3 grief-stricken Indigenous families meet to share pain, call for justice reform
Families of Chantel Moore, Rodney Levi and Brady Francis meet in Metepenagiag First Nation
The grandmother of Chantel Moore, a 26-year-old Indigenous woman killed by Edmundston police, unveiled her new tattoo memorializing her granddaughter — her name as a rose stem above words she often spoke.
"Stay Golden," Grace Frank told reporters. "They were her favourite words."
For a week and a half, Moore's relatives have been mourning the loss of their loved one and seeking answers from police, and on Monday they met with two other Indigenous families from New Brunswick First Nations dealing with tragedy.
The family of Rodney Levi, a 48-year-old member of the Metepenagiag First Nation who was shot and killed by Sunny Corner RCMP on Friday, and the mother and sister of Brady Francis, a 22-year-old Elsipogtog First Nation man killed in a 2018 hit-and-run, sat down with Moore's family in Metepenagiag.
Also present were Metepenagiag Chief Bill Ward and Elsipogotog Chief Arren Sock. They shared in their grief, discussed justice reform and feasted together.
"It's bringing us together. It's bringing us all across Canada. We want to put a stop to this. There's no need of killing our people," said Frank, who travelled to the province from British Columbia last week.
"With us, all standing together, we'll be stronger.
"We all want justice."
Discussing their pain
The uncle of Rodney Levi said it was an opportunity for the families "to discuss their pain."
"To have the Moore family come all the way here, I don't know if it's coincidence or the creator's way of getting everybody together — I know it's a bad way — but to have all the face-to-face discussions of how they're feeling … what they've experienced over this thing, really brought everybody together," Ken Levi said.
He said the families will share information to their respective legal teams as the investigations progress.
Rodney Levi was fatally shot by a police officer who was responding to a call for an unwanted person at the Boom Road Pentecostal Church. Its lead pastor has since said he was a welcome guest.
RCMP say police were confronted by a man carrying knives. A stun gun was deployed several times but was unsuccessful. A member of the RCMP discharged a firearm.
Quebec's independent police investigation agency, the Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes, is investigating the shooting. The agency is also tasked with looking into Chantel Moore's death.
Moore, originally from Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation in British Columbia, was killed by Edmundston police on June 4 during a wellness check. Police allege Moore had threatened the officer with a knife.
Francis' family and members of Elsipogtog First Nation were saddened and angered by the April 27 judge's decision to acquit the man charged in connection with his death. The Crown prosecution said May 27 it will not be appealing the verdict.
"There's no justice for First Nations people in Canada," Chief Sock said following the decision.
'This little girl is hurt'
On Monday, Moore's uncle, Joe Martin, said the three families shared "in the pain felt across this country."
He told reporters Moore's six-year-old daughter, Gracie, asked him, "Was my mommy bad? Is that why the cops shot her?"
"This little girl is hurt," Martin said, turning to look directly in the camera. "Do you know what you did to her? You hurt her."
First Nation leaders have called for an Indigenous-led team to head the investigations into Moore and Levi's deaths, and her family are seeking a full public inquiry into the shooting.
Community policing for First Nations was among the suggestions raised by family members and Indigenous officials Monday.
Ken Levi, a long-time fishery officer for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, previously served as a police officer and band constable working out of the Sunny Corner RCMP detachment.
He said he sees the value in reviving the model.
"We policed our own basically," Levi said. "When somebody has a bad day and you have community police, your own police, they know who's having a bad day."
The Metepenagiag chief echoed Levi, saying the government needs to allocate funds so the First Nation can re-establish community police.
Ward said their voices need to be heard.
"Governments and policing, they were all based on oppression of our people and there needs to be significant fundamental change to all these systems and all these institutions in order for us to be fairly represented and to stop these tragedies from happening to our people," Ward said.
Meeting with Higgs
On Monday, Premier Blaine Higgs said he and four of his cabinet ministers will meet with First Nations chiefs of New Brunswick on Wednesday.
Higgs said the process of making changes and healing cannot wait.
Ward said he was pleased the premier wants to meet, but he wants to see movement on ending systemic racism.
"Acknowledgment is one thing," he said, "action is another."
With files from Logan Perley, Radio-Canada