Transcript: Ep. 1 - Indigenous perspective on justice for Colten Boushie | May 21, 2019

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Hi, I'm Colin Ellis
and this is On Docs,
a podcast about documentaries
and the stories they tell.
It's our second season,
we're back!
If you're new to the show,
You can expect in depth
conversations with
documentary filmmakers about
the stories they choose to tell,
how they do it, and why.
We've talked to directors
about their films on
the rise of white supremacist
movements, climate change,
and what democracy
looks like today.
This season we'll explore
more fascinating films,
including the one
we're featuring today,
We Will Stand Up.
(Theme music playing)
If you were following the news
in Canada early last year,
you definitely heard
these two names.
Colten Boushie,
a 22 year old man
from Red Pheasant First Nation,
and Gerald Stanley,
the white Saskatchewan farmer
who shot and killed him
when Boushie and a group
of friends entered his property
one August afternoon in 2016.
There was a trial in 2018
to determine whether
Stanley was guilty of
second-degree murder.
It polarized the province
of Saskatchewan
and much of the country.
Rural prairie farm communities
argued Stanley's actions
were about property rights.
Indigenous advocates
pointed out how harshly the RCMP
treated Boushie's family
in the days after the killing
and protested the all-white jury
chosen for the trial.
And then there was the verdict.
On February 9th. 2018,
Stanley was
acquitted of all charges.
There was no justice
served here today.
We hope for justice for Colten.
However, we do no not see it,
we will fight for an appeal
and answers to all the racism
that my family has
experienced from the day that
Colten was shot until
the jury delivered the verdict
of not guilty.
That's Boushie's cousin,
Jade Tootoosis,
outside of the courtroom
minutes after the trial ended.
The family's experience
of the justice system
was documented by filmmaker
Tasha Hubbard.
Like so many Indigenous people,
you know, across the country
were so affected by the news
and the circumstances
surrounding Colten's passing,
and what happened, you know,
through the process
of colonization is still
reverberating into today
and that that contributed
to what happened.
Hubbard had figured that the doc
would end with the verdict.
The acquittal had come
as a complete surprise.
It was clear that
the family's fight for justice
was far from over.
The story
Hubbard did tell is called
We Will Stand Up.
It's the story of
the Boushie family's experience
from an Indigenous perspective.
It had the honour of being
the opening night film at
Hot Docs in Toronto in April,
where it won the best Canadian
feature documentary award.
We were honoured to have both
Jade Tootoosis and Tasha Hubbard
join us at TVO
to talk about this film,
Canada's legal system,
and their fight to change it.
Well, Tasha, Jade, thank you
so much for joining me today.
Tasha, I'm gonna start with you.
Uh, maybe just tell us where
the film's title came from.
So, I was asked to do a workshop
at imagiNATIVE Film Festival,
um, this past year, um,
my producer and I to talk about,
you know,
making films like this,
where so much care is needed,
and that means both care
for the people in the film
but also care for the filmmakers
and the crew, you know?
When, when there's, um,
difficult subject matter.
So, my friend's dad
was in the audience
and was listening to
what I was talking about,
and we showed a couple
of clips from the film,
and he came up to me after,
and he said that word.
He said, "Nîpawistamâsowin,"
and I'm like,
"What does that mean?"
And he said, "It means
when a small group of people
stand up on behalf of another
group, of a larger group."
So, when we stand up for
ourselves, that's what it means.
And I'd been looking
for the title of the film,
and I just, as soon as
he said that, I'm like,
"That's it, that's the title."
The film actually starts,
with two boys who are
your son and your nephew?
Um, and it looks like they're
starting to ask questions
about the world around them,
and I'm just wondering
why you chose to start
the film that way.
Well, that scene was
actually just a test scene.
We just-- We were like,
"It's a nice night," you know.
The crew had
just gotten to town,
and we're like, "Let's go up
and see what happens,"
and, um, you know,
all I said to the boys was,
"I'm gonna take you to a place
that I've gone over the years
and, and, um, we're just
gonna go do some filming,
and so, um,
I'd wanted to
incorporate footage of-of
the boys and myself,
like, on our own territory,
and especially with
the boys being safe
in their own territory, right?
