MIRAMICHI, N.B. — The regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations for New Brunswick has confirmed that the man who died in an RCMP shooting Friday night was Rodney Levi of the Metepenagiag Mi’kmaq Nation.
Roger Augustine, the regional chief representing New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, said Saturday that Levi was shot near the community, about 30 kilometres west of Miramichi. He added that Levi was a relative, saying he has a grandson in the area who shares Levi’s last name.
The RCMP said officers responded to a complaint about an “unwanted man” in a home near the community at 7:40 p.m. local time.
“When police arrived, they were confronted by a man who was carrying knives,” said RCMP Cpl. Jullie Rogers-Marsh.
She said officers used a stun gun several times but were unable to subdue the man.
An officer then discharged a firearm. The suspect was declared dead in hospital around 9 p.m.
The shooting marked the second time in less than a month that police have killed an Indigenous person in New Brunswick.
On June 4, Chantel Moore, 26, died after being shot by an Edmundston Police Department officer. Moore, from a First Nation in British Columbia, had moved to the community to be near her mother and six-year-old daughter.
Police have said an officer performing a wellness check allegedly encountered a woman with a knife.
“It’s an international disaster when you talk about racism,” Augustine said in an interview.
“Racism is everywhere. It’s like a virus, like COVID-19. That’s how I see racism. It just seeps through the communities and kills the young people, and the old people.”
Quebec’s independent police investigation agency, the Bureau des enquetes independantes, is investigating both shootings.
Chief Bill Ward of the Metepenagiag Mi’kmaq Nation confirmed in a Facebook message to CBC News that the latest victim was a member of his First Nation.
“I’m so mad and sad, I don’t know what to think,” Ward said in a message on his Facebook page that elicited scores of posts offering condolences.
The victim has also been identified by friends as Rodney Levi.
“My bro Rodney Levi, my childhood friend … Got tears in my eyes thinking how this happened,” wrote Dwayne Everett Ward.
“Shot twice by the police … I pray for all your family, I know they’re hurting right now … I’m overwhelmed with sadness about all this.”
There have been calls since for a broader inquiry to examine systemic bias against Indigenous people in the province’s policing and criminal justice systems.
Jake Stewart, New Brunswick’s minister of Aboriginal affairs, has said he supports the call, saying the province has a problem with systemic racism toward Indigenous people.
On Friday, the commissioner of the RCMP, Brenda Lucki, issued a statement saying it is her responsibility to ensure the RCMP is free of racism, discrimination and bias.
She also said she struggled with the concept of systemic racism when asked about the issue.
“I did acknowledge that we, like others, have racism in our organization, but I did not say definitively that systemic racism exists in the RCMP,” she said. “I should have.”
“As many have said, I do know that systemic racism is part of every institution, the RCMP included. Throughout our history and today, we have not always treated racialized and Indigenous people fairly.”
Augustine said “systemic racism is not owned by the RCMP.”
“And it’s not owned by any government in any country. Systemic racism is something that has to be addressed by the community itself, and in this case it’s New Brunswick. Racism exists in all peoples. Racism is about judging people. When (you) walk down the streets and you see someone you don’t like, you judge their clothing, the colour of their skin …. that’s racism.”
Meanwhile, marches have been organized for cities across the Maritimes in memory of Moore.
Indigenous groups have planned healing walks to take place simultaneously in Edmundston, Fredericton and Moncton, N.B., as well as Halifax and Membertou, N.S.
The groups organizing the walks say they should be described as Ikatomone, meaning “let’s guard.”
“People will be saying things at those rallies and it’s important that people like you and I pay attention,” said Augustine.
“They are doing it the right way. You have to calm your mind and calm your heart. That is the only way you can move on. I truly admire the resilience of our people.”