MIRAMICHI, N.B. —
In a makeshift courtroom in Miramichi, N.B., five jurors were sworn in to participate in an inquest surrounding the death of Rodney Levi at the hands of the RCMP.
“It’s a fact-finding mission — a fact-exposing or revealing mission, so the public will know what actually happened,” said John Evans, the presiding coroner in the inquest. He says over the coming days, the jury — made up of two men and three women — will hear from about 27 witnesses including members of the RCMP.
“We’ll learn from what we observe and find out during the course of this process, were there any shortfalls, was there anything that could be done differently in the future that could prevent this kind of case happening,” Evans said.
The 48-year-old Levi, who was of the Metepenagiag First Nation, was shot and killed by RCMP on the evening of June 12th, 2020.
Police say they were responding to a call of an unwanted man in a home in Sunny Corner, N.B., adding when police arrived, they were confronted by a man who was carrying knives.
Levi’s killing came eight days after an Edmundston, N.B., police officer shot and killed Chantel Moore, a 26-year-old Indigenous woman, during a wellness check.
The two killings sparked dismay and anger in the province’s Indigenous community along with demands for a full inquiry.
The incident was investigated by Quebec’s police watchdog, the “Bureau des Enquetes Independent,” (BEI) which submitted its report to New Brunswick prosecutors in December 2020. No criminal charges were laid on any of the officers involved.
“We were never told anything,” said Rhoda Levi, Rodney Levi’s sister. “BEI said they were going to tell us the information but we were never told anything.”
Initially, 200 people were summoned for the inquest, but only five will make up the jury.
Kenneth Francis, an elder from the Elsipogtog First Nation, is working as an independent consultant during the hearing to assist with the jury selection. Evans says given the nature of the hearing, his goal is to help highlight indigenous representation and knowledge.
Members of Levi’s family were also in the makeshift courtroom today, along with the family’s lawyer, Alisa Lombard.
Of the five jury members selected, two are of Indigenous decent and one is married into an Indigenous family – representation that Levi’s family is happy to see.
“I was nervous,” said Rhoda Levi. “I was looking around the room and I was just looking to have First Nation representation today because our First Nations people, we don’t always get a win.”
Once the inquest is complete, recommendations to try and prevent similar incidents in the future will be submitted to all involved parties before then being sent to legislature for consideration.
“The implementation is the big thing,” said Rhoda Levi. “I hope that the government does everything they could do to really implement that no one else is shot and killed by the RCMP.”