'Cause that's
ultimately what we want
and, um, I wasn't expecting
my son to ask that question.
Like, what do you think
it would have been like?
And I know when it happened,
I quickly looked at the crew
like, "Are we rolling?
Like, did you guys get that?"
and they were like,
"Yeah, we got it."
And so, when we started to edit,
I just thought, like,
you know, even though we weren't
technically trespassing,
we had permission to be there,
it looks like we are.
We're climbing through a barbed
wire fence, like, these fences
that have been placed
all throughout our territory,
laying down private property,
you know,
without Indigenous people
having the treaties honoured
in the way they're meant to be.
Um, and then for him to ask that
question, I just thought,
"This, this is,
this will open this up,"
because it's about all
the things that we want
the film to be about.
Justice, our land,
you know, and our children.
And did that also, um, inspire
you to include your own story
in the film as well?
I had already decided
early on to do that,
to, um, use my own positionality
and to be open about it.
You know, I think all
documentary filmmakers bring
their experience
and their position,
and sometimes
their privilege, right?
Into the films that they do,
and, um, for me,
I-I, I wanted to
use my own position
of a Cree person
who's connected to
the area where this happened,
but also as someone
who was adopted and grew up
with a farm family, and so, be
able to have these conversations
around guns, around land,
you know?
That, that, uh,
just allowed us to open it up.
Uh, Jade, the trial was
really covered pretty heavily
by the media,
and you're often the voice
who spoke for the family.
How did that role come about?
Um, it came about
more so when I was sitting
with my kohkom out--
my grandmother--
out in Red Pheasant,
and a reporter had come out
and wanted to
know more about Colten,
and, usually within my kinship,
my role in my family is
not to speak before my kohkom,
but to listen to what
she has to say to get direction
and wisdom from her.
So, she spoke before me,
and she shared her, her feelings
upon my late brother,
and after she spoke
she looked to me.
So that was my, my cue
to be able to also share
how I was feeling and just,
the individual that I knew,
and as I spoke,
I started talking about
colonization and a bit
more upon the history
in a way that my,
my kohkom had never
heard me speak before.
So, as soon as
the reporter stepped away,
she turned and looked at me,
and she's like,
"From now on
you're going to talk," you know?
"From now on you're
going to talk," and just that,
that push, that confidence
that she saw within me,
it, it, it--
It-it pushed me to be a voice
and with the permission
and the support of my family
as well, and making sure that
when I do speak, it,
it encompasses not just myself,
but my entire family in a good
And so, we're always talking
amongst one another as to
how we feel about things
and just what we would like
to share and the messages
we'd like to deliver,
so it's just with their support,
it's-- I'm able to do this.
And, uh, how did you personally
feel about taking on that role?
Um, as first I was very--
Well, I still am nervous
at times,
but I feel that if this is
something that I'm able to do
to honour my brother and if it's
something that I can contribute
to the changes that are
necessary and needed,
then it's, it's what I can do,
and so, once again,
just with the support of
other-- other people, and their
guidance and direction,
I'm able to, to sit here
and talk with you today
and answer your questions.
And, um, I guess, how did this
collaboration come about?
Well, I was really,
like so many Indigenous people,
you know, across the country,
was so affected by the news
and the circumstances
surrounding Colten's passing,
and, and so I had started,
in my role as an academic,
had started to think about
writing a blog about, you know,
the history of the area,
and how, you know--
what happened,
you know, through the process
of colonization is still
reverberating into today
and that that contributed
to what had happened,
and, um, my birth father, uh,
is married into Colten's family,
although I didn't know
the family very well, you know,
I didn't know Colten.
Um, and I also knew Jade.
Jade is married to my cousin,
so I've known her since
she was a teenager, and um--
You know, I-I just thought
I need to contribute
and say something and,
but then my dad and his partner
encouraged me
to think about making a film.
