Tasha Hubbard‘s We Will Stand Up is many things at once: murder trial story, history lesson, and filmmaker memoir – but not all of these are satisfyingly developed. Its main focus is the shooting of Colten Boushie—a twenty-two-year-old Cree man from Saskatchewan—and the subsequent fallout. The murder trial made news headlines in Canada in 2016 and its ramifications have continued to grow, particularly after the shameful final jury decision.
Hubbard narrates many of the early scenes of the film, creating a feeling of intimacy and reflection, and speaks of her own upbringing in an adoptive family and the rediscovery of her own heritage. The voiceover does become a little overbearing at times though, even bordering on monotonous, and the film works more effectively when we move to interviews with Boushie’s mother and sister, most of which are heartbreaking. This central focus acts as an anchor to overarching explorations of Canada’s indigenous population, their history, and the racism they still face; as the documentary indicates, in addition to cultural history passing down the generations, so too does prejudice. There is also an awful irony in the murder of an indigenous man being killed for trespassing on a Caucasian farmer’s land. Boushie’s mother’s account of how the news was delivered to her by police is shocking, too.
The latter section of the film then moves forward as a study of the legal system that failed the Boushies and their journey for systemic change on a national scale. Justin Trudeau features in one scene as he meets with the family to discuss race, prejudice and discrimination in Canada, and later footage captures rallies, public speeches and touching commemoration ceremonies organised by the family and their supporters.
Fittingly and sadly, there is no real resolution here. The family continue to campaign for a Royal Commission into racism in the so-called justice system. However, it is apparent that even the devastating death detailed here won’t be enough to alter such an ingrained and widespread problem.