New Brunswick to appoint a commissioner to address systemic racism

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FREDERICTON — The New Brunswick government said Wednesday it will appoint a commissioner mandated to address systemic racism in the province, but First Nations groups said the move is misguided.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Arlene Dunn said the government acknowledges systemic racism exists in New Brunswick and that it wants to better understand what can be done about it.

"The appointment of an independent commissioner will result in timely recommendations, which will allow us to take prudent action to address the problem," Dunn said in a statement, adding it's expected the commissioner will be hired in the next three months and make recommendations to the government within a year.

Indigenous leaders in the province, however, panned Wednesday's announcement, saying it was a misguided attempt by the government of Premier Blaine Higgs to address the racism. They said the decision to appoint a commissioner doesn't satisfy their demands for an inquiry into systemic racism, which Indigenous Peoples in the province have been calling for since last year.

"We are profoundly disappointed that Minister Arlene Dunn has made this pronouncement with no consultation with Indigenous people," St. Mary's Chief Allan Polchies said in a statement.

Chief George Ginish of the Natoaganeg First Nation said the surprise announcement "represents the sad state of relations between First Nations and the Higgs government." Ginish said no one from the government reached out to discuss the proposed process.

The government has allocated $500,000 for the commissioner and their work. A final report is to be prepared by March 31, 2022.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 24, 2021.

Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press