Um, you know, because
most of us realize within
our own community that,
you know,
when these stories happen,
the mainstream media often
follows tracks that are already
laid down around how they
write about Indigenous people,
and, um, a lot of times,
some of the, you know,
the subtlety and the,
the humanity, and the, you know,
the story of the person
affected doesn't get told,
and, um, you know, so I just
started into conversations
with Jade and the rest of
the family, um,
and they agreed,
you know, that, uh,
that we would make a film,
and at that time I didn't know
what format that would take,
you know?
But, uh we just started filming
as things started happening.
Did you know, I guess,
around when the trial started,
that's when you wanted to do it?
No, it was really early on,
like, a few, um--
Our first shoot was the, um,
was the first
court appearance that
Gerald Stanley had in
late August, yeah.
Is it, is it different telling,
uh, this story of your cousin
in a documentary as opposed
to talking to reporters?
Uh, yes, because with
a documentary there's-there's
visuals of-of it
happening and at times it
catches a perspective
or it shows something
that I didn't necessarily--
I wasn't aware of,
because at that time,
you know, just heavy with grief,
and so looking back and being
able to watch the film,
there's things that
took place that I may not
have seen at the time just
because I was focusing on
something else
in that very moment,
so, it actually provides
even more insight for me
as to what was taking place.
The doc tells the story of
Treaty 6 and the Cree uprising
during the Northwest Rebellion
in the late 1800s.
I would say the Cree Resistance.
Excuse me, Cree Resistance.
The Northwest Resistance.
Sure. Um, how important
is understanding that history,
though, to, uh, to what's
going on right now in society?
Well, you know,
I think that's just it,
is-is Canadians in general
have been taught
a certain perspective
on those events that
to see what happened
during 1885 as
a rebellion against the state,
when in fact it was
Indigenous resistance
against oppression, right?
And so, that framing
doesn't get shown,
it doesn't get taught,
and, and that's a real,
you know, it's, uh,
it's a large part of why
we are where we are today,
and so, you know, I think that
for me I wanted, you know,
to bring in that history.
It's so rich and deep
and it deserves its own project,
and hopefully someday
an Indigenous filmmaker
can tell that story,
um, you know,
but for the purposes
of the film, I just,
I wanted to weave that in
to say, you know, what's--
The colonial violence that
Indigenous people are
experiencing today is really
rooted in the colonial violence
that Indigenous people
experienced then, you know?
Indigenous people, you know,
were not, you know,
the original oppressors
in these situations, right?
If there's resistance,
it's because of injustice,
it's because of, you know,
the starvation policies.
You know, I-I-- that was one of
the big moments for me when I--
being an adoptee and coming back
to my birth family
and realizing that
I am the ten percent
of Indigenous peoples
who survived.
90% of Indigenous peoples
in North America were wiped out
through purposeful
genocidal means, you know?
And so, the starvation policies
of the Canadian government
are absolutely part of that,
and, you know,
it just tears me up to think
about how many of our people
were lost to those policies.
How much wretchedness and hurt
and pain was caused, you know,
in order to push us
off our own land.
You know, and so, I hope,
I do want people--
it's a hard history for people,
especially if they've
never learned it
and what they've learned
has been put through
that colonial frame.
But I think
it's absolutely necessary.
Does that resistance, um,
continue to this day?
Well, you know, I think that
yes but in different ways.
I mean, resistance is us
telling our own stories.
Resistance is, you know, people,
you know, continuing to go out
and trap on their own trap lines
and coming into conflict with
resource extraction, you know?
Resistance is teaching
our children our languages.
You know, it shouldn't
even be resistance.
We should just be able to
just live, right?
But because pf the way that
our country is, it-it sometimes,
I guess, takes that, takes that,
but I think ultimately,
it's just us trying
to live the lives that
we're meant to live and, and
coming into obstacles to that.
They've lost a loved one
and they are getting hate mail.
And, that's, I mean, you know,
let's just say,
"That's not right."
I mean, that's a pretty
easy thing to say.
That's not right for these
people to get hate mail.
We talk about unity,
we talk about reconciliation.
What are you gonna do?
As human beings, as, as people
within your position even,
what is your answer to this?
Going on in Saskatchewan.
