions in Sask. need to cool down

Posted on April 11, 2017 by Maple Creek

By Murray Mandryk

What went on inside the North Battleford court last week during Gerald Stanley’s preliminary hearing on a second-degree murder charge is unknown at this point.

But what we usually find out when trial information finally becomes public is that it’s not quite the same as what we thought.

This is the nature of the justice system.

And if the trial into the shooting death Colten Boushie, a 22-year-old Red Pheasant First Nation resident who died in Stanley’s Biggar-area farmyard, holds true to form, opinions about those on both sides will likely change.

This has been a tragedy, a story that obviously has two sides to it.

Trials have a way of shading grey into the black and white views. It’s quite possible neither side will emerge looking especially good.

But until the facts of the case emerge, we’d all be well served to keep an open mind, exactly what we expect of the court process.

It would also service all of us well if we all did our utmost not to add to the obvious tensions that are outside that North Battleford courtroom and throughout the entire province.

In that vein, it’s worth revisiting the recent Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) resolution asking for the federal government to review the Criminal Code law on the ability to protect one’s property and person.

Admittedly, the resolution from the RM of Kindersley, one that was passed by a 93-per-cent vote, was not racial specific.

In fact, that it came from an RM like Kindersley almost 200 kilometres from the nearest First Nations, suggests that the concerns behind this resolution were about much more.

We do know that, throughout rural Saskatchewan and Alberta, hard times in the oil sector have led to greater rural criminal activity.

Drug addiction is clearly one issue. Farms become easy marks for those looking for things to steal that can easily be pawned.

But we can’t be as myopic about the SARM resolution and its impact, either.

For starters, it does seem to be we’re just looking at property crime and there remain better ways of dealing with property crime that asking for the use of potential lethal force that has a way of way of increase a cycle of violence.

Better surveillance, better rural crime watch and, of course, better policing are better solutions than what’s being offered in the SARM resolution.

After all, property is just property. Human life, whether it be your life or the life of someone invading your property,  is something we need to value more.

Second, while First Nations were directly mentioned in the resolution, SARM, at the very least,  was rather tone-deaf, given the tensions out there.

To accept that some or most of the 93-per-cent of SARM delegates that voted in favour of resolution didn’t have some grievances with local First Nations communities in mind when they voted would be a bit of leap.

Moreover, there are legitimate reasons behind such grievances. It’s also unhelpful for local First Nations leadership to not acknowledge the crime problems in their own communities that clearly do spill over into other local communities.

But the answers won’t come from the SARM resolutions. Nor will the answers come from the online postings after the Boushie death last summer that Premier Brad Wall rightly addressed.

Solutions will be found in the communities talking and being honest with each other. That means respectful dialogue that acknowledges we are dealing with real human people with real problems on both sides.

Solutions will come when we start to see each other in that manner.

And they will come only when the boiling tensions cool down a bit.

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