OTTAWA — When seven police officers arrived at the home of Debbie Baptiste in August 2016, encircling the house and carrying rifles, they informed her that her son was dead. Then, instead of comforting the grieving mother, they asked if she had been drinking and told her to “get it together.”
The callous treatment of Ms. Baptiste, a Cree woman, as well as other incidents of racial discrimination by the police against her family, were detailed in an independent review released to the public Monday that inquired into police conduct and their investigation of the death of Colten Boushie, a 22-year-old Cree man in Saskatchewan.
The scathing report by the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police found that the officers treated Ms. Baptiste “with such insensitivity that her treatment amounted to a prima facie case of discrimination.” The watchdog group, which has no power to penalize, also found that the police failed to protect evidence at the crime scene where Mr. Boushie was killed and destroyed records related to its handling of the case.
“It felt like I was forever fighting a battle that could never be won,” Ms. Baptiste told a news conference on Monday. “The injustices of racism in the courtroom, the discrimination needs to stop. Things need to change. We need a change for the future generation.”
posted a message of support and met with Mr. Boushie’s family following the 2018 trial.
On Monday Mr. Trudeau told reporters that the treatment of Mr. Boushie’s family and friends “was unacceptable,” adding, “We have seen, unfortunately, examples of systemic racism within the R.C.M.P., within many of our institutions, and we need to do better.”
R.C.M.P. union is still asking people in this country not to believe this woman,” Chris Murphy, a lawyer for the Boushie family told reporters. “Shame on them.”
The killing and the acquittal remain sources of anger for many Indigenous Canadians who have argued the case exposed significant flaws in Canada’s legal system. Mr. Boushie’s family and others said that police were racially discriminatory toward them while being deferential to a farmer who was ultimately charged with murder.
Mr. Boushie had gone swimming with friends when a tire went flat on their Ford Escape near Mr. Stanley’s farm in central Saskatchewan. Mr. Stanley testified that he and his son thought the group, many of whom were intoxicated, was trying to steal vehicles. The two men came out with guns and also attacked the Escape with a hammer. After Mr. Boushie was killed, the others fled.
As a result, the commission found, police descended on Ms. Baptiste’s house on the Red Pheasant Cree Nation, her Indigenous community, with two goals: to inform her of Mr. Boushie’s death and to search for a member of Mr. Boushie’s group of friends as part of a related investigation into theft and attempted theft. No one from the group was ultimately charged with theft.
Officers armed with rifles encircled Ms. Baptiste’s house and told her about her son’s death when she came to the front porch. After hearing the news, Ms. Baptiste collapsed and was brought inside by police.
“Ms. Baptiste displayed distress at the news they had just given her, one member told her to ‘get it together,’” the report found. “One or more RCMP members smelled her breath” apparently for signs of alcohol.