We need a made-in-New Brunswick public inquiry into systemic racism


Green Party Leader’s Statement

The Wolastoqey Chiefs first called for public inquiry into systemic racism in New Brunswick’s police and justice systems on June 6, which I and my colleagues supported. Chiefs from all three First Nations in New Brunswick are scheduled to meet with the Premier tomorrow, July 9th to present their terms-of-reference for a public inquiry.

Premier Higgs has been reluctant to support such an inquiry, favouring a task force to sort through relevant recommendations from national inquiries that have never been implemented.  However, we need a made-in-New Brunswick public inquiry into New Brunswick’s policing and justice systems in order to reveal how they are biased against Indigenous people here at home, so that action can be taken to change the system now.  

The inquiry must be Indigenous-led, and as recommended by the Wolastoqey Grand Council, include the participation of Wabanaki Grandmothers in discussions about the reform of our police and justice systems.

The inquiry will hold a mirror up to our policing and justice systems so that all New Brunswickers see society reflected back to us the way Indigenous people experience it.

Premier Higgs has the opportunity to bring about meaningful change for Indigenous people in New Brunswick, so I ask that he abandon his plan to create a task force to study the national recommendations of Canadian inquiries and launch the public inquiry that is needed. 

Successive governments have reviewed recommendations from past national enquiries without acting on any of them.  A made-in-New Brunswick inquiry to tackle systemic racism in our province’s institutions is essential for change to happen, no matter how uncomfortable it may be for all of us whose ancestors have settled here over the past 400 years. 

David Coon
New Brunswick Green Party Leader
MLA for Fredericton-South

Green Party leader backs Chiefs’ call for public inquiry into systemic racism

FREDERICTON – An inquiry into systemic anti-indigenous racism in our policing and justice systems would hold a mirror up to our society, and will be startling for many New Brunswickers, according to Green Party leader and MLA for Fredericton South David Coon. All the more important, according to Coon, is that we see our society reflected back to us the way indigenous people experience it.

“A made-in-New Brunswick public inquiry is essential, not to point out that there are people in society who hold hateful views of indigenous people, but to reveal how the system itself is biased against indigenous people so that action can be taken to change the system,” said Green Party leader David Coon. “That is why First Nation Chiefs are asking for a pubic inquiry, that is indigenous-led, with a tight timeframe to report back with specific actions that are ready to implement to end systemic racism. That is why my party and I support the Chiefs’ insistence on a public inquiry.”

The Wolastoqey Chiefs first called for public inquiry into systemic racism in New Brunswick’s police and justice systems on June 6, citing its necessity to restore trust. Chiefs from all three First Nations in New Brunswick are scheduled to meet with the Premier on July 8th.

“Premier Higgs has the opportunity to bring about meaningful change for indigenous people in New Brunswick, so I ask that he abandon his plan to create task force to study the national recommendations of Canadian inquiries, and launch the public inquiry that is needed,” said Coon. “There are plenty of smart people in the public service that can bring forward pertinent recommendations from past national enquiries to be implemented, but we need a made-in-New Brunswick inquiry to tackle systemic racism in New Brunswick.”


Greens abstain from Bill-11 vote

FREDERICTON – The Green Caucus supports effective vaccination programs. Green MLAs trust the science behind vaccines, their effectiveness in preventing disease, and believe that everyone should get vaccinated if they can.

The Green Caucus has abstained from voting on Bill-11, An Act Respecting Proof of Immunization.  The bill implements a blanket removal of the parental exemption, other than for medical reasons, from the province’s vaccination law.

“Our caucus believes that it should be the Chief Medical Officer of Health who suspends the parental exemption, should she deem it necessary for public health purposes, not this politically motivated bill,” said Green Party leader David Coon. 

Coon proposed three amendments to Bill 11. These included giving the Chief Medical Officer of Health the authority to suspend the parental exemption, requiring approval of the Minister of Health to enable the Minister of Education to make decisions regarding vaccination policies in schools, and mandating New Brunswick’s top doctor to provide education about vaccinations to parents. All were defeated at Committee stage causing the Green MLAs to abstain from the final vote.

“The Education Minister told the Legislative committee studying the bill, that only 1% of parents have used the available exemptions from mandatory vaccinations, and that current high rates of vaccination are providing the required herd immunity in our schools,” said Coon. “There simply is no public health rationale, at this time, to deny quality public education to the handful of children whose parents have used the exemption.”

