Peace walk planned as questions linger about why N.B. police shot B.C. woman Chantel Moore
VANCOUVER -- B.C. family members of 26-year-old Chantel Moore arrived in New Brunswick Monday to start a healing process honouring the mother shot dead by police in Edmundston during a wellness check last week.
The family met with local Indigenous leaders and was scheduled to visit a sacred fire that will burn for four days. They’ve asked for two days of peace on Tuesday and Wednesday to make funeral arrangements.
Last Thursday, police were called to check on Moore at her apartment. Officers allege she had a knife and was making threats when she was shot.
The incident comes amid global protests denouncing police brutality and systemic racism prompted by the death of George Floyd, who was killed when a police officer continued to kneel on his neck even after he stopped breathing.
Friday night, a sacred fire will once again be lit, ahead of a healing walk to take place Saturday.
Indigenous leaders say Moore’s death raises the issue of the high-incidence of First Nations people who die in police custody in Canada. Although there’s lots of anger, the woman leading the walk in Edmundston says the focus will be on healing.
“I wanted this to be in silence, as opposed to shouting and anger, and I didn’t want it to come from a place of anger, even though we feel it,” said Imelda Perley, retired Elder in Residence, University of New Brunswick.
Perley has established protocols for the walk, including no profanity, and while it will be silent at times, there will also be drumming and chants. She’s asking Indigenous people to wear their traditional clothing, or red shawls to commemorate all Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. A bowl filled with water will be carried to symbolize tears and emotion being carried by the community.
Perley says this is not a protest, but a walk to promote healing and pray for justice.
Moore was killed in the same week that commemorated the one year anniversary of the release of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s report. The federal government’s promised action plan has been delayed.
“A year later, that nothing has been done,” said Chief Allan Polchies Jr. of St Mary’s First Nation. “Our voices matter.”
Perley told CTV News she was reminded of young student who was being advised to go to B.C. for cultural work studies. She says the woman said she didn’t want to go “because they kill Aboriginal women there.” To have a woman from B.C. come to her province and die, she said, is extremely upsetting.
Edmundston police aren’t commenting as an independent team from Quebec is now investigating the circumstances of Moore's death.
Like the family, Perley wonders if race played a factor in what happened. She points out the historical prejudices against aboriginal people.
“There’s this mentality that we’re the savages, but we’re not.”
Perley, who also has a background in mental health, said she thinks systems need to change, as she questioned why a single officer was sent to do a wellness check. She said in her career she’s also encountered people with weapons, but has been able to talk them down.
A special banner is also being created for the walk, with a rainbow. Perley said there were reports after her death a rainbow appeared. She said she views it as a symbol of anti-racism. She says messages during the walk will focus on Moore’s death, as well as others who died in police custody as well as Black Lives Matter.
“Let’s look at each other in society as part of the same rainbow. And the pot of gold will be the justice that we’re hoping will come out of our peace walk.”