March 25, 2021

Award-winning film invites conversation, demands response to systemic racism

Werklund School of Education hosts 'nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up' documentary and discussion with director and family of Colten Boushie, March 30
Debbie Baptiste and Jade Brown-Tootoosis at the United Nations in New York City

In August 2016, Colten Boushie, a young Cree man from Red Pheasant First Nation, died from a gunshot wound to the back of his head after driving onto Gerald Stanley's farm. Stanley was charged with second-degree murder, stood trial, and was acquitted. The jury’s findings drew international attention and led the family to challenge racism embedded in Canada’s legal system.

An independent report released this week by the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC) found that the RCMP had mishandled the investigation into Boushie’s killing, including racially discriminating against Boushie’s mother, Debbie Baptiste, when notifying her of her son’s death. The report was accepted by the RCMP, who have committed themselves to enacting the commission’s recommendations. 

Baptiste’s unrelenting pursuit of justice is the topic of the award-winning documentary film nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Upwhich follows Boushie’s family from the Saskatchewan courthouse to Parliament and the United Nations, as they share Colten’s story in advocating for changes within the legal system. Their advocacy has resulted in the passing of Bill C-75, which ended peremptory challenges in the courtroom. These were used in Stanley’s trial as a means of blocking potential jurors who appeared to be Indigenous.  

  • Photo above: Debbie Baptiste and Jade Brown-Tootoosis at the United Nations in New York City. The two, who continue to advocate for an end to historic and contemporary injustices against Indigenous persons, will be appearing in a panel discussion March 30, 2021. © Melissa Kent/CBC Licensing

On March 30, the Education Students’ Association (ESA) and the Werklund School of Education will host a post-screening event of the film (an asynchronous, or watch-when-you-like, viewing) followed by a panel discussion with director Tasha Hubbard, and special guests Debbie Baptiste (Colten Boushie’s mother) and activist Jade Brown-Tootoosis (Boushie’s cousin).

The film, released in 2019, received numerous accolades, including the Best Feature Length Documentary award at the Canadian Screen Awards, Best Canadian Feature Documentary at the 2019 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, the Discovery Award from the Director's Guild of Canada, and the Special Jury Prize for Social Justice at the Calgary International Film Festival.

This event, organized by education students in collaboration with the National Film Board, is open to the general public with the intention to create dialogue that promotes awareness of the necessary steps toward reconciliation, including the dismantling of systemic forces that perpetuate issues of discrimination, oppression, colonialism and violence.

What is truly impactful about this film is that it forces a degree of introspection which is critical in order for real change to occur,” says Tassia Rushford, a student leader with the ESA, who received support through the Students’ Union Quality Money Grant to host the event. “I am hopeful that in sharing Colten Boushie’s story and legacy, educators will feel compelled to start a dialogue in their own classroom around racism so that we can foster a more just, compassionate, and equitable future for all.”

In bringing this event to the University of Calgary, Rushford worked closely with Dr. Yvonne Poitras Pratt, PhD’11, director of Indigenous education at the Werklund School of Education, who has supported the students’ association in developing this and other events centred on equality, social justice, and reconciliation.

Poitras Pratt sees an important role for students in addressing systemic injustice. “Student advocacy is very powerful as it shows the ways in which educators can learn from upcoming generations — it shows the courage and the passion that a new generation of educators carry when they are taught the truths of Canada,” explains Poitras Pratt. She also leads a graduate topic in the MEd program, Indigenous Education: A Call to Action that addresses the role of educators, policy-makers, and concerned citizens in working toward reconciling relations. 

I see hope for the future realized when students take up leadership roles in the quest for reconciliation through education.

Members of the public are invited to view the film through the registration link below and share their questions for panellists when registering. Questions will be reviewed by panellists beforehand.

The panel will be moderated by Dr. Michael Hart, PhD, vice-provost, Indigenous engagement at the University of Calgary and Poitras Pratt, with guest panellists Debbie Baptiste, Jade Brown-Tootoosis, and director, Dr.Tasha Hubbard, PhD.

ii’ taa’poh’to’p, the University of Calgary’s Indigenous Strategy, is a commitment to deep evolutionary transformation by reimagining ways of knowing, doing, connecting and being. Walking parallel paths together, “in a good way,” UCalgary is moving toward genuine reconciliation and Indigenization.