Indigenous issues should be brought to fore of election campaign, leaders say
FREDERICTON -- The questions surrounding the police shootings of two Indigenous people dominated much of the day in the New Brunswick election campaign on Thursday.
Indigenous leaders want a public inquiry and a commitment that the province will establish an agency to investigate police conduct.
"Chantel Moore and Rodney Levi were shot more than once and killed by police during a routine wellness check," Sen. Sandra Lovelace said as she choked back tears while speaking to demonstrators Thursday.
Among the demonstrators were family and friends of 26-year-old Chantel Moore and 48-year-old Rodney Levi.
Moore was shot and killed while local police were conducting a wellness check in Edmundston, N.B., on June 4. Levi was killed by the RCMP near the Metepenagiag Mi'kmaq Nation on June 12.
Among the group Thursday, Martha Martin passed out buttons with her daughter on them.
She says the justice system is failing her people.
"I feel like a lot of the times our Indigenous people don't get the justice that is deserved, you know, and it's really tragic and shouldn't be like that," Martin said.
The shootings are being investigated by Quebec's police watchdog unit.
Green Party Leader David Coon says that's not good enough.
"There doesn't seem to be a sense of urgency to move on this, and I don't understand why not," he said. "We obviously need this. We're one of the few provinces in the entire country without one."
This week, Liberal Leader Kevin Vickers also called for a New Brunswick unit.
"A provincial independent agency, that would investigate those types of things that are independent of the police," Vickers said.
On Thursday, Premier Blaine Higgs favoured a different approach.
"I think we should be working with Nova Scotia and P.E.I. and maybe Newfoundland to develop an investigative unit together," Higgs said.
So far, Higgs has refused demands for a public inquiry into the shootings, saying many of the issues are under federal jurisdiction, and an inquiry that's national in scope may be better.
And so, during this election, Indigenous leaders are appealing for help.
"The demand for Indigenous issues to be put up higher on the list of priorities will not come from Indigenous people, it will come from non-Indigenous people calling on their candidates to say, 'this is a priority,'" said Darrah Beaver of Tobique.
In recent memory, Indigenous issues have never made it to the top tier of New Brunswick election issues. Community leaders say, considering the tragic nature of what's happened this year, this election should be different.