Tragedy lies behind Sask. murder trial

The trial of farmer Gerald Stanley began this week, and the world is watching.

Media from across this country, and well beyond, are taking an interest in this tragic story.

Shooting anyone for any reason should be problematic for most folks.

And killing someone is what this trial in North Battleford, Sask., is all about.

However, the reason it has drawn so much interest is in part because of the public reaction immediately after the police were called and in part because of the easily identifiable participants — beyond their names. A white farmer and an indigenous young man make this story one that evokes strong reactions, long before the facts are brought into the courtroom.

Otherwise, it might have been just another of the 54 homicides committed in Saskatchewan in 2016. Not that any of them aren’t tragic. They all are. The same year, neighbouring Alberta had 116 and Manitoba 42, showing that people can be awful to each other anywhere, and Saskatchewan isn’t unique that way.

And people being awful was, in part, why this story became the media sensation that it did.

A few folks from the rural and farm community rallied behind the white farmer. Using social media to express themselves, they drew the attentions of their fellow Canadians for being racists and showing off their inhumanity — and, in some cases, their appreciation for property over the value of human life.

Nearly any knee-jerk reaction can be, upon later, further consideration, considered to be wrong and corrected and apologized for, and society will find a way to look past the behaviour.

But when, after further consideration, it is reinforced, say as a municipal issue, such as a large number of white farmers seeking enhanced property defense rights and claiming it has nothing to do with the killing a few months earlier, it sends out a fairly clear message to the rest of Canada what kind of folks populate that space between Ontario and British Columbia.

And that guarantees a media audience, not to mention reinforces a lot of misconceptions about what it is to be a rural prairie person: white farmer, native Canadian or any of us. This story is a tragedy, for all of us.

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