A peaceful rally denouncing the farmyard killing of a Cree man turned tense Thursday as the family of the man accused of murdering Colten Boushie walked through the crowd, escorted by RCMP, for a court appearance in a case that has ignited racial tensions across Saskatchewan.
Scores of Mounties held watch inside and outside the courthouses in North Battleford, Sask., and Battleford, Sask., during the plea and the bail hearing.
Inside, Gerald Stanley, 54, pleaded not guilty of second-degree murder. Outside, grief and anger overcame some of Mr. Boushie's supporters.
"He's an animal," one yelled.
"Murder is murder," another said.
"Justice for Colten" chants eventually drowned out the more confrontational statements. One man burned sweetgrass, while a woman drummed and sang traditional songs.
Outside court, William Boushie said his 22-year-old brother's killing "took the light from my eyes."
"He went to have a good time at the lake. He promised me he was going to come home. Instead, he comes home in a casket. Racism plays a part in this," he said.
"I hope I can find forgiveness in my heart in the long run but, right now, I'm grieving. I'm hurt … I'll never get him back."
In the 10 days since the death, aboriginal leaders have decried the shooting as one fuelled by racism, while a spate of violent comments online moved Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall to demand a stop to the vitriol, saying hate-speech laws would be enforced and calling on Saskatchewan residents to "rise above intolerance."
Mr. Stanley remains in custody after the bail hearing on Thursday. A judge will rule within days whether he will be released. The details aired at the hearing are under a routine publication ban.
Mr. Boushie was killed on Aug. 9 at a farm in the rural municipality of Glenside, west of Saskatoon.
The RCMP said Mr. Boushie and others drove to the Stanley property and the landowners did not know them. RCMP said there was then a verbal confrontation. A gun was discharged and Mr. Boushie was killed.
The tinderbox atmosphere since then prompted Mr. Stanley's lawyer on Thursday to issue the first statement made by the accused's family to address the shooting.
"The circumstances of the incident are not as simple as some media reports have portrayed," Scott Spencer wrote in the statement.
"Although the rampant speculation and misinformation is frustrating, it is not the place for, or reasonable to expect, the Stanley family to correct the public record."
Mr. Spencer said the family will not comment until the case has been heard in court.
Some people in the crowd at the North Battleford courthouse Thursday were there to support Mr. Stanley.
One man, who didn't want to be identified, said he doesn't know Mr. Stanley but went to the courthouse to back him.
"There are so many stories – there's his side, their side – there's two sides to a story. And then there is the truth," the man said, as he leaned against a pickup truck in a parking lot across the street from the courthouse.
"Nobody has heard his side. Not once through this whole incident have you ever heard, from the press, from you people, innocent until proven guilty. Not once, and that's Canadian law."
Mr. Boushie lived on Red Pheasant First Nation, a reserve near the Stanley farm. A cousin, who was also in the car along with several others, said they were heading home after an afternoon of swimming when they got a flat tire and were looking for help.
First Nations leaders have condemned the first RCMP news release about the shooting, saying it was biased. It said that people in the car had been taken into custody as part of a theft investigation. They were released without charges.
Chief Bobby Cameron of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations said the RCMP statement "provided just enough prejudicial information" for people to draw the conclusion that the shooting was somehow justified.
The case has been adjourned until Sept. 13.
With a report from The Canadian Press