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Background Of Gerald Stanley Trial Judge

Chief Justice Martel Popescul Worked On Carnie Nerland Case for RCMP in the 1990s

by Daniel Johnson

Martel Popescul, Saskatchewan Chief Justice and judge of the 2018 Gerald Stanley case. He provided legal representation to the RCMP in 1992.
Martel Popescul, Saskatchewan Chief Justice and judge of the 2018 Gerald Stanley case. He provided legal representation to the RCMP in 1992.

[Editor note: The title, sub-head, and photo captions of this article have been changed for factual clarity. There is no evidence that Chief Justice Martel Popescul has an ongoing work relationship with the RCMP nor that he currently has a close relationship with the organization. This article originally stated that Chief Justice Popescul, while he was employed as a lawyer for the RCMP in the early 1990s, acted to prevent a public inquiry into the killing of Leo Lachance by RCMP informant Carnie Nerland. The Saskatchewan Law Courts have contacted the Media Co-op to clarify that Popescul was acting on behalf of the RCMP in 1992 to prevent police informant identities from being revealed, and, according to an email received from the Saskatchewan Law Courts, "Any adjournment related to that appeal is a result of process, not purpose." While the appeal Popescul put forward to the court was successful and certain informants were not required to testify, this did not prevent the inquiry from happening. The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of the Media Co-op.] 

A lot has been said about the tragic, confusing and divisive trial of Saskatchewan farmer Gerald Stanley for the shooting death of Colten Boushie. The verdict was shocking to everyone following the case, even those who sided with Gerald Stanley expected manslaughter at the very least. Protests erupted in cities across the country, with thousands turning out for rallies in Saskatchewan despite the cold weather, statements were made to the media by indigenous leaders and Ottawa politicians. The verdict was called 'a black eye for Canada' by Ontario regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Isadore Day, while Assembly Of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde said “This huge gap in terms of quality of life. That gap represents the racism, the discrimination, the oppression, the colonization, the disproportionate number of people in jails, the high youth suicide rate, overcrowded housing, caps on education. That gap has to be addressed.”.

Colten Boushie's family members met with Federal Ministers in Ottawa to discuss potential changes to the legal system, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said the NDP might consider a pledge to radically reform the jury selection process, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said “I’m not going to comment on the process that led us to this point today, but I am going to say we have come to this point as a country far too many times…Indigenous people across this country are angry, they’re heartbroken, and I know Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians alike know that we have to do better.”,  drawing accusations of 'Jury Tampering' from many conservatives, including Global News journalist and former Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith

The case is troubling for a lot of reasons, but the all white jury, and the jury selection process that led to it, have gotten the most discussion so far. 

Another aspect of the case that got a lot of coverage in Saskatchewan immediately after the incident is the RCMP's handling of the case, especially their inititial public statements on the case and their treatment of Boushie's family. In a statement shortly after the incident occurred, Federation Of Saskatchewan Indian Nations Chief Bobby Cameron said "The news release the RCMP issued the following day provided just enough prejudicial information for the average reader to draw their own conclusions that the shooting was somehow justified. The messaging in an RCMP news release should not fuel racial tensions,”

One issue that has not been addressed is the background of Saskatchewan Chief Justice Martel Popescul, who was the judge in the Gerald Stanley trial.

I came across his name in an article and recognized it, and had to double check to make sure it was the same person, and it is. The judge wasn't random, Martel Popescul, Chief Justice of Saskatchewan’s Court of Queens Bench, chose to assign himself as the judge for this case. This is not the first racially charged murder case he has been involved in, and not the first racially charged murder case in which the RCMP have been viewed with great suspicion. 

Martel Popescul's name should be very familiar for those following the campaign for a public inquiry into the 1991 killing of Leo Lechance by Aryan Nations leader/RCMP informant Carnie Nerland.

Popescul was the RCMP lawyer in 1992 in the Carney Nerland case, and appealed successfully to the courts to prevent certain other police informants from testifying, with the argument that it may inadvertantly expose the identity of the informants. Martel Popescul represented the RCMP while working as a lawyer for the Sanderson Balicki Popescul law firm based in Prince Albert. 

