FREDERICTON — The results of the recent coroner's inquest into the police killing of an Indigenous woman in New Brunswick demonstrate the urgent need for an Indigenous-led inquiry into systemic racism, according to the six chiefs of the Wolastoqey Nation.
The findings and recommendations of the coroner's jury didn't address the serious nature of the tragedy or the systemic issues embedded in the justice system, the chiefs, who represent First Nations in New Brunswick, said in a news release issued Thursday. The jurors' recommendations included the need for a review of the police's use-of-force policy.
Moore, a 26-year-old Indigenous woman, was fatally shot by police in Edmundston, N.B., in June 2020 during a wellness check after she advanced toward an officer with a knife in her hand.
"This traumatic inquest, which the Moore family attended faithfully, didn't give them standing to participate," Chief Ross Perley of the Tobique First Nation said. "It has no power to get at the root causes of failures in the justice system that continue to leave our community members at risk."
Chief Allan Polchies of the St. Mary's First Nation says an inquiry would provide more accountability for Moore's death.
"Systemic racism is real here in this province of New Brunswick," Polchies told reporters Thursday. "We need action. We need justice. We need justice for every single person."
New Brunswick's Public Prosecutions Services announced in June 2021 that the evidence in the case indicated the officer was responding to a potential lethal threat from Moore and his actions were reasonable.
The three-woman, two-man coroner's jury issued a series of recommendations Thursday, including that an independent group review the use-of-force policy that guides New Brunswick police to ensure it is concise and understood by all officers in the province.
Jurors also recognized that mistrust exists among First Nations people regarding the police.
"The police could undertake actions to build better relationships within the community," the jury wrote. "For example: people taking cultural sensitivity training and having a liaison from the First Nations community that aids the police in providing care to their community members."
New Brunswick's systemic racism commissioner, Manju Varma, is currently conducting a review into institutional racism in the province and is expected to release her report in September.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 20, 2022.
Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press