Uh, Jade, we're, I guess,
a year out of, of, uh,
the events of the documentary.
You've met with Justin Trudeau,
the Prime Minister,
um, Premier of Saskatchewan,
other political leaders.
You've addressed
the United Nations.
Has anything kind of
come out of these meetings that,
that give you any hope?
Hope? I don't know
if that would be, uh,
the correct word I would use,
but we continue to
advance our calls to action,
and that's bringing in
a special rapporteur
from the United Nations
to conduct an inst--
external investigation.
We're calling on
a royal commission on
the federal government to
look into the systemic racism
with the-- within
Canada's legal system.
Like, we continue to make
these calls to action,
and so those meetings were
the initial,
the onset of us vocalizing our
but in terms of
those calls to action,
we're still pushing for them,
so we're still advocating
and having to, to meet
and to hopefully get things
going as soon as possible.
Um, and if you can't,
I guess, get justice
through the legal system,
how do you get it?
(Tasha chuckling)
Well, I think that the legal,
I think there's an assumption
that the legal system
means justice.
I think that's what we
Canadians are taught is that,
you know,
it's a justice system.
Whereas, you know,
Indigenous people,
people of colour, you know,
we know differently, right?
It-it's a legal system designed
around property, you know?
It's-it's not meant to,
you know,
create a space of true
justice which is respect,
mutual respect, you know,
mutual, you know, livelihood,
all of those things.
So, you know, I think it,
it, um, you know, a lot of
people are looking at our own,
what is our own system of
justice and respect?
Um, you know,
because it is tough,
and I guess when we work
towards making changes
in the legal system, it's almost
like a harm reduction, right?
What's the best?
What's the way that we can,
you know, so that
people are not traumatized
by their experiences?
What's, what's-- you know?
but it's tough when the system
itself is designed, is flawed,
and, and, um, you know,
I think that that's a tough
thing for people to understand.
What do you hope I guess
a documentary will do
in terms of, um, I don't know,
creating a dialogue
or getting changes to the,
to the system.
I mean, it's, it's one tool.
It's one tool in
a lot of different, you know,
ways that people are working,
you know,
both within and outside of what
the current systems are, right?
And, so, for the documentary,
it, it really is an awareness,
because I realize,
and many of us realize
that non-Indigenous people
aren't aware of these things,
and I think, I think
sometimes that's wilful,
and people want
to stay that way,
and I think we're seeing that
in the rise of intolerance
and hate and, you know,
there's this study that's
coming out of Alberta on
the rise of hate, and you know,
hate groups, but I think
that's not just Alberta,
I think that's
across our country.
I, I don't really concern
Like, I'm concerned about it,
but I think my film
is speaking to Canadians
who, um, aren't there yet,
and-- but also haven't
learned our-our history and,
and I'm hoping that,
you know, by telling our story,
telling our stories
as Indigenous people,
but specifically the family
telling their story,
um, you know,
that it does bring, uh,
a will for change,
'cause I think that's,
that's what it's gonna take,
and Indigenous people,
for a lot of years,
have been fighting on our own,
you know, with, with,
you know, a small group of
supporters and allies
and what we're hoping is,
you know, that people
join in that push to say,
"This isn't right."
It's pretty simple,
it's just not right.
I recommend that the special
rapporteur and the expert
mechanism undertake a study
on the systemic racism
and discrimination against
Indigenous people
within the judicial
and legal systems in Canada.
This study must produce
recommendations to ensure
the protection of
Indigenous families who utilize
the judicial and the legal
This will advance our calls on
the Canadian government
to establish a royal commission
on the elimination of racism
in the justice system.
Only a royal commission
has the authority to compel
all involved in this
miscarriage of justice.
What is something, um,
the federal government could do
that you could look at that
and say, "That, that's a sign
of progress?"
They can answer
our calls to action
and actually put them in place.
So, once again,
that royal commission, um,
that royal commission is
an internal investigation
in and of itself, but having
a special rapporteur,
an external organization,
come in and conduct
an investigation,
I think then shows that they're
able to cooperate and be--
and are open to having
a thorough investigation done,
and open to recommendations
following that.
