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A group of protesters crowd a city street. One man holds up a poster that says "Justice for Colten Boushie"

Research in Progress Seminar (RIPS)

Dr. David MacDonald, October 3 - Settler Justice in a Prairie Town: A Selective Discourse Analysis in the Aftermath of the Killing of Colten Boushie

Oct 02, 2018

A Research in Progress Seminar Talk 2018

Who: Dr. David McDonald  
Where: Kenneth Taylor Hall (KTH) 709
When: Wednesday, October 3, 3:30-4pm

On 9 August, 2016, Colten Boushie, from the Red Pheasant Cree Reserve on Treaty 6 lands, was shot in the head and killed by a white farmer named Gerald Stanley. Stanley was charged with second-degree murder and faced trial in early 2018. An all-white jury acquitted him on 9 February; they also had the option of convicting him of manslaughter. From the onset of the shooting, a major polarization developed between many Indigenous peoples and their supporters and rural white settlers and their supporters. Two days after the verdict, I wrote an article for The Conversation, which was picked up by 17 news outlets, including national and regional newspapers. In total the article gained a readership of over 62,000 people online. Over 1,500 comments resulting in over 700 pages of text, were generated by the article. This presented a unique opportunity to do a discourse analysis of the views of a self-selected subset of settler Canadians on Indigenous issues during a purported age of reconciliation. This presentation first engages with the known facts of the Boushie murder and Stanley trial, and highlights some problems with the justice system that were raised by the subsequent investigation. In a second part, I highlight aspects of the trial itself and examples of bias that appear in the discourses of the judge and lawyers for the prosecution and defence. In the third and final part, I focus on an analysis of the commentary generated by the article, as well as the public’s reaction to the verdict. My goal here is to highlight several key themes in settler discourse around Indigenous peoples, suggesting that while the mainstream media in Canada has portrayed the country as being ready for reconciliation, this may not be the case.

David MacDonald is a full professor in the political science department at the University of Guelph and was appointed as the Research Leadership Chair for the college last year. He has a PhD in International Relations from the London School of Economics, and has taught as Senior Lecturer in Political Studies at Otago University, New Zealand, and at the ESCP Graduate School of Management, Paris, France. Much of his work is on comparative Indigenous politics in Canada and Aotearoa New Zealand, as well as comparative genocide studies. Forthcoming books include The Sleeping Giant Awakens: Genocide, Indian Residential Schools, and the Challenge of Conciliation (University of Toronto Press, 2019), and The Rise of Global Populism (co-edited with Dirk Nabers and Frank Stengel, Palgrave MacMillan 2019). David has a 5-year SSHRCC Insight Grant (with co-researcher Sheryl Lightfoot) on Indigenous practices of self-determination in comparative perspective, with a focus on Canada and Aotearoa New Zealand.