Police watchdog probes RCMP investigation of Saskatchewan farm death

Gerald Stanley enters the Court of Queen's Bench for the fifth day of his trial in Battleford, Sask., Monday, Feb.5, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Liam Richards

OTTAWA - A lawyer for the family of an Indigenous man killed on a Saskatchewan farm is hailing an independent review of the police investigation into the fatal shooting.

The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP said Tuesday it will look into how the Mounties handled the death of 22-year-old Colten Boushie.

It will determine whether the RCMP conducted a reasonable investigation into Boushie's death, whether the officers' actions followed procedure and policy, whether those policies are reasonable and whether there was any discrimination based on race.

The commission can make recommendations to address any concerns discovered during the investigation.

Chris Murphy, a lawyer for the Boushie family, said those findings could lead to crucial changes in the RCMP.

"It's going to change the way policing is done in this country, especially in relation to how Indigenous people are policed in this country," he said. "There is a tremendous amount of hope that the family and I have that this is going to be a game changer."

Boushie, a member of the Red Pheasant First Nation, died in August 2016 when he and four others in an SUV drove onto a farm near Biggar, Sask. Last month, a jury acquitted 56-year-old Gerald Stanley in Boushie's death, a verdict that led to protests across the country.

Boushie's family had been calling for a review of the RCMP investigation.

His mother has said that when officers came to notify her about her son's death, they were insensitive, started searching her home without permission and asked if she'd been drinking.

An internal RCMP investigation, done by a senior Indigenous officer, absolved the police force.

The commission will review the RCMP's dismissal of the Boushie family's initial public complaint. It will also examine how the RCMP conducted the investigation and the events that followed Boushie's death, including the way his next of kin was notified, the search of his mother's home and information released by police to the media.

"I am satisfied that it is in the public interest to launch an independent investigation into this matter," said the commission's acting chairman, Guy Bujold, in a news release.

He said an investigator will be hired in the coming months. They will then be able to interview police, witnesses and Boushie's family.

In a statement, the RCMP said they will co-operate fully with the independent investigation.

"Maintaining public trust and confidence is critical to providing an effective police service," said the statement. "We look forward to the process addressing any uncertainty or outstanding questions regarding our role in this matter."

The commission said it will make the final report public once it is completed.

— By Colette Derworiz in Edmonton


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