Indigenous leaders in New Brunswick applaud minister’s break from government

Wolastoqey Nation

The chiefs of the Wolastoqey Nation applauded Jake Stewart, the Indigenous Affairs minister in New Brunswick for breaking with his government’s line in calling for a public inquiry into systemic racism in the province.

The chiefs issued the statement Wednesday.

Stewart has spoken out and was in favour of an Indigenous-led independent investigation since the police shooting of Chantel Moore, breaking ranks with Premier Blaine Higgs.

“The Minister’s statement represents a turning point in our campaign to end systemic racism in New Brunswick,” said the chief’s statement. “The mere fact the premier’s own point person on the file disagrees with him gives us hope that change is coming. It is now a matter of when.”

Moore was shot and killed by an Edmundston police officer on June 4. The department said the officer was conducting a wellness check.

The statement called Stewart’s support courageous and a powerful voice for the public movement to end systemic racism.

They say he is “stepping up, and speaking out, for justice, fairness and transparency,” and pointed out this comes on the eve of an election.

They call Higgs’ response stubborn and disappointing.

The chiefs have asked Higgs to call for an inquiry on numerous occasions.

The New Brunswick premier has refused the request but said he is open to further discussion.

The chiefs called Stewart’s support “a powerful message of hope to our people.”

Specifically, the statement is asking for a public inquiry into systemic racism in the New Brunswick justice system and the harm faced by Indigenous people in the province.

“Indigenous people are facing injustice, and even death, and now is the time for government action… and Minister Stewart, in calling for the sole measure that will strike at the heart of systemic racism – a public inquiry,” the statement said.

The Wolastoqey Chiefs are calling for political party leaders in New Brunswick to join them and Stewart in their demand for an inquiry.

“We have put forth a reasoned framework for an Indigenous-led inquiry. We advanced aggressive timelines and targets,” the statement said.

“We have done the spade work.”

Reporter / Ottawa

Originally from the Cree Nation of Chisasibi on the eastern coast of James Bay, Quebec, Jamie has lived in Ottawa since 2015. Trained in journalism at Carleton University, he has worked as a freelance print journalist and as a writer/researcher for the Cree unit of CBC North out of Montreal. Jamie was hired as the reporter/correspondent for the Ottawa bureau in October 2019.