Hundreds sign letter demanding public inquiry by N.B. government

The pressure is mounting on the New Brunswick government to call a public inquiry into the deaths of three indigenous people.

More than 200 people have signed an open letter to Premier Blaine Higgs demanding an inquiry, saying it's the only way to restore indigenous faith in the justice system.

"This is totally unacceptable and the mistrust right now between aboriginal people and the police is even higher than it ever has been right now," said Chief Barry Labillois with the N.B. Aboriginal Peoples council.

On Monday, an open letter was sent to Higgs demanding an inquiry. The letter was signed by over 200 people including lawyers, academics, and concerned citizens.

The increased demand comes after three deaths of aboriginal people in New Brunswick. Two years ago, the indigenous community mourned the loss of Brady Francis. They mourned again this year when charges against the alleged driver ended in a not-guilty verdict.

More recently, two other indigenous people, Chantal Moore and Rodney Levi, died in separate incidents after being shot by police officers.

"It's about their deaths and the police, but the police operate in a bigger system, that is the New Brunswick Justice System. That's why we need to look at all of it," said Dalhousie Schulich School of Law professor Naiomi Metallic.

In the open letter, it reads "The justice system is steadfast in its message that indigenous lives are worth less, and are less deserving of protection and justice than non-indigenous lives."

 People who signed the letter say New Brunswick has never had a public inquiry into the relationship between indigenous peoples and the justice system, but they say Nova Scotia has.

Metallic says the Marshall inquiry in the 1980's had a huge impact that continues today.

"It's really increased representation within the Nova Scotia Justice System, are a starkly different way from New Brunswick," said Metallic. "There are 64 lawyers in Nova Scotia who are Mi'kmaq or aboriginal, mostly Mi'kmaq. There's six in New Brunswick."

Higgs has said he's not against an inquiry, but he suggests many of the issues are under federal jurisdiction and an inquiry that’s national in scope may be better.

"These are people that are looking for answers and Mr. Higgs, you know, he should seriously, seriously look at this," said Labillois.

The premier has yet to respond to the latest demand for an inquiry, and for answers.