So, to me, the federal
government could follow through
with the calls to action that
my family and I are advancing.
And I mean, those are,
those calls to action are,
are, you know, part of
a continuum of requests that,
and-and studies and,
you know, this-this has--
this isn't new,
this is, this is, you know,
and it's tragic because if,
if the Canadian government
had taken steps,
you know, 30 years ago,
you know, when RCAP came out,
the Royal Commission
on Aboriginal People,
if they'd listened to the study
that Justice Marie St-Clair
did in Manitoba,
I mean, you know,
this may not have happened,
and, and so, you know,
there's a lot of people
that are doing good work,
it's just whether
they're listened to,
how they're met once they get,
you know,
if they're, if they're working
within the legal system.
How are they met by
the justice department?
How are they met, you know,
by the federal government?
And, um, you know,
we see a lot of litigation,
we see a lot of pushback.
So, I mean, it just
comes down to a choice.
So, talked before about having,
I guess, uncomfortable
uh, with non-Indigenous
Canadians and there is a scene
in the film where your
grandfather is having
a conversation with
yourself and your son.
I'm wondering you could tell us
a bit about that scene
and what happened in there.
Yeah, so, my grandpa
is a kind man,
and, um, who has
always been there
for my son and I,
and, you know--
but we'd had a couple of
because like, you know,
the vast majority of Canadians,
he's learned a certain set of
knowledge and a certain,
um, you know, understanding,
and, you know, uh,
and so we'd had a few
conversations of how
we looked at it
from our perspective,
and, and so,
he had told me once that
his biggest regret was,
was breaking that land
that he broke
where he found the artifacts,
and, and so,
I asked him, you know,
"Would you be willing
to talk about that,"
and he had told me also that
he was going to give
those stones to my son and I,
so I said,
"Can we talk about--
Can we do that on camera?
Can we talk about that land,
and can we talk about
why I'm making the film?"
And he knew why,
we had talked about it,
and so, I guess the reason
I wanted to do that was
exactly that. Like, to show
that it can happen.
That you can disagree,
that there's knowledge
to be shared,
and that you can,
you can gently challenge
those ideas and attitudes
within your family systems,
and I think too often,
you know--
I would ask listeners
to think about how many,
you know, think back
to a dinner conversation
that they've had with
their family where somebody
has said something racist,
um, or said something
that was, you know,
not true, or said
something that, you know,
um, you know, that showed, uh,
only a certain
frame of knowledge.
How often do people say
something in that, in that time?
And, you know, I think that--
I understand it's difficult.
I still have difficulty
bringing things up, you know,
and, and, um, you know,
it wasn't quite that way because
I didn't know what my grandpa
was going to say, you know?
We were just going
to talk about it,
and, I really wanted him
to talk about the land
and then it just went
in its own direction.
And, you know,
my son showed that, you know?
That you can say it's not okay
for this to happen, you know?
And my grandpa is a wise man,
and he knew my son was right.
You're right,
that's not the answer, you know?
But that's what's on
social media in the prairies.
That, you know,
according to some commentators,
according to people who post,
It's okay to do that,
and that is a very frightful
place if that
is where we're heading.
Well, Tasha and Jade, thank you
so much for joining me today.
I really appreciate
you coming in.
Thank you for having us.
Thank you, yes.
(Music playing)
And that's the podcast.
We Will Stand Up
will hit theatres this week,
including a full month of dates
at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in
Check your local theatre
for screen times.
We've got
a great season lined up
and I cannot wait
to share it with you.
Tune in next week for
an incredible interview I had
with international artist
and activist Ai Weiwei
about his new doc, The Rest.
If you like what you heard,
leave us a review on
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tell a friend.
If you want to get in touch you
can write us at
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Thanks to producers
Chantal Braganza
and Matthew O'Mara
and production
support coordinators
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and Jonathan Halliwell.
Our podcast manager
is Hannah Sung.
We will see you
at the next screening.

Watch: Ep. 1 - Indigenous perspective on justice for Colten Boushie