Magazine article Anglican Journal

Saskatchewan Community Struggles with Reconciliation

Magazine article Anglican Journal

Saskatchewan Community Struggles with Reconciliation

Article excerpt

After the killing of a young Indigenous man near Biggar, Sask., in August, local Anglicans and Lutherans have been confronted with the challenge of putting what they have learned about reconciliation into practice, says the Rev. Mark Kleiner, priest-in-charge at St. Paul's Anglican Church and Redeemer Lutheran Church in Biggar.

On August 9,22-year-old Colten Boushie was on his way home to Red Pheasant First Nation from an after-noon of swimming when he and his friends stopped at the farm of Gerald Stanley. Boushie's cousin, Eric Meechance, who was with him at the time, said their truck had gotten a flat tire and they had pulled into Stanley's yard to fix it. However, an altercation reportedly ensued that ended in Boushie's shooting. RCMP have charged Stanley with second-degree murder; he has pleaded not guilty.

In the days and weeks that followed, there was a torrent of vitriolic and racist comments on social media from some members of the town's non-Indigenous community.

Kleiner, who served Biggar for five years before assuming a new post in Saskatoon in October, says the incident has revealed a deep undercurrent of racial animosity in the area that has been festering for years. The community is one where Indigenous and non-Indigenous people often do not interact. (Neither of his congregations have Indigenous members.) Many of the non-Indigenous people in Biggar and on the surrounding farms also believe that Indigenous people are responsible for a rise in crime in the area, he said.

"In the wake of the shooting, what really stunned me was the extent to which people around town hunkered down into a very defensive posture," he said. "Regardless of the circumstances, which are going to be discussed in the courts, there is a family here whose loved one is dead. And I wasn't encountering empathy, just basic human empathy. …

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