While many election issues are timeless, every election cycle sees specific issues rise above the others. In New Brunswick, the discussion surrounding systemic racism has become top of mind for many voters.
It’s been three months since Chantel Moore and Rodney Levi were shot and killed in separate incidents by New Brunswick law enforcement.
26-year-old Chantel Moore was shot and killed while local police were conducting a wellness check in Edmundston, N.B., on June 4.
Just a week later, 48-year-old Rodney Levi was killed by the RCMP near the Metepenagiag Mi'kmaq Nation on June 12.
Moore and Levi’s deaths have sparked calls for an Indigenous-led independent inquiry into systemic bias within New Brunswick’s policing and justice systems.
During this election campaign, those calls have only grown.
“We are very firm in what we are asking for,” says Darrah Beaver of the Tobique First Nation. “We as Indigenous people deal with systemic racism every single day. We live in a new century, 2020, let’s all come together and make change.”
“The demand for Indigenous issues to be put higher on the list of priorities will not come from Indigenous people,” says Chief Allan Polchies Jr. of the St. Mary’s First Nation. “It will come from non-Indigenous people calling on their candidates to say, this is a priority.”
It’s an issue that has made its way to the top of two political parties’ lists.
“Aboriginal women make up five per cent of the female population of Canada, yet 48 per cent of the women incarcerated in our country are First National women,” says N.B. Liberal leader Kevin Vickers. “So the systemic outcomes that happen are flowing from systemic discrimination and systemic racism.”
Vickers spent Saturday afternoon in Red Bank, N.B., reaffirming his commitment to launch a public inquiry if he became premier.
New Brunswick Green Party leader David Coon has also said launching a public inquiry would be one of the first things he would do if his party formed government.
N.B. NDP leader MacKenzie Thomason says he supports an inquiry too.
But while N.B. Progressive Conservative leader Blaine Higgs acknowledges there is a problem, he has not committed to an inquiry, saying many of the issues are nation-wide.
“I do believe there is a systemic problem here in New Brunswick,” said Higgs on June 17.
N.B. People’s Alliance Party leader Kris Austin said in June that he’d like to see more data collected, to see how extensive the problem is.
“Our Indigenous people don’t get the justice that is deserved, and it is really tragic,” said Martha Martin, Chantel Moore’s mother, speaking at a rally held in front of the New Brunswick legislature on August 20.
The shootings of Moore and Levi are currently being investigated by Quebec's police watchdog unit.