Green Party Leader Calls for Investment in Green Energy and Jobs

FREDERICTON – Green Party Leader and MLA for Fredericton-South, David Coon, tabled a motion today urging the government to promote and develop jobs in renewable energy, energy efficiency and public transportation.

“We can’t self-isolate from the climate crisis as we are during this pandemic,” said Coon. “The COVID-19 pandemic has given us a unique opportunity to make ground-breaking changes in our economy, so now is the time to jump-start a New Brunswick economy that is sustainable, resilient, and puts people to work in well-paying jobs.”

 The motion tabled by Coon has three main objectives:

  • Create an agency that would have the mandate to promote and develop jobs in renewable energy, energy efficiency and public transportation;
  • Update the renewable energy portfolio requirements under the regulations to the Electricity Act to increase the target to 80% renewable energy on the grid by 2030 and 100% renewable energy on the grid by 2050; 
  • Reduce barriers to generating green energy by allowing municipalities and First Nations to directly purchase small-scale, New Brunswick-based renewable energy for use in their government operations.

“The climate crisis is an energy crisis, so any meaningful solution needs to put renewable energy and energy efficiency at the front and centre of our economy,” said Coon. “By providing good job opportunities in the renewables sector, setting strong renewable energy targets and allowing for greater use of locally-based, small-scale renewable energy, we would be putting our province on the path to having a 21st century economy.” 

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This issue constitutes the eighth principle of the Green Caucus framework for a just recovery from COVID-19: “Create a resilient economy in a time of climate crisis”.

Green Party Education Critic Tables Bill to Include the Teaching of Indigenous Languages in NB Schools

Fredericton – Green Party MLA for Memramcook-Tantramar and education critic, Megan Mitton, tabled a bill to amend the Education Act to include indigenous languages in the public education curriculum.

“Systemic racism goes beyond policing. Indigenous languages have been systematically attacked for generations in the residential school systems, and then they were ignored in the public-school system,” says Mitton. “We are at the point of losing indigenous languages here in NB, there are fewer than 100 fluent, life-long Wolastoqey speakers and about 2000 Mi’kmaq speakers left in the province.”

The change would add the word language to Paragraph 7(b) of the Education Act, so that the line would read: 

“The Minister shall prescribe or approve programs and services which foster an understanding of aboriginal history, language, and culture among all pupils.”

“In 2017 David Coon passed a bill with all-party support to ensure that indigenous history and culture is part of our school curriculum and this is the next logical step,” said Mitton. “If we are taking reconciliation and right relations with First Nations seriously, then working diligently to preserve language, which is an integral part of culture, is essential.”

Green MLA tables legislation to ban the use of replacement workers during strikes

Fredericton – Kevin Arseneau, MLA for Kent-North, tabled An Act to Amend the Industrial Relations Act on Thursday. The bill aims to ban the use of replacement workers during a strike or lockout, and is modelled after legislation in British Columbia.

“Banning scab workers would be a concrete way of showing support to the province’s workers, many of whom have been working ceaselessly on the frontlines of this pandemic,” says Arseneau. “Now is the time to show respect for New Brunswick’s workers with real action, rather than words.”

If passed, the bill would ban the use of replacement workers during a strike or lockout. It would also create penalties of up to a $10, 000 fine for employers who use replacement workers.

“As we have seen with the recent situation at the Allardville landfill, the use of replacement workers in New Brunswick is a big problem,” says Arseneau. “The use of these workers decreases the bargaining power for unionized workers and is contrary to the principle of good-faith negotiations.”

Greens table bill to champion local food security

Fredericton – On June 10, Green Party critic for Agriculture and MLA for Kent North, Kevin Arseneau, tabled a bill to ensure the province creates and maintains a sustainable, self-sufficient local food industry. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear that we need to ensure that we can produce a sufficient supply of food to feed New Brunswickers here at home,” says Arseneau. “We only produce 8 percent of the fruits and vegetables we consume in the province. We need to do better.”

The bill aims to strengthen and ensure a sustainable local food economy in New Brunswick, promote local food procurement and access for public institutions, improve the health of New Brunswickers through increased availability of fresh local food and provide students with food, agriculture and garden-based education in schools. 

“It has never been more important to support the farmers who, alongside other primary producers like fishers, aquaculture farmers, and woodlot owners, are the backbone of our local communities. I hope that all members of the Legislative Assembly will join me in moving this bill forward.” says Arseneau. 

