Trudeau putting judicial independence at risk with Boushie comments, lawyers say

Activists, First Nations leaders and some lawyers are demanding change after an all-white jury Friday acquitted a white farmer who shot and killed a young Indigenous man in rural Saskatchewan.

In press conferences, online and at rallies across the country, they pressed the message that Canada’s justice system is broken and must be fixed.

However, some lawyers are worried that politicians now weighing in on the case are going too far and may even be putting the independence of the country’s judiciary at risk with their comments.

“Saying anything that amounts to commenting on the correctness of the verdict, to improve your public image or ensure an appropriate approval rating, should be criticized in Canada,” said Michael Lacy, a partner in the criminal law group Brauti Thorning Zibarras LLP in Toronto.

On Saturday, federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said in a tweet that Canada “can and must do better,” after a jury found Gerald Stanley not guilty of second-degree murder in the shooting death of Colten Boushie.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also weighed in at a news conference in California, saying Canada has “come to this point as a country far too many times.”

Edmonton-based criminal lawyer Tom Engel said when politicians, especially the justice minister, appear to criticize verdicts, the public may believe that future decisions by the courts are influenced by the remarks.

Colten Boushie’s mother Debbie Baptiste addresses demonstrators gathered outside of the courthouse in North Battleford, Sask., on February 10, 2018. The Trudeau government is facing criticism and accusations of political interference after several ministers appeared to question the verdict in what had already been one of the most polarizing criminal cases in recent Canadian history. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Matt Smith

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Colten Boushie’s mother Debbie Baptiste addresses …read more

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