Metepenagiag First Nation Chief demands answers following N.B. RCMP killing of Rodney Levi
'I can't justify it. I can't,' Chief Bill Ward said
Metepenagiag First Nation Chief Bill Ward is demanding answers after a member of the community in New Brunswick, 48-year-old Rodney Levi, was shot and killed by the RCMP on Friday evening.
"I can't justify it. I can't," Ward said of Levi's death as he wiped away tears during an address to the community in a Facebook live video on Saturday. "He had his demons but he was always very friendly, but he never tried to harm anybody."
Ward said he had spoken to Levi earlier Friday and said he was in good spirits but had told him he hadn't slept in a few days. The killing took place in Boom Road, about 30 kilometres from Miramichi, N.B.
New Brunswick RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Jullie Rogers-Marsh said members of the Sunny Corner RCMP responded to a report of an unwanted person at a residence at 7:40 p.m. Friday.
"When police arrived they were confronted by a man who was carrying knives," Rogers-Marsh said.
She said a stun gun was deployed several times but was unsuccessful.
"A member of the RCMP discharged a firearm," Rogers-Marsh said.
Watch: Mi'kmaq man fatally shot by New Brunswick RCMP
She said the man was treated at the scene and taken to hospital but died of his injuries around 9 p.m. The investigation into the fatal shooting of Levi continues Saturday.
Levi's death comes just over a week after Chantel Moore, 26, was shot by a police officer in Edmundston, N.B., on June 4.
The two police shootings are concerning, said Bernard Richard, New Brunswick's former ombudsman.
Now an adviser with six First Nations communities in N.B. focused on child well-being, Richard said the killing of Levi is particularly disturbing given what what Indigenous communities in the province are already dealing with.
"There's no question it adds to the tension that already exists," Richard said.
Healing walks are underway across N.B. today in memory of Moore.
Outside agency to investigate
Eight investigators with Quebec's Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes, which investigates cases where civilians are seriously injured or killed in police operations, arrived in New Brunswick Saturday morning after the RCMP had requested its assistance to investigate a police shooting.
BEI will communicate with the family and "provide them with all relevant information relating to the investigation process as long as this does not interfere with the investigation."
BEI said at the end of its investigation, it will submit its report to the coroner responsible for this investigation in New Brunswick, as well as to the New Brunswick Public Prosecution Service who will determine whether to lay criminal charges against the police officers involved.
Richard said trust between First Nations communities and police forces across Canada is probably at an all time low.
"This is just terrible and it adds to the terrible relations that exist now," he said of the most recent killing.
Richard said the situation overall is deplorable and quite concerning.
"There's concern now on a number of fronts of more violence actually so it's the last thing that First Nation communities need or that New Brunswick needs."
Richard said he thinks there needs to be Indigenous expertise involved in the reviews of both deaths so a level of trust is maintained with Indigenous communities.
Regional chief calls for calm
In a statement, Regional Chief Assembly of First Nations for N.B. and P.E.I. Roger Augustine also called for Indigenous leaders to be included in the investigation.
"The only way we can accept the sincerity of the claims of reform by the RCMP's top brass is to have inclusion of our people and our leaders at the table."
I am deeply saddened to learn of an incident last night on the Metepenagiag First Nation that resulted in the death of a man. Marcia and I want to extend our deepest condolences to everyone involved, including the families, friends and communities affected by this loss.—@BlaineHiggs
Augustine said while he understood that emotions are high, he called for people to remain calm and find peace within themselves.
"It is the only way we can heal. Moving forward, my focus will be on the healing of our people as we struggle with indifference and other issues like poverty, mental health and addictions," Augustine said.
With files from Gary Moore