nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up
Directed by Tasha Hubbard
Runtime: 98 minutes
Rated: PG for coarse language and tobacco use with trigger warning for discussions of violence
Screening on June 1 (filmmaker in attendance) and June 2 at Metro Cinema, 8712 109 St. in Edmonton. More details can be found at www.metrocinema.org.
If the name Colten Boushie doesn’t make you stop and seriously consider interracial relations in this country then perhaps it’s time to catch up with the news. Even if you are familiar with the circumstances surrounding the 22-year-old Saskatchewan man’s shooting death in 2016 and the subsequent court case that revealed deep-seated divisions in our justice system, there’s a new documentary called nîpawistamâsowin (We Will Stand Up) is a beautifully made and comprehensive personal journey that should be required viewing for all.
Director Tasha Hubbard doesn’t spend 98 minutes simply going over the facts of the case and replaying the public’s and the family’s reactions to everything. She puts it all in perspective, starting with her own story of being adopted and connected to the land that she grew up on. The film starts with her, her son and her nephew sneaking through a barbed wire fence to look over a wide expanse of someone else’s property with its gently rolling hills and spots of ponds. The deep green grass and tree groves make the scene picturesque, though one can’t help but shake the fact that they’re ostensibly there as interlopers, presumably not legal ones. Their presence certainly is harmless but the parallel is driven home.
Boushie was shot in the head after he and his friends were discovered on Gerald Stanley’s rural property near Biggar, Saskatchewan one mid-August evening. Stanley had first fired some warning shots but still had the gun in his hand when he reached in to take the keys out of the ignition with the unarmed Boushie behind the wheel. That’s when he was killed.
Regardless of how one perceives the right to defend one's property, there are still many lingering issues with how the case was dealt with first by the RCMP and then by the justice system. We Will Stand Up reviews the laundry list of these issues, many of which should be considered absolutely unacceptable. These include media releases, the loss of evidence through neglect, the negation of expert testimony, and the ultimate approval of the fatal shot being caused by a ‘hang fire,’ meaning a delay between when the triggered was pulled and the bullet shot out of the barrel. Tensions are still simmering about these and other details of what happened that night. The discussion on how to improve that status quo, obviously, needs to continue.
Hubbard stays fair to her objective of putting everything into its historical place starting with the “heartbreaking history” of colonialism. She also devotes screen time to how things got to where they are now. Her film, she says, is meant to help people of all cultures to get along better so to ensure the survival of her children’s generation.
It’s impossible to disagree.