Statement from the Wolastoqey Chiefs: Stepping Up for Justice

The public movement to end systemic racism gained a powerful voice today.

As chiefs of the Wolastoqey Nation, we applaud the courage shown by Aboriginal Affairs Minister Jake Stewart in stepping up, and speaking out, for justice, fairness and transparency.

On the eve of a provincial election call, Minister Stewart is quoted in a Brunswick News report supporting our call for a public inquiry into the justice system faced by Indigenous people in New Brunswick. Minister Stewart: “I felt from the beginning that a public inquiry was necessary, I felt we should lead that from the provincial level first.’’

In publicly breaking with his premier, Minister Stewart has sent a powerful message of hope to our people.

We have put forth a reasoned framework for an Indigenous-led inquiry. We advanced aggressive timelines and targets. We have done the spadework.

Unfortunately, the Higgs’ government position against an inquiry remains stubbornly the same.

Minister Stewart: “At the end of the day, the premier and I just disagree. He’s the boss, he’s the premier. I gave my opinion, I made it very public, I stand by it. I’ve never changed my opinion.”

The Minister’s statement represents a turning point in our campaign to end
systemic racism in New Brunswick. The mere fact the premier’s own point person on the file disagrees with him gives us hope that change is coming. It is now a matter of when.

Minister Stewart goes on to say he doesn’t know what’s been done by the Higgs government since meeting with First Nation Chiefs early last month. This is disappointing.

Indigenous people are facing injustice, and even death, and now is the time for government action. We implore political party leaders in New Brunswick to stand with us, and Minister Stewart, in calling for the sole
measure that will strike at the heart of systemic racism – a public inquiry.

Chief Ross Perley,
Neqotkuk (Tobique)

Chief Alan Polchies Jr.,
Sitansisk (St. Mary’s)

Chief Patricia Bernard,
Matawaskiye (Madawaska)

Chief Shelley Sabattis,
Welamukotuk (Oromocto)

Chief Gabriel Atwin,
Pilick (Kingsclear)

Chief Tim Paul,
Wotstak (Woodstock)

Media Contact:
Gillian Paul, 506-461-1187, gillian.paul@wolastoqey.ca