Styres family suing shooter Khill for $2 million

The plaintiffs claim “loss of care, guidance and companionship,” as well as “mental distress” and “psychological damage,” and loss of income and services following Styres’ death.

In addition to $2 million in damages, the lawsuit seeks aggravated and punitive damages of $250,000.

On Thursday, rage over the jury’s not-guilty verdict in the second-degree murder case continued to gain steam.

On Thursday, Six Nations Elected Chief Ava Hill doubled down on comments made in a press release shortly after Wednesday’s verdict.

Hill, speaking at the All Ontario Chiefs Conference at Nipissing First Nation, criticized the federal government for not acting quickly enough to address problems in the justice system.

“A truck is worth more than a young native man’s life in this country,” she said in a clip aired online by the CBC. “And we’ve got to do something about it as chiefs.”

Hill also said Six Nations is “very upset because racism has just reared its ugly head in this country again.”

She added Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the system must “do better” in February, after an all-white Saskatchewan jury acquitted a white farmer in the 2016 shooting death of Colten Boushie, a 22-year-old member of Red Pheasant First Nation.

“Well, what’s been done better since then? Not a damn thing,” Hill said.

Government officials didn’t immediately provide a response Thursday.

Six Nations Elected Council also renewed its call for Ottawa to “overall” the justice system, which “overrepresents Indigenous people as victims and accused persons and chronically under-achieves justice.”

Statistics Canada recently released a report showing Indigenous youth represented 46 per cent of admissions to correctional services in 2016-17 while only accounting for eight per cent of the youth population.

Khill’s defence didn’t contend he shot Styres over the truck, however, as Hill suggests, but rather over concern for his life.

However, the verdict has drawn sharp divisions between those who support Khill’s actions that early morning and others who believe the decision was motivated by race.

The 12 jurors were screened for potential racism in a process called “challenge for cause.” On Wednesday, defence lawyer Jeffrey Manishen told The Spectator he believed none were Indigenous.

Chris Murphy, a Toronto-based lawyer who has represented the Boushie family in Saskatchewan, said he couldn’t comment on the Khill verdict.

“But I know that race plays a part in countless cases across this country.”

Murphy argues “peremptory challenges,” a mechanism lawyers can use to rule out would-be jurors without explanation is “abused” in Canadian courtrooms.

The second-degree murder trial of Gerald Stanley, the 56-year-old who shot and killed Boushie on his Biggar, Sask. farm, was widely criticized for its used of peremptory challenges.

Murphy said the federal government’s legislative effort to eliminate them should come with a suitable replacement to ensure checks and balances.

Most recently, he has represented the family of Jordan Lafond, a 21-year-old Cree man who died in October 2016, after a police chase in which Saskatoon officers exercised use of force.

He praised the inquest’s jury selection process, noting names were chosen from an “Indigenous drum” and a “non-Indigenous drum” to make sure at least three of the six would be Indigenous.

Dean Paquette, a Hamilton criminal defence lawyer, says doing away with peremptory challenges on the outcome of a single trial would be “short-sighted.”

Paquette said lawyers are privy to scant information of prospective jurors and must rely on a “gut decision” when making assessments.

“What about next week when we have an Indigenous accused and a white victim?”

In the United States, lawyers have the option of appealing such challenges before a judge, an outlet not available in Canada, he noted.

Six Nations Elected council also called on Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General to appeal the verdict. A ministry spokesperson has declined to comment during the appeal period.

tmoro@thespec.com

905-526-3264 | @TeviahMoro

tmoro@thespec.com

905-526-3264 | @TeviahMoro