Last week, the six Chiefs of the Wolastoqey Nation alongside the Chiefs of the Mi’kmaq Nation, met with Premier Blaine Higgs to call on him to end systemic racism against Indigenous people in our government.
As Wolastoqey leaders, we know real change does not come in a day. It is a long path that we are on.
We have received very promising words from New Brunswick’s Aboriginal Affairs Minister Jake Stewart. We applaud his leadership and his honesty. But we are seeking more than words.
We stand firm in our belief this province must have an independent inquiry into systemic discrimination and bias. It must be indigenous-led and have tight timelines to ensure prompt action.
Premier Higgs said he prefers a lesser option – a “task force” that merely reviews old reports and recommendations. We can not settle for half measures. The difference between a task force and an inquiry, is that a task force has no teeth, it cannot force the government to collaborate, and it cannot access information that government wants to
hide. In 2017, Blaine Higgs and Ted Flemming called for a former government to establish an inquiry under the Inquiries Act, they said a study without the powers under that act was “bogus” and that an inquiry under the Act had “significantly more power” than the sort of task force the premier now wants to appoint.
An inquiry, called under the Inquiries Act, has the power to get to the bottom of things and to force the government, prosecutors and police to fully cooperate in its study. It can be given a hard deadline for the
completion of its work. We seek a process that government cannot manipulate, control or delay. We also hope that an inquiry will bring a high level of public awareness to the issues that we face each day. Public education is key to a better future.
We are not pleased with Premier Higgs’ response to date. Leaving our request for an inquiry on the table is not prompt action. We should not have to negotiate when lives hang in the balance. We can’t wait as one
police force investigates another.
We urge the premier to listen to the words of Minister Stewart and embrace the opportunity that is at hand. The fact that hundreds of recommendations from past studies sit dormant on government shelves speaks to the need to clear a path forward. An inquiry would bring the direction we so badly need in New Brunswick.
The inquiry should be indigenous led and the terms of reference developed by indigenous nations. A key mandate should be that the
commission report back in a short time frame with specific, implementation-ready action items.
The past two weeks have been very difficult for the First Nations people living in New Brunswick. The shooting deaths of Chantel
Moore and Rodney Levi are tragic examples of the systemic racism that exists within our police and criminal justice systems.
A fully independent inquiry, with Indigenous leadership and a quick reporting timeline is what is needed to restore trust and fix our broken system of government.
Chief Ross Perley,
Chief Alan Polchies Jr.,
Sitansisk (St. Mary’s)
Chief Patricia Bernard,
Chief Shelley Sabattis,
Chief Gabriel Atwin,
Chief Tim Paul,
Media Contact: Gillian Paul, 506-461-1187, firstname.lastname@example.org