N.B. Indigenous leaders would like to see province follow Nova Scotia's example
FREDERICTON -- Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil's apology for systemic racism has focused new attention on a divisive issue in New Brunswick.
Leaders of the Indigenous community would like to hear something similar from Premier Blaine Higgs and they are renewing demands for a public inquiry into systemic racism in New Brunswick.
After this year's shooting deaths of two people, the Indigenous community in New Brunswick has been demanding an inquiry into systemic racism in policing and the justice system.
It's an issue that will test Arlene Dunn, the new minister for Aboriginal Affairs. She declined to comment on the inquiry, but she promised to be an advocate for Indigenous people.
In a Twitter post, a frustrated Metepenagiag First Nation Chief Bill Ward noted that they are in, what he calls "perpetual meet and greet mode" with the New Brunswick government.
"I've been Chief since 2015. This is going to be the fourth aboriginal affairs minister that I'll be working with plus numerous civil servants who have come and gone over the years," Ward told CTV News.
Ward says a better example of leadership is coming from Nova Scotia.
"I think that was a great step by Premier McNeil to do that. To even address the issues, we have to acknowledge that they even exist. And I would love to hear that from our provincial government."
Premier Higgs stopped short of an apology when speaking with CTV News.
"Certainly, I recognize the concern about systemic racism throughout our province and throughout our country," Higgs said.
Higgs again suggested that any inquiry should be national in scope because many of the issues are under federal jurisdiction, but Chief Ward disagrees.
"To us, it's not a federal government thing," Chief Ward said. "We're looking at New Brunswick in a New Brunswick inquiry. Not a federal inquiry."
Other Indigenous leaders say Higgs now has a chance to change course on the inquiry, and other issues.
"It's the perfect opportunity for the premier right now in regards to aboriginal people," said Chief Barry Labillois of the New Brunswick Aboriginal Peoples Council. "Our door is open and let's get a fresh start. We have a new minister, golden opportunity."
The Higgs cabinet was just sworn in this week and there's been no date set for a first meeting between the new aboriginal affairs minister and Indigenous leaders.