Chiefs of the Mi’gmaq and Wolastoqiyik released a statement on Friday calling for the resignation of Minister of Aboriginal Affairs Arlene Dunn, in response to her opposition to holding a public inquiry into systemic racism in the justice system in New Brunswick.
The Wolastoqey First Nation and Mi’kmaq Nations have urged the government to call an inquiry following the deaths of Chantel Moore and Rodney Levi at the hands of police over the summer, but Premier Blaine Higgs has so far resisted, saying an inquiry should be federal in scope.
On Thursday, Aboriginal Affairs minister Arlene Dunn proposed an amendment to the motion to strip out the section calling for an inquiry, instead proposing that the legislative assembly “acknowledge” that systemic racism exists and take steps to eliminate it, that the assembly continues to consult with Indigenous Nations to “eliminate” systemic racism and to support the All Nation and All Party Working Group on Reconciliation.
“We are outraged by the actions of the Progressive Conservatives yesterday. They gutted a motion calling for an inquiry, completely removing its purpose. Removing the reference to the inquiry but then trying to pretend they want to address systemic racism is disgraceful,” said Chief Ross Perley of Neqotkuk in a press release.
When tabling the amendment, Dunn said that there are already countless recommendations from past commissions and inquiries gathering dust that can be actioned through the work of the working group that she will co-chair with Assembly of First Nations regional Chief Roger Augustine.
The chiefs said that they met with Minister Dunn earlier this week, and made clear that previous reports do not specifically address racism in New Brunswick, nor racism in the justice system, and that the need for an inquiry is separate and apart from the need for action on past commissions and inquiries that addressed other issues.
“Without an inquiry, the government cannot be forced to cooperate and share all necessary information, and this government will continue to deny the level of systemic racism that exists and as a result, the measures that need to be implemented to combat systemic racism will never be undertaken,” said Chief Tim Paul of Wotstak.
–With files from Silas Brown