Green Party of NB calls for an investigation into the treatment of First Nations people by the justice system and the police

The Green Party of New Brunswick's Annual Meeting this past weekend expressed concern about the treatment of First Nations people by the police and the justice system.  In the wake of the killing of Chantel Moore and the death of Brady Francis, Green Party members join the Chiefs of the Wolastoquey First Nation in calling for a public inquiry into the treatment of indigenous people by the justice system.

"The Annual General Assembly of Members passed this emergency motion because we cannot remain silent in the face of the tragic death of another indigenous woman just days before the anniversary of the release of the report of the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.  That inquiry found that First Nations people, in their interaction with the justice system and police are viewed through the prism of pervasive racism and indifference," said Green Party Leader David Coon.

The report also called, as have many reports before it, for reform of the justice system and mechanisms for monitoring and oversight of police investigations of cases involving indigenous people. 

"The outcome of the judicial process in the case of Brady Francis' death has been deeply shocking to the Mi'kmaq community who feel that justice has not been served. The family of Chantel Moore deserves real answers to their questions about how it is possible that Chantel died at the hands of a police officer.  We must take action to change our institutions and practices. A public inquiry will help identify and correct the flaws," according to Mr. Coon.

MLA Kevin Arseneau Tables Motion to Address the Concentration of Media Ownership

Fredericton - Kevin Arseneau, MLA for Kent-North, tabled a motion today that would seek to end the concentration of media ownership in New Brunswick. 

“Having a free, competitive, and diverse media landscape is absolutely crucial to a well-functioning democracy,” said Arseneau. “The level of media concentration in this province is unheard of in the rest of the developed world. That fact has been made especially evident in light of the closures of 9 of the Irving-owned Brunswick News offices recently.”

Currently, all daily English-language newspapers in New Brunswick are owned by Brunswick News, which constitutes 84% of all daily newspaper circulation. Brunswick News also owns 71% of weekly newspaper circulation in the province, with all of their physical offices closed permanently. Brunswick News is owned by James K. Irving, who also owns J.D. Irving, Limited.

“The fact that a major employer in the province, who is directly tied to many industries would have control of the media is beyond concerning,” said Arseneau. “What we have here is an industrial-media complex and it’s holding us back as a province.”

The motion presented today will seek to institute a 40% cap on the concentration of print media ownership in the province and prohibit the cross-ownership of media and non-media businesses, a commitment made in the 2018 Green Party Platform. 

“The media landscape is like a farm; diversity contributes to its strength and resilience,” said Arseneau.

Green MLA tables motion to provide greater supports for workers

FREDERICTON – Megan Mitton, MLA for Memramcook-Tantramar, tabled a motion urging the government to increase protections for non-unionized workers by giving all workers access to at least five paid sick days, with ten additional days during emergency situations such as a health pandemic; increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour over the next two years; and ensuring all employees receive overtime pay of one and a half times their wage.

“The COVID pandemic has made it clear that our essential workers, who often make minimum wage and have no access to paid sick leave, are undervalued,” says Mitton. “I’m calling on the government to move forward on making the changes outlined in this motion because they would have a big impact on minimum wage and casual workers.” 

Workers who work overtime in New Brunswick are only required to receive overtime pay at one and a half times the minimum wage, and not one and a half times their wage.  Employers are currently not obligated to provide employees with paid sick days.

“This is about both workers’ rights and public health,” said Mitton. “When you make minimum wage or thereabouts, it’s difficult to make the decision to stay home without pay, even if you should be staying home to avoid spreading your illness, whether it’s COVID-19 or otherwise.”

Our Principles

>Living within Our Ecological Means

A culture of cooperation, caring and understanding is essential to ending violence in our society. Rehabilitation rather than vengeance must be the goal of our justice system.

> Local Self-Reliance

We must have the opportunity and the responsibility as citizens to contribute to the common good, which requires that all have the capacity to participate in community life.

> Real Democracy

Everyone must have equal access to the necessities of life and be treated with dignity and respect. Treaties with First Nations must be honoured.

> Social Justice and Equality

We must be able to participate in decisions that affect our lives and be guaranteed that our votes are reflected in the make-up of the Legislative Assembly.

> Active Citizenship

Our communities should be in control of their own destinies, supported by strong local economies, and sustained by local sources of food and renewable energy.

> A Culture of Peace and Respect

We must live within the ecological limits of the Earth, while meeting our needs without threatening our children's future or the survival of other species.

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