We love to celebrate the farming community. There are many awesome, hard-working people in agriculture. When it comes down to it, the people are what make farming and ranching special. We take pride in what we do and who we are.
But let’s face it. Some of these people say stupid things.
And it’s not okay to just stand by and ignore what they’re saying.
I’m referring to the comments being made by some farmers on social media following the fatal shooting of Colten Boushie on the farm of Gerald Stanley near Biggar, Saskatchewan.
The RCMP say Boushie — a 22-year-old Indigenous man — and four others drove onto the farmyard around 5:30pm on August 9. There was a verbal exchange and a gun was fired, resulting in Boushie’s death. The police have charged Stanley with second-degree murder. Boushie’s family said the group visited the farmyard to ask for help with a flat tire. Three of the people in the vehicle with him were also taken into custody in an unrelated theft investigation.
It will be up to the court to rule on what actually happened on Stanley’s farm, but the extreme comments posted online — many, sadly, by farmers — have been appalling and disgusting.
Among the harvest updates and machinery questions posted on the Saskatchewan Farmers Group on Facebook, there’ve been plenty of comments on Boushie’s death (administrators changed the group to ‘secret’ last week, so only the 4,000+ members can view it):
“Whatever, he’s brown bread now.”
“That farmer should have pumped the rest of them off too.”
“His only mistake was leaving three witnesses…”
“Time to go all cowboy and indian on these useless leaches…”
You get the picture.
Meanwhile, two fundraising campaigns on GoFundMe — the first for Stanley’s legal fees, and the second, to support his wife, have been taken down. Thousands of dollars were pledged before the pages disappeared.
Sitting on the tractor thinking about it over the weekend, I tried to process this mess and how people on both sides have responded. It’s obviously a complicated issue, involving race, the right to defend, and years of prejudice. But whatever happened on Stanley’s farm, one thing is clear: the hateful comments by these people — on both sides — need to be denounced.
As Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said, “this must stop.” They’re unacceptable.
I mean, how can we demand public respect for farmers while there are farmers on Facebook talking about having their front-end loaders ready to dig holes for dead First Nations people?
Hopefully the facts surrounding the shooting will come out in court and the appropriate verdict will be issued. In the meantime, generalizations about race are no better than generalizations many people are now making about racism and bigotry being rampant among rural white people.
Sadly, racism and hatred still survive in many parts of society. We tend to think these are only issues in other parts of the world, where we can’t do anything about them. Unfortunately, the response to Boushie’s death shows they’re not far away.