B.C. Indigenous leaders push for answers in police shooting death of young woman
VICTORIA -- Chantel Moore’s death is highlighting concerns around excessive force, police brutality and systemic racism, and several Indigenous leaders say it’s time for quick answers and systemic change.
Early Thursday morning, police were conducting a wellness check on Moore, a 26-year-old who had recently moved from B.C. to Edmundston, N.B. The incident would leave the young mother dead.
“That was our first thought, that it was racially motivated ... the way they shot and killed our beloved Chantel,” said Nora Martin, sister of Moore’s maternal grandmother.
Edmundston police wouldn’t comment on-camera Friday, but did tell CTV News Moore was shot after she allegedly threatened an officer with a knife. Her family says they were told she was shot several times.
Officials from Quebec are heading up an independent investigation to find out exactly what happened.
Judith Sayers, of the Nuu-Chah-Nulth Tribal Council, says she wants to see the probe expedited.
“We’re in the middle of a COVID epidemic – but when you have an epidemic of women being murdered – you have to act quickly,” she said.
Those comments come days after the federal government announced an action plan resulting from a Commission on Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls will have to wait, due to the pandemic.
On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke in Ottawa about the systemic racism Indigenous people face when it comes to policing.
“We also need a larger reflection on changing the systems that do not do right by too many Indigenous people and racialized Canadians,” Trudeau said. “We can’t solve all of this overnight, but we need to make a change – and we need to start today.”
When pressed by reporters about possible solutions, Trudeau said he would speak to Cabinet and police officials, but didn’t have any specifics.
The BC Assembly of First Nations was already gearing up for a Black Lives Matter solidarity rally Friday and had been outspoken on concerns around police brutality, when the news of Moore’s death broke.
Regional Chief Terry Teegee says he and many others are dismayed.
“We are completely frustrated as Indigenous people and it’s time for change. Enough is enough,” he said.
Better training on de-escalation and use of force is part of the solution, but the AFN is adamant that Canada needs to take a deeper look at why Indigenous people are overrepresented in jails and in-custody deaths.
“Whether you’re being arrested, or a wellness check, you shouldn’t end up dying,” Teegee said.
The issue of police-worn body cameras is once again being discussed. The chief civilian director of B.C.’s police watchdog – the Independent Investigations Office – says despite the cost and worries about privacy, he’s convinced now is the time for body cameras.
“The more information we have, the more we can share with the public that this is what happened and that only increases and helps in improving confidence in police and police accountability,” said Ron MacDonald.