Thursday, 24 Sep 2020

Wolastoqey First Nation calls for racism inquiry, Jake Stewart to remain Indigenous affairs minister

The Wolastoqey First Nation is calling on Premier Blaine Higgs to continue having Indigenous Affairs Minister Jake Stewart in the Tory government.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the nation also called on Higgs to meet with the Wolastoqey chiefs and other representatives of Indigenous Peoples in the province for “a nation-to-nation dialogue of respect.”

The chiefs’ statement asks Stewart and Higgs to support an independent Indigenous-led inquiry into systemic racism in the province.

“These are trying times where our people not only have to continue to live through systemic racism, but also in which the livelihood and quality of life of our people is threatened by government action and inaction,” read the Tuesday statement.

Attention to this issue has been at an all-time high after the deaths of Chantel Moore and Rodney Levi earlier this summer.

Moore was shot and killed by an Edmundston police officer who was performing a wellness check. Just weeks later, Levi was killed by RCMP officers who were responding to reports of a mental health crisis.

Both incidents are being investigated by Quebec’s police watchdog, Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes, but it could be months before the investigations wrap up.

Global News reported last month that Higgs has maintained that any inquiry should be led by the federal government, not the province.

There have been repeated calls for a public inquiry and the Wolastoqey chiefs along with Mi’gmawe’l Tplu’taqnn Inc. (MTI), an organization representing the nine Mi’kmaq First Nations in the province, have not wavered in their requests.

In a September newsletter, the Wolastoqey Nation called for a commitment to an inquiry by the elected government within 30 days of being sworn in.

In the same newsletter, they gave a low rating to the Tory government with respect to Indigenous issues after the government failed to respond to a survey provided by the Wolastoqey chiefs. The PC and People’s Alliance parties are the only parties that did not respond to the survey.

The newsletter said the chiefs hope Higgs’ government will reconsider its “indifference to Indigenous issues.”

In the Tuesday statement, the chiefs also congratulated the premier on re-election and said they hope Higgs will join them in building a better relationship between the two governments.

— With files from Silas Brown.

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