An open letter sent to New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs on Monday is calling on the province to launch a public inquiry into how the legal and law enforcement systems have failed Indigenous people.
The letter names three separate incidents that have prompted the call for an inquiry, including the deaths of Rodney Levi and Chantel Moore involving police officers and the acquittal of a man charged in the hit-and-run death of Brady Francis.
“These recent events have highlighted serious problems in the province’s justice system,” the letter reads.
Although systemic racism is pervasive throughout Canada, the issue is especially pronounced in New Brunswick, the letter alleges.
New Brunswick does not keep “statistics of representation of Indigenous people either in positions of power or positions of vulnerability within its legal system — itself an indicator of systemic inequities,” according to the letter.
Signatories of the letter include university professors, lawyers and other New Brunswickers. The letter states that a public inquiry would help to “restore trust in the justice system.”
“Only through an independent, impartial inquiry can New Brunswick begin to come to terms with the role of the justice system in perpetuating racism and discrimination, and begin to repair the damage done to Indigenous communities,” the letter concludes.
As of 10 a.m. AT, the letter has been signed by more than 200 people.
The premier’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Death of Rodney Levi
Levi was a 48-year-old First Nations man struggling with his mental health. He was killed by police near Miramichi, N.B., on June 12.
The RCMP said it had received a call about an “unwanted person” at a home on Boom Road near Metepenagiag First Nation.
The Mounties claim that officers were met with a man carrying knives once they arrived at the scene and that several attempts to subdue him with a stun gun failed.
A New Brunswick pastor later said that Levi was a “welcomed guest” at his house the same evening.
Death of Chantel Moore
Moore, 26, was shot and killed by police after officers carried out a wellness check at her residence in Edmundston, N.B., located approximately 275 kilometres north of Fredericton.
Moore, a member of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, had only recently moved from Port Alberni, B.C.
Edmundston police said the officer conducting the wellness check was charged by Moore, who was holding a knife, as soon as the door to her apartment opened.
Members of Moore’s family have said they doubt the police version of events as Moore was a petite woman who they say was not violent.
Moore leaves behind a young daughter.
Acquittal in the hit-and-run death of Brady Francis
Francis was a member of the Elsipogtog First Nation who was killed in a February 2018 crash in Saint-Charles, N.B. He was 22.
Francis’ body was found on the side of Saint-Charles Sud Road on Feb. 24, 2018. Police believe he was waiting for a ride home when he was struck by a vehicle.
Maurice Johnson, 57, stood trial in January on a charge of failing to stop at the scene of a collision causing death.
Johnson was acquitted in April.
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In her decision, Justice Denise LeBlanc said the Crown did not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Johnson maintained that he hit a deer that night.
Indigenous leaders have called the decision an injustice and say it is representative of a legal system that has consistently failed them.
The acquittal was not appealed.
The deaths of Moore and Levi are being investigated by Quebec’s Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes (BEI), an independent watchdog group.
The BEI has told media it will not comment on the status of its investigations until they are complete.
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