There was an inquiry, completed in 1993, but it was largely dominated by the RCMP and  claimed that organized racism was not a major issue in Saskatchewan. 

RCMP handling of the case was widely criticized even before it was revealed that Nerland had been an informant. Both cases also revolved around the rather doubtful excuse that the firearm discharged accidently by itself. 

The RCMP have other reasons for not wanting to revive public discussion of the Nerland case, since it must be remembered that Carnie Nerland didn't really infiltrate, per se, an Aryan Nations group in Saskatchewan, he kind of started one, recruited members and, along with Terry Long,  played a major role in building one of Canada's most notorious hate groups, all while employed by the RCMP.

If anything, in my opinion someone with Popescul's background should have been recused from this case, but he did the opposite. 

Sources: 

1. Gerald Stanley Acquitted Of All Charges In The Death Of Colten Boushie; APTN News, February 10, 2018 http://aptnnews.ca/2018/02/10/gerald-stanley-acquitted-of-all-charges-in-the-death-of-colten-boushie/
 
2. Toronto's Indigenous Communities Protest Not Guilty Verdict In Colten Boushie Case; Kevin Connor, Toronto Sun, February 10, 2018. http://torontosun.com/news/local-news/torontos-indigenous-communities-protest-not-guilty-verdict-in-colten-boushie-case
 
3. Rallies In Saskatoon, Across Canada, Call For Change After Stanley Verdict; Erin Petrow, Saskatoon Star Phoenix, February 12, 2018. http://thestarphoenix.com/news/local-news/ive-lost-faith-in-the-justice-system-rally-in-saskatoon-calls-for-change-after-stanley-verdict
 
4. Not Guilty Verdict In Death Of Colten Boushie Is 'Black Eye' For Canada, Says Indigenous Leader; Muriel Draaisma, CBC News, February 10, 2018. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/not-guilty-verdict-colten-boushie-gerald-stanley-black-eye-canada-indigenous-leader-1.4530071
 
5. AFN Chief Perry Bellegarde Calls For National Strategy To Address Racism Following Stanley Verdict, Tim Switzer, Regina Leader Post, February 11, 2018. http://leaderpost.com/news/local-news/afn-chief-perry-bellegarde-calls-for-national-strategy-to-address-racism-following-stanley-verdict
 
6. Boushie Family Hopeful For Change After Meetings With PM And Ministers; Headline Politics, CPAC, February 14, 2018. http://www.cpac.ca/en/programs/headline-politics/episodes/59316063
 
7. NDP Considering Pledge To Abolish Jury Challenge Rule In Response To Boushie Trial Verdict; Canadian Press, February 13, 2018. http://canoe.com/news/national/ndp-considering-pledge-to-abolish-jury-challenge-rule-in-response-to-boushie-trial-verdict
 
8. Danielle Smith: Lawyer Says Justin Trudeau's Comments On Gerald Stanley Trial Akin To Jury Tampering, Danielle Smith, Global News, February 12, 2018.
 
9. FSIN Blasts RCMP Over Release About Shooting, Bryn Levy, 650 CKOM, August 12, 2016. http://www.ckom.com/2016/08/12/fsin-blasts-rcmp-over-release-about-shooting/
 
10. There Is So Much Wrong Being Said By Both Sides About The Gerald Stanley Trial, Brian Zinchuk, Battlefords News-Optimist, February 13, 2018. http://www.newsoptimist.ca/opinion/columnists/there-is-so-much-wrong-being-said-by-both-sides-about-the-gerald-stanley-trial-1.23171591
 
11. Interview With Carney Nerland, Helmut-Harry Loewen, StopRacism.Ca, December 10, 1993. http://antiracism.stopracism.ca/content/interview-carney-nerland
 
12. RCMP Can't Stop Nerland Inquiry, Connie Samson, 1992. http://www.windspeaker.com/news/windspeaker-news/rcmp-cant-stop-nerland-inquiry/
 
13. Leo LaChance Murder, Ron Bourgeault, Canadian Diminsion, April 1994. http://injusticebusters.org/index.htm/native-leo-lachance-murder.htm
 

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