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Family of Colton Crowshoe grows frustrated over Alberta justice system delays

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The family of murder victim Colton Crowshoe is growing increasingly frustrated with delays in the case.

It's been nearly 10 years since Crowshoe, 18, was killed, and almost two years since charges were laid.

On Wednesday, family learned a sentencing hearing scheduled for that day had been pushed back until the fall; and it's not the first time sentencing has been delayed.

Nicole Johnston, Crowshoe's aunt, says they're upset that the hearing will now be held Sept. 13 at the earliest.

"This needs to end," said Nicole Johnston, Crowshoe's aunt.

"My family is suffering because now this is just plain torture."

Wiley Su Provost, 29, was charged with second-degree murder in July 2022.

He pleaded guilty to manslaughter in September 2023.

Sentencing delays continue

Johnston says she was originally expecting Provost to be sentenced on Feb. 23, 2024, but her family had to wait until May 10 to deliver victim impact statements.

The sentence date was then pushed to June 12, then again to Sept. 13.

Johnston says most recently, sentencing was delayed so the judge could ask more Indigenous elders to come in and speak on behalf of the situation.

Johnston questions why elders weren't present for the duration of the case proceedings, which has taken place in Indigenous court, and says she wonders why it took so long for Justice George Gaschler to make the decision.

"This is really hard for us, to keep waiting like this. On the other hand, I am an Indigenous advocate, and I'm trying to see this in a positive manner by contacting elders from reserves all over Treaty 7," she said.

"In the past, when an Indigenous person committed a crime such as murder, they would be abolished from the tribe, told to leave immediately; it was their death sentence. So we need to get a group together of elders and prepare them to now start intervening within these court cases for their members."

Colton Crowshoe, 18, went missing after leaving a house party in the northeast Calgary community of Abbeydale on July 4, 2014. His body was found three weeks later in a water retention pond near Stoney Trail and 16 Avenue N.E.Crowshoe's father Jimmy feels the same, adds that Colton's siblings Jasmine and Wyatt are grieving every day.

"I'm just trying to do as much as I can for my kids, because they're the ones suffering all the time. It makes me cry, because Wyatt has a lot of anger, and I think Jasmine is just trying her hardest to make things better," he said.

"It's hard waiting up there, sitting up there, 10 years, it's so frustrating. I just want this to stop. I'm trying to remember Colton the way he was, his smile, and to teach my kids how he was in the meantime."

'We're underfunding the justice system'

Mount Royal University professor of justice studies Doug King says the most notable delay in the Crowshoe case comes from the need to order a Gladue report (pre-sentencing) for Provost.

That process alone can take about four months, but he notes that the other issue with delays have to do with a lack of funding.

"You need a judge, Crown prosecutors, court clerks… you need a physical space, and if you think about how all levels of government are not funding justice the way it should, not hiring enough clerks or justices or building enough courtrooms, it all delays the process," King said.

"In this case, we're underfunding the justice system, and people need to really appreciate that the family still has not been able to heal because they don't know what the punishment is going to be."

Colton Crowshoe, 18, went missing after leaving a house party in the northeast Calgary community of Abbeydale on July 4, 2014. His body was found three weeks later in a water retention pond near Stoney Trail and 16 Avenue N.E.King adds that Alberta in particular did not participate in a process to request funding for new federally-appointed judges in 2021, leading many to criticize the UCP government for perpetuating delays in the court system.

Fast forward to 2024, and the Alberta government says it won't revamp its court system to get federal funding for 17 judges dedicated to hearing family court cases.

Ottawa says the $10.9 million-a-year set aside for those Alberta family court judges is off the table, and will be spent in superior court appointments across the country.

Alberta Justice Minister Mickey Amery says that money was offered with too many conditions to remodel the family court system, and that Alberta won't follow through. 

A statement emailed to CTV News from the Office of the Minister of Justice said:

"The courts are independent of government and the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service. As such, judicial decisions are made independently, and the timing determined on case-by-case basis."

Agreed statement of facts 

Crowshoe was reported missing on July 6, 2014.

He was last seen leaving a party with Provost in the northeast Calgary community of Abbeydale just two days prior.

His body was found three weeks later in a water retention pond near Stoney Trail and 16 Avenue N.E.

An autopsy determined Crowshoe's death was a homicide.

According to an agreed statement of facts, Provost and Crowshoe had known each other since they were teenagers, and had both gone to the party that evening until police showed up for reports of a domestic dispute.

The police presence prompted both of them to leave the party together. Both were said to have been intoxicated due to heavy alcohol consumption.

Court heard Provost and Crowshoe had sat down in a grassy area together near the retention pond. They then removed their shirts to sit down on, as the grass was wet.

Provost admitted to getting into a disagreement with Crowshoe, prompting a physical altercation, and for Crowshoe to run away.

Crowshoe attempted to put his shirt back on, but Provost attacked him.

It was reported in court that the bone in front of his neck was fractured, as was the cartilage on both sides of his neck.

Following the assault, Provost proceeded to submerge Crowshoe's body in the retention pond.

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