“End Systemic Racism”: Wolastoqey Chiefs

FREDERICTON (July 9, 2020) – Proposed terms of reference for an independent inquiry into systemic racism against Indigenous people were released today by the Wolastoqey Nation in New Brunswick.

“For hundreds of years, a regime of systemic racism has been built up in this province and this country against its Indigenous peoples,” said Chief Ross Perley of Neqotkuk (Tobique First Nation), speaking on behalf of the six Chiefs of the Wolastoqey Nation in New Brunswick. “The tragic deaths of our sister and brother in June has opened the eyes of many to some of these challenges. Now is the time for our Premier and his government to open their eyes and end systemic racism in New Brunswick.”

The six Chiefs are meeting today with Premier Blaine Higgs and several cabinet ministers, as well as representatives of the Mi’kmaq and Passamaquoddy nations, in Fredericton to discuss the appointment of an
independent inquiry. This follows a meeting held 22 days ago at which the Premier refused to make any commitments and asked to meet again.

At the previous meeting, the Premier asked the Chiefs to come to the next meeting with specific asks. To that end, the Wolastoqey Chiefs have prepared draft terms of reference for an independent inquiry which would:

• Examine the relationship and state of conditions between Indigenous people and the justice system in New Brunswick and suggest ways to improve;

• Be led by Indigenous people with terms of reference developed by Indigenous Nations;

• Review previous recommendations and provide an interim report within
60 days recommending what recommendations from these other reports can be implemented immediately; and

• Provide a final report within six months with implementation-ready recommendations.

An inquiry has the same powers as a judge and can compel the government to provide witnesses and testimony, and any documents necessary to fully investigate systemic racism. A task force or other lesser body does not have these powers.

“We need to see action now,” said Chief Ross. “Only an inquiry to deliver a credible and independent process that can lead to a justice system in which our peoples can have faith.”

A copy of the proposed terms of reference and cover letter that were sent to
government yesterday are attached.

The meeting between Indigenous chiefs and provincial government representatives will be held today, Thursday, July 9, at 1:30 p.m. at the Crowne Plaza-Lord Beaverbrook hotel, 659 Queen Street, Fredericton. Following the meeting at approximately 3 p.m., Chief Ross Perley of Neqotkuk (Tobique First Nation) will be available to media in the Petitcodiac Room of the same hotel and will speak on behalf of the six Chiefs of the Wolastoqey Nation in New Brunswick.

Media Contact: Tim Porter, porter@porterobrien.com, 506-461-0554.