The six Chiefs of the Wolastoqey Nation in New Brunswick renewed their call for an Indigenous-led inquiry into systemic racism, saying this week’s coroner’s inquest into the police shooting death of Chantel Moore during a wellness check in Edmundston demonstrated “urgent need”. “
On Thursday, after four days of testimony in Fredericton, the inquest jury ruled the death of the 26-year-old Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman in 2020 a homicide.
The jury recommended, among other things, that a single agency oversee use-of-force incidents in New Brunswick and that police take steps to improve their relationship with First Nations, such as cultural sensitivity training or appointment of a First Nations Community Liaison Officer.
The jury’s finding and recommendations “do not address the gravity of the tragedy, nor the systemic issues embedded in the justice system,” the chiefs said in a press release.
“This reflects a failure by the Blaine Higgs government to address the root cause of Chantel Moore’s death and similar tragedies.”
Ask the commissioner to recommend an investigation
Chiefs have called for an Indigenous-led investigation for two years — since Moore’s death on June 4, 2020, and the police shooting death of Rodney Levi of the Metepenagiag First Nation about a week later.
“Unlike a government commission or a coroner’s inquest, an inquest would require government departments and agencies to provide witnesses, testimonies and all documents necessary to fully investigate systemic racism,” Chief Gabriel Atwin of Pilick said. (Kingsclear First Nation) in a statement.
The Chiefs argue that there are “deep-rooted and fundamental issues related to racism against Indigenous peoples” and are calling on the province’s Systemic Racism Commissioner, Manju Varma, to publicly recommend an investigation.
Although they declined to participate in Varma’s ongoing review of racism against Indigenous peoples, immigrants and people of color in New Brunswick, calling its mandate “incredibly broad,” the chiefs were encouraged to see her and her team assisting with the investigation, said Chief Tim Paul of Wotstak (Woodstock First Nation).
“Now we ask: is what she has seen this week enough for her to join our call?”
‘No justice, no peace’
Chief Allan Polchies Jr., of Sitansisk (St. Mary’s First Nation) in Fredericton, who praised the Moore family’s “strength and perseverance” in their quest for justice, said he agrees with Moore’s mother, Martha Martin, that “bold change is needed.”
Systemic racism in the province is real, he told reporters after the investigation.
“We need action, we need justice. … No justice, no peace.”
It’s up to the provincial government whether or not to order an investigation, Polchies said, but it’s up to citizens to demand one.
“New Brunswickers give them the voice to carry our voices, to carry the voices of children who have no voice…like Chantel,” he said.
“So where are they? Where are they is what New Brunswickers need to ask. You have to ask them. They are our decision makers in this province, just as I am a decision maker in my community. we must take ownership of the decisions we make.
“So I say to all New Brunswickers to keep your MPs and your Premier [Blaine] Higgs…responsible. Let’s give dignity.”
“Community members at risk”
Chief Ross Perley of Neqotkuk (Tobique First Nation) has long argued that an inquiry is the only way to “create a credible, independent process that can lead to a justice system we can trust.”
Nothing he’s seen this week has changed his mind, he said.
“This traumatic investigation, which the Moore family has watched faithfully, has left them no opportunity to participate. It has no power to address the root causes of the failures in the justice system that continue to put members of our community at risk. hazard.”
Additionally, the Chiefs have “no faith” that the recommendations made by the inquest jury — or by the Systemic Racism Commission — will “receive due consideration or attention from the Higgs government.”
Chief Patricia Bernard of Matawaskiye (Madawaska First Nation) wondered if any of the recommendations from last October’s inquest into Levi’s death had been acted upon.
“How could any impartial observer believe that this investigation or the ongoing commission will bring about changes that will reduce the risk our community faces when interacting with police?”
Higgs declined to order an independent inquiry into systemic racism against Indigenous people in the justice system, saying there are already many recommendations to address the problem and they simply need to be implemented.
Varma’s report is expected to be submitted to the government in October and is expected to include recommendations to address systemic racism in areas including health care, education, social development, housing, employment and criminal justice .