Here are five of the stories that made headlines in 2018.
Justice system under scrutiny
On the evening of Friday, Feb. 9, a Saskatchewan jury found rancher Gerald Stanley not guilty of second degree murder in the shooting death of Red Pheasant Cree Nation man Colten Boushie. Stanley shot Boushie in the head after Boushie and four friends drove onto the Stanley property in August 2016. Stanley said he thought his handgun was empty and that the gun fired accidentally.
On Feb. 22, Raymond Cormier was found not guilty of second degree murder in the death of Tina Fontaine, a 15-year-old girl from the Sagkeeng First Nation in Manitoba. Her body was found in Winnipeg’s Red River, wrapped in a duvet cover and weighed down with rocks, on Aug. 17, 2014.
The Crown gave no physical or eyewitness evidence linking Cormier to the death. Instead, their case relied heavily on secretly recorded statements made by Cormier, along with testimony from witnesses who said they saw Cormier and Tina together in the days before she disappeared.
In June, a Hamilton jury found Peter Khill not guilty of second degree murder in the death of Jon Styres, a member of Six Nations of the Grand River from Ohsweken, Ont. Khill said he shot Styres in self-defence after he found him attempting to steal his truck.
The three cases sparked calls for changes to aspects of Canada’s criminal justice system such as police procedure and jury selection, and in Fontaine’s case, there were calls for changes to Child and Family Services. The families of Colten Boushie and Jon Styres have filed lawsuits.
The national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls has faced a number of obstacles since its start in 2016, including high profile resignations and concerns from survivors and family members on aftercare.
In March, the commissioners asked the federal government for a two-year extension and an additional $50 million to complete their work. Instead, they got an extension for writing the final report to April 30, 2019, and an additional two months to wind down its operations by June 30.
Over the course of the inquiry, 1,484 people chose to participate in the truth-gathering process, sharing their stories of loss and survival.
The inquiry held its final hearings in Ottawa in December.
Trans Mountain pipeline
The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project dominated headlines in 2018 as provinces, First Nations and the federal government battled each other and among themselves.
In May, the Liberal government announced that it was purchasing the controversial project from Kinder Morgan for $4.5 billion. In August, the Federal Court of Appeal quashed the approval of the pipeline expansion. The court found the National Energy Board’s assessment of the project was so flawed that it should not have been relied on by the federal cabinet when it gave final approval to proceed in November 2016.
The NEB has to do re-do an environmental assessment on tanker traffic and its consultation with Indigenous Peoples. That process has begun and will continue into 2019.
The Thunder Bay Police Service and its board were the subject of two highly critical reports this December.
The Office of the Independent Police Review Director, Ontario’s independent police watchdog, found there was evidence that racism played a role in the way police handled death cases involving Indigenous people. It called for nine deaths of Indigenous people in Thunder Bay to be reinvestigated.
Another report done on behalf of the Ontario Civilian Police Commission by Sen. Murray Sinclair found the police board failed in its oversight of the Thunder Bay police amid persistent allegations of systemic racism. The OCPC ordered an administrator to take over the board’s duties while it is rebuilt.
Indigenous rights recognition framework
In February, Prime Minister Trudeau announced the government was planning to table a new Federal Recognition and Implementation of Indigenous Rights Framework.
The proposed framework floundered from lack of support and confusion from many First Nations who expressed frustration with the process and a discussion paper released by Ottawa in September on the issue.
Ottawa was aiming to table the proposed legislation before Christmas in hopes of hitting its last window of opportunity to get it through the parliamentary process by late spring, ahead of next fall’s federal election, but it has yet to develop a draft for the framework.
Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett’s office said work would continue to develop the framework to enshrine Section 35 rights in the Constitution in federal law.