New Brunswick chief says all chiefs support call for inquiry into police shootings
Rodney Levi and Chantel Moore are pictured in this composite image. The Indigenous man and woman were both shot and killed by police officers in separate incidents in New Brunswick in June 2020. (Facebook)
FREDERICTON -- An Indigenous leader in New Brunswick is renewing his call for an independent, Indigenous-led public inquiry to investigate two recent police shootings in the province, saying the proposal put forward by the province just won't work.
Chief Tim Paul of the Wotstak First Nation issued a statement Thursday to remind Premier Blaine Higgs that all the chiefs who met with the premier via teleconference Wednesday made it clear they want nothing less than a public inquiry.
"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 justice," Paul said.
Separate statements were issued after the meeting with the premier Wednesday by the six chiefs of the Wolastoqey Nation and the nine representatives of the Mi'gmaq Chiefs of New Brunswick.
Both specifically called for an independent commission of inquiry to investigate the fatal shootings of Chantel Moore and Rodney Levi -- both of whom were killed by police earlier this month.
Paul said Higgs floated a lesser option -- a so-called task force that would review old reports and recommendations.
"This is not prompt action," Paul said. "This is not good enough.... An inquiry would allow our members to detail our experiences and the discrimination we face as a people. An inquiry has the power to enact change. Change we have not seen to date."
After Wednesday's meeting, the premier said he agreed that Indigenous people should lead some kind of review.
However, he indicated that public inquiries and royal commissions in the past have taken too long and produced hundreds of recommendations -- most of which have not been implemented.
"I'm not one to keep studying something," Higgs said Wednesday, adding the province should first try to implement previous recommendations that remain outstanding. "I'd like to get something accomplished. Why duplicate what may have already been studied?"
Still, Higgs said his government remained open to holding an independent inquiry.
Paul's statement went on to say he had raised the issue of systemic racism with the province last year and was stunned to be met with "condescending and discriminating" attitudes form senior members of a government department, which he did not name.
"We were astonished when we were confronted with the phrase: 'You people.' It was insulting," he said.
The chief said he asked the premier to order cultural and sensitivity training for his senior staff.
Meanwhile, Quebec's independent police watchdog agency continues to investigate the killings of Moore and Levi, because New Brunswick does not have its own police oversight agency.
The Bureau des enquetes independantes (BEI) is looking into the RCMP's actions leading up to the death of the 48-year-old Levi, who was attending a barbecue near the Metepenagiag Mi'kmaq Nation on Friday when someone called police to complain about an "unwanted person."
The Mounties have said a suspect carrying knives was jolted with a stun gun, but that failed to subdue him. He was shot when he charged at officers, police said.
The bureau is also investigating the case of the 26-year-old Moore, who was fatally shot June 4 when an officer from the Edmundston Police Department was conducting a "wellness check." Police allege she lunged at an officer with a knife.
Moore, from the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation in British Columbia, had moved to the community in northwestern New Brunswick to be closer to her mother and young daughter.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 18, 2020.