On Friday, the Chiefs of the Wolastoqey Nation in New Brunswick issued a call for an independent committee to review systemic bias against Indigenous people in New Brunswick’s policing and criminal justice systems. We are disturbed by the tonedeaf and condescending statement issued in response to our call by the government of the province of New Brunswick on Saturday.
We reject the claim by the New Brunswick minister of public safety that government has “already begun a dialogue with Indigenous leaders” on the subject of the racism and bias in our criminal justice and policing systems.
We also want to ensure proper oversight and due care is taken in the
review of this tragedy and need a broader independent review that we can trust is inclusive of an Indigenous perspective. It must address systemic bias.
The provincial cabinet has the power under section 2 of the Inquiries Act to “hold an inquiry into and concerning any matter connected with the good government of the Province, the conduct of any part of the public business, the administration of justice or any matter … of public interest.”
Using this power, government could appoint Indigenous and legal experts to oversee a systemic investigation in an unbiased way. Non-indigenous people simply do not have the lived experience to conduct an unbiased investigation of such matters.
The circumstances of Chantel Moore’s death are tragic, but these systemic problems run deeper than this one tragic incident. Only a truly independent process will give people confidence that it has been fully and fairly investigated.
Enough is enough. Now is not the time to wait for a predetermined process to ignore the systemic problems that result in the unequal treatment and death of Indigenous peoples in our province and throughout the country.
Our people have participated in national inquiries and we have heard words spoken by governments, and still we come back to the same point we reached again this week. This must change.
Our people are over policed, under served as victims, and more likely to be sentenced and jailed. The Province has a responsibility to act – to address systemic racism in the justice system. We need to end this discrimination.
It is simply not good enough for the minister and his cabinet colleagues to claim dialogue is ongoing when it is not; to claim a process is unbiased when it is not; and to tell Indigenous leaders to sit and wait while our communities continue to suffer from a broken system. Justice delayed is justice denied.
We demand action now. We will be calling on New Brunswick Premier
Blaine Higgs to overturn his minister’s indifference and cause action immediately. Indigenous lives matter.
Chief/Chef Ross Perley,
Chief/Chef Alan Polchies Jr.,
Sitansisk (St. Mary’s)
Chief/Chef Patricia Bernard,
Chief/Chef Shelley Sabattis,
Chief/Chef Gabriel Atwin,
Chief/Chef Tim Paul,
Media Contact: Gillian Paul, 506-461-1187, firstname.lastname@example.org