Premier of New Brunswick Blaine Higgs to meet with First Nations leaders on Wednesday, days after two Aboriginal people shot dead by police in separate incidents that sparked calls for “truly independent” investigation .
First Nations leaders are indeed asking for an investigation led by Aboriginals, or at least a certain involvement of Aboriginals in the work of the Office of Independent Investigations (BEI). The BEI was chosen to investigate the two deaths because New Brunswick does not have its own “police force”.
Imelda Perley, an Aboriginal elder who is involved in the healing process in the affected communities, said that the participation of Aboriginal people in these surveys was essential. “We can’t just trust a system that doesn’t really have the cultural humility or the cultural sensitivity and skill […] Since it concerns us directly, we should be involved, “she argued in an interview.
Perley, who has been a consultant to the University of New Brunswick, does not believe that the BEI will provide an adequate level of justice. “I respect the fact that they have a job to do, but I would really like them to reach out to the Aboriginals […] so there’s not just one point of view, “said Perley of the Maliseet Tobique First Nation in northwestern New Brunswick.
Six heads of this Maliseet nation signed a much more direct declaration. “It is wrong to call these investigations” independent “. These inquiries were requested by the police involved in the shooting deaths of Aboriginal people. How can an inquiry commissioned by the subject of the inquiry be independent? “
The chiefs also recalled that half of the BEI investigators are former police officers. So they want a truly independent, Aboriginal-led inquiry.
Two dead in eight days
The EIB is examining the actions taken by police in New Brunswick that led to the death of Rodney Levi, 48, last Friday, and Chantel Moore, 26, a week earlier.
Rodney Levi, a Micmac, was attending a barbecue Friday near his community of Metepenagiag when someone called the police to complain about an “unwanted person”. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) submit that the police first attempted, without success, to subdue the suspect, armed with knives, using an electric pistol. The man was then shot dead when he charged the police, according to the RCMP.
The chief of the Metepenagiag Mi’kmaq First Nation, Bill Ward, said that Levi had mental health problems and was on the barbecue asking for advice from a pastor.
The EIB is also investigating the death of Chantel Moore, who was killed on June 4 while a police officer from the Edmundston Police Service was performing a “health check” where she lived. According to the police, the woman rushed to the policeman with a knife. Moore, of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation of British Columbia, had just moved to Edmundston, in northwest New Brunswick, to be closer to her mother and young daughter.
The BEI did not immediately respond when asked by email whether it planned to add Aboriginal people to its investigations.
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde said on Monday that New Brunswick Aboriginals are suspicious of a “police investigating the police” process.
On June 10 – after the death of Chantel Moore but before that of Rodney Levi -, New Brunswick’s Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, Jake Stewart, declared that he would press for a provincial inquiry into systemic racism in within the police and the justice system.