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Mi’gmaw communities in New Brunswick start alternative to standard policing

February 28, 2024

APTN News: Seven Mi’gmaw communities in New Brunswick are starting a peacekeeping program as an alternative to conventional policing methods.

“I think an important issue for us too is making sure that our people and our children know that they can turn to us for anything,” says T.C. Ward, a Mi’gmaw Peacekeeper, or Wantoqo’tikewinu’k in Mi’gmaq.

“That could vary not just from like police matter it could be somebody lost, or you know somebody who needs somebody to talk to you know and I’m glad to be that shoulder you know that’s who I am.”

Ward is one of 14 graduates from a seven-week training program held at New Brunswick Community College, with two peacekeepers serving each community.

Ward is one of two peacekeepers serving his community, Metepenagiag Mi’gmaq Nation.

The peacekeepers do not carry any weapons but will be the first responders to any incident to de-escalate the situation and act as liaisons to police.

Mi’gmawe’l Tplu’taqnn, a Mi’gmaw advocacy group developed the peacekeepers program.

It focuses on Mi’gmaq laws in de-escalation and conflict management.

“Hopefully I get called before 911 you know, and I can de-escalate the situation and in terms of crime when the RCMP are needed, hopefully I’ll be there before them,” said Ward.

Each community developed the program to fit their needs. Metepenagiag plans to continue training their peacekeepers to become tribal police, so the community does not have to rely on the RCMP.

Mi'gmaw peacekeepers
‘I think an important issue for us too is making sure that our people and our children know that they can turn to us for anything,’ says T.C. Ward. Photo: Angel Moore/APTN.

Wanda Ward took part in the engagement sessions when the program rolled out in December.

“This program is awesome for the community,” said Wanda Ward. ”Like I said, we don’t have to re-develop our customs and send someone to sensitivity training about Mi’gmaw issues and cultural issues we have them already because those two individuals come from the Indigenous community.”

Bill Ward, chief of Metepenagiag Mi’gmaq Nation, said people have lost their trust in the police after the shooting of Rodney Levi and Chantel Moore in June 2020.

“It was a lot of learning, a lot of healing there was a lot of pain, especially for the family a lot of trust and distrust with the RCMP and so we are still working on trying to mend that relationship

and it’s definingly going to take some time but I think this peacekeeping program is really going to assist in doing that,” said Bill Ward.

Moore was fatally shot by an Edmundston police officer during a wellness check.

Days later, Levi was shot and killed by RCMP officers who were called to a disturbance at a home near Metepenagiag.

Rodney Levi’s sister praised the peacekeeper program.

“I think this peacekeeping course is going to really change how we interact with the law because that justice system now is not meant for us wasn’t meant for us and wasn’t made for us,” she told APTN News.

“I really, really do believe this is going to improve the safety of our people that way it doesn’t what happened to my brother Rodney, it doesn’t happen to anyone else.”

There are plans in place to continue to train new recruits – but the program still requires money for training.

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