BATTLEFORD, Sask. - Jury selection has begun at the trial for a Saskatchewan farmer accused in the fatal shooting of an Indigenous man.

Gerald Stanley was formally arraigned on a charge of second-degree murder and pleaded not guilty at a community centre in Battleford, Sask.

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Saskatchewan Chief Justice Martel Popescul must find 12 unbiased jurors in a case that stirred racial tensions in the province.

Some 750 potential jurors were summoned -- prompting jury selection to be held in a community centre -- and about 200 showed up.

Colten Boushie was 22 when an SUV that he was a passenger in drove onto a farm near Biggar, Sask., on Aug. 9, 2016.

An altercation ensued and Boushie -- from the Red Pheasant First Nation -- was shot and killed.

The trial is expected to last about three weeks.

Stanley's lawyer released a statement on the weekend urging jurors to keep an open mind.

"Despite any online comments or media stories, Gerry's trial is not a referendum on racism. If jurors feel that they have to pick a 'side,' then it will be very difficult for there to be a fair trial," said defence counsel Scott Spencer.

"Unfortunately, racial tensions existed in Saskatchewan, and across Canada, before the Boushie tragedy and they continue today."

Spencer said the rest of Canada will be watching Saskatchewan closely over the next couple of weeks on how the participants conduct themselves during the trial.

"It is important to keep in mind that being charged does not mean that you are guilty, while not being charged does not mean you are innocent ... the defence team is confident that the jury will take the more balanced approach of waiting to hear the facts before making judgment," Spencer wrote.

"One fact that should not be forgotten is that a young man lost his life. That was, and remains, a terrible tragedy."

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