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Canada  

Farmers back acquittal

Mark Pashovitz believes he and other Saskatchewan farmers are easy targets.

They live in rural, isolated areas where it often takes police longer to respond to crimes. And their farm vehicles and equipment are tempting for thieves.

That's why he said he recently donated $1,000 to an online fundraiser to help pay the legal bills of Gerald Stanley, a white farmer acquitted last week of murder in the 2016 shooting death of a 22-year-old Cree man.

A jury heard that Colten Boushie and some friends had been drinking before they broke into a truck on one farm, then headed onto Stanley's property to ask for help for a flat tire. Stanley testified that he thought his ATV was being stolen. After firing warning shots, he said his gun went off accidentally, striking Boushie in the head as he sat in the group's SUV.

Stanley was "a victim of a situation that was totally out of his control," said Pashovitz.

"There was no respect for him or his property," he said Monday. "It could have been me."

Pashovitz farms near Biggar, about 30 kilometres from Stanley's farm and the same distance from the Red Pheasant First Nation, where Boushie was living with his mother.

He said he's had vehicles stolen from his property before, as have many other farmers in the area.

If he caught someone taking off with a vehicle, Pashovitz said he would likely let it go. But if he felt his wife and young children might be in danger, he would take out a gun.

"As a male, I have to protect my family."

The GoFundMe page for Stanley, set up last Friday — the same day a jury found him not guilty of second-degree murder — had raised over $101,000 by Monday afternoon. Many donors were listed as anonymous, and some signed as "concerned landowner," "previous victim," and "one less thief."

A similar fundraising page for Boushie's family, established five months ago, had raised $118,000. Since the verdict, protests and rallies have been held across the country demanding changes to the justice system and jury process to include more Indigenous people.

The Saskatchewan Ministry of Justice said it is reviewing the case to determine if there will be an appeal. Stanley and his lawyer have not commented since the trial.



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