Outside of the empty New Brunswick legislature over 50 protestors gathered on Thursday to renew calls for a public inquiry into systemic racism in justice and policing in the province
Some that were present hope that the realities faced by Indigenous people in the province will finally become a ballot box issue.
“I see evidence that Indigenous issues are now becoming more prominent and perhaps non-Indigenous New Brunswickers are becoming more aware,” said Darrah Beaver, the director of education for Tobique First Nation.
“For indigenous issues to be put up higher on the list of priorities, [it] will not come from indigenous people demanding it, it will come from non-indigenous supporting and calling on their candidates to say this is a priority and to recognize that as settles on unceded Wolastoqey territory they also have a role to hold leaders accountable.”
Moore was shot and killed by an Edmundston Police officer who was performing a wellness check. Just weeks later Levi was killed by RCMP officers who were responding to reports of a mental health crisis.
Both incidents are being investigated by Quebec’s police watchdog, Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes, but it could be months before the investigations wrap up.
Calls for a public inquiry have been loud. The Wolastoqey Chiefs along with Mi’gmawe’l Tplu’taqnn Inc. (MTI), an organization representing the nine Mi’gmaq First Nations in the province, have not wavered in their ask for a full public inquiry.
Pressure on N.B. government to investigate systematic racism
A July meeting between the Chiefs and Premier Blaine Higgs broke down after Higgs refused to begin an inquiry without federal involvement.
Higgs has maintained that any inquiry should be led by the federal government, not the province.
That’s not good enough for the families of Moore and Levi.
“I think justice for all families, it’s important to get the justice that’s needed,” said Martha Martin, who attended Thursday’s protest dressed in yellow, Moore’s favourite colour.
Senator Sandra Lovelace Nicholas, the first Indigenous woman appointed to the Senate, also attended the protest.
Speaking to reporters she said the fear of police is deeply rooted in Indigenous people.
“Ever since we were children, our parents used to tell us ‘hide, there’s the cops.’ When I was a mother I told my children ‘you better hide, there’s the cops,’” she said.
“We were always scared of the cops. Even now, if I drive somewhere and there’s a cop, I’m very nervous.”
Political leaders remain split on how to proceed.
Liberal Leader Kevin Vickers has called for a public inquiry but has yet to address the topic on the campaign trail.
Higgs has preferred to pitch a working group between the government and Indigenous leaders to tackle recommendations from old reports and said that a public inquiry would need to be lead by the federal government.
BLSA Canada talks anti-black racism and increasing diversity on the bench
People’s Alliance Leader Kris Austin has said that he doesn’t believe systemic racism exists in the province but could support an inquiry if it improved the policing system.
Green Leader David Coon, who attended the protest, has been outspoken on the need for a public inquiry and slammed Higgs for his reluctance to call one at a campaign stop in Hartland, N.B. on Thursday.
“I don’t know what he’s afraid of, but I have no fear. We need to hear those stories of racism so we know how to eliminate systemic racism,” he said.
“We need to learn how to do that so we need to hear from that lived experience that an inquiry would bring forward.”
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.