A fundraiser for the man found not guilty of manslaughter and second-degree murder in the shooting death of Colten Boushie has raised over $90,000 and is rocketing towards $100,000—a response some critics have dubbed a modern-day “scalp bounty.”
The death of 22-year-old Colten Boushie has, over the last two years, become a flashpoint for the relationship between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous people of Canada. This came to a head on Friday when news broke of Gerald Stanley’s not guilty verdict, after which thousands protested against the verdict in rallies across the country.
Boushie was killed by a gunshot wound to the back of the head after he and a group of friends driving a Ford Escape pulled into Gerald Stanley’s farm in Saskatchewan after puncturing a tire. According to the Globe and Mail, the court heard that Stanley and his son Sheldon were building a fence at the time and raced toward the vehicle that pulled into their yard, hitting the Escape as it tried to pull away. It then crashed into Stanley’s car. Stanley ran to a shed to get a handgun and ran out firing twice in the air—Stanley claimed he thought he only loaded three bullets and pulled the trigger to make sure it was empty and made his way towards the car.
When Stanley got close to the vehicle the gun fired, hitting Boushie in the back of the head at point-blank range.
One of the women left in the vehicle with Boushie—two people had run off at this time—said that Stanley intentionally fired and killed the 22-year-old man. Whereas Stanley said he was trying to turn off the vehicle’s ignition when the gun accidentally went off.
The verdict was based around the argument that while the gun did fire and cause Boushie’s death Stanley didn’t pull the trigger and it was a case of “hang fire”—when a gun goes off well after the trigger was pulled. After 13 hours of deliberation, the jury decided to acquit Stanley. When the verdict was announced the courtroom erupted with shouting and fervour and Stanley was rushed out with Boushie’s mother shouting “you're a murderer. You murdered my son.”
The GoFundMe for Stanley was first set up on Friday and aimed at raising $25,000 but pushed to $50,000 when it quickly broke that initial goal—the goal is now $100,000 and, at the time of writing, it sits at $90,000 from 1,225 donors and is climbing rapidly. The fundraiser’s description page states that the funds are “an effort to help them recoup some of their lost time, property and vehicles that were damaged, harvest income, and sanity during this entire difficult situation.” The fundraiser has drawn ire online with many reporting it hoping for its removal. The Huffington Post contacted GoFundMe and were told by a spokesperson that, "given the jury verdict, this campaign does not violate our terms of service.”
“The scalp bounty never ended,” reads a tweet that has been shared over 200 times. “Today it's collected through GoFundMe.”
In 2015, a similar GoFundMe page—this one supporting the six police officers charged with the killing of Freddie Gray—was pulled after it was found the fundraiser broke the site’s rules regarding raising money for those facing “formal charges, or claims of heinous crimes, violent, hateful or discriminatory acts” and that the site doesn’t raise money to benefit for somebody charged with a serious crime. When this fundraiser was pulled, the case had not yet been decided.
Prior to the Stanley trial, then-premier of Saskatchewan, Brad Wall made a call on Facebook to end the vitriolic racism directed at the Indigenous people of his province on social media. While it never went away, the racism directed towards Indigenous people has become more vocal since the not-guilty verdict.
Websites in support of the Stanley family and the killing of Boushie have popped up. On many far-right Facebook pages across the country, Stanley is being praised as a vigilante hero defending his property. Many posts—seemingly forgetting that Stanley claimed the shooting was an accident—stated they would do the same if put in the situation. One post indicative of many others reads, “Protection of life and property is a basic human fundamental right.... even though the justice system doesn’t see it that way most of the time. Those shits got what they deserved!!! And for ONCE justice prevailed!!!”
Federal politicians across the country, including the prime minister, have weighed in on the controversial verdict. On Friday, Justin Trudeau tweeted, “I can't imagine the grief and sorrow the Boushie family is feeling tonight. Sending love to them from the US.” Reaction to the tweet was mixed. Some Conservative politicians questioned if Trudeau should be weighing in on a jury’s verdict. Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer said that Boushie’s death was “tragic,” but told reporters in Halifax that “I think it is important that we remember that politicians don’t decide these types of things.” NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh tweeted something similar to Trudeau, saying “there was no justice for Colten Boushie.
“Already Indigenous youth live with little hope for their future and today they have again been told that their lives have less value. We must confront the legacy of colonialism and genocide so They can see a brighter future for themselves.”
In some of the vilest corners of the internet, both Boushie’s death and Stanley’s not guilty verdict were greeted with celebration. Numerous 4chan posts went up celebrating that “there is still hope in Canada” and many on the site have unsurprising flocked to this fundraiser. The internet has opened a channel to anonymous fundraising in ways that we haven’t really seen before and many have used this for their gain.
“Over 55,000$ have been donated to a GoFundMe account to help the farmer pay off his legal fees and recoup money from missing harvest season,” gleefully reads the start of a lengthy 4chan post regarding the fundraiser. “This has further infuriated the left wing. Tensions between whites and natives have never been so high. This will be a full on race war.”
Several in the discussion said they had donated with some of them posting screenshots proving so. On Canada’s defacto Reddit home for the alt-right, MetaCanada, a “support Gerald Stanley” post has gone up with many of the users saying they will donate.
Due to the anonymous nature of this type of fundraising it is impossible to tell what percentage of the money is coming from concerted far-right efforts and what is coming from Canadians who wouldn't consider themselves part of the movement. For years now, these online fundraising platforms have become a key tool for those in the far-right—some prominent figures have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars. Far-right commentator Lauren Southern was kicked off fundraising sites after raising money to disrupt refugee efforts in the Mediterranean last year. WeSearchr, another far-right funding site, raised over $150,000 to help a neo-Nazi website legally fight a case against the Southern Poverty Law Centre.
A separate GoFundMe page, this one supporting the Boushie family has raised over $100,000.
Follow Mack on Twitter.