The federal government is “carefully examining the availability of police services and resources” in rural Saskatchewan following the controversial acquittal of Biggar-area farmer Gerald Stanley.
Stanley was holding a gun that shot and killed Colten Boushie, a 22-year-old aboriginal man, in August 2016.
He was acquitted on charges of second degree murder earlier this month.
Ralph Goodale, Canada’s federal minister of public safety and emergency preparedness, told reporters on Feb. 15 that Ottawa is looking at all aspects of rural policing in the province.
“As public safety minister, I’m deeply concerned whenever a portion of our citizens don’t feel that they’re safe in their homes and their communities and don’t feel that they can rely on the criminal justice system,” said Goodale, the Liberal MP for Regina-Wascana.
“We’re carefully examining the availability of police services and resources, the issues of (police response) times, … the issues of vacancies in certain detachments (and) the process of recruitment that will accelerate the rate at which new officers are brought on stream….”
Goodale said RCMP assistant commissioner Curtis Zablocki is also reviewing the deployment of RCMP officers in parts of the province where rural crime is a prominent concern.
“Generally speaking … crime across the province is going down but there are certain regions where it’s not and obviously the assistant commissioner is focused on the appropriate deployments to deal with that.”
Boushie’s death and Stanley’s acquittal have polarized opinions in Saskatchewan and exposed a divide between different segments of society, most notably rural residents and First Nations communities.
In the wake of Stanley’s acquittal, some rural residents have publicly defended their right to use firearms to protect their families and property.
Others say Stanley’s acquittal points to serious flaws in the criminal justice system and have called on Ottawa to make meaningful reforms.
Boushie and a group of friends arrived in a car on Stanley’s farm on Aug. 9, 2016, after a day of drinking.
Witnesses in the car said initially the group was looking for help after the vehicle they were driving developed a flat tire.
Stanley’s defence successfully argued that the gun that killed Boushie went off accidentally during an altercation in Stanley’s farmyard.
Tensions in the province were heightened further on Feb. 15 when APTN, an First Nations news service, reported that a private Facebook group used by police officers across Canada carried a comment suggesting that Boushie “got what he deserved.”
APTN News cited sources who claimed the individual responsible for the comment is a “serving member of the RCMP on the Prairies.”
When asked about the Facebook comment, Goodale said his staff has been in touch with the RCMP, adding that the matter is under investigation.
“Obviously this remark is absolutely appalling and unacceptable,” Goodale said.
“It contradicts everything the RCMP stands for … so it’s under very, very serious investigation to determine exactly what happened and who is responsible for it.”