Indigenous leaders are condemning the killing of a 26-year-old woman from the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation by police and calling for an expedited, independent investigation.
Police shot and killed Chantel Moore during a wellness check in Edmundston, New Brunswick early Thursday morning. Police claim that Moore came at an officer with a knife and that the officer did not attempt to use “non-lethal force” before shooting her.
Nora Martin, Moore’s great-aunt, said the family was told that five bullets were fired at Moore but do not know if all hit her. Moore died at the scene, and the officer who killed her has not been identified yet. Martin told CTV she believes the killing was “racially motivated.”
“We’ve been dealing with police brutality for a number of years,” she said. “I know in my own family it’s been going on for a long time.”
The Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, which represents the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, has publicly sent condolences to Moore’s family and is calling for an expedited, independent investigation into her death.
“The family and community of Chantel needs answers as to why she was shot on a health check by the police,” the statement says. “Justice must not wait and every power must be exerted to ensure that justice is served in an appropriate, immediate, and respectful way.”
The tribal council said it reached out to Edmundston police for more information about the circumstances that led to Moore’s “untimely and sudden” death.
The BC First Nations Justice Council, British Columbia Assembly of First Nations, Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, and the First Nations Summit issued a joint statement, also calling for an independent and impartial investigation into Moore’s death.
Moore’s “family deserves answers to the circumstances that led to her tragic death at the hands of the Edmundston Police Department,” said Lydia Hwitsum, speaking on behalf of the First Nations Summit. “Indigenous people in Canada face clear systemic racial bias by police forces. This systemic racism must stop.”
Speaking to reporters, a spokesperson for Edmundston Police claimed that Moore attacked the officer with a knife. Insp. Steve Robinson said the officer, who has yet to be named, “had no choice but to defend himself” and kill Moore. The police force is requesting a third party investigate what happened to see if Moore’s killing was justified.
Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said during a COVID-19 press conference that police violence against Indigenous peoples is “a pattern that keeps repeating itself.” He said Canada needs to address police violence against Indigenous peoples and called for an investigation into this incident as well as a recent incident where a police officer was caught on video hitting an Inuk man with his truck before an arrest. Miller said he watched the video “in disgust” and that “it’s a disgraceful, disgusting, and inhuman act.” There are two ongoing investigations looking into the Nunavut case, an external criminal one and an internal conduct investigation.
“I don’t understand how someone dies during a wellness check. When I first saw the report I thought it was a morbid joke,” said Miller. “You look at it and you say, 'Yes, there will be an independent investigation but frankly I, along with many Canadians, Indigenous people living in Canada, and politicians, I’m pissed and I’m outraged.”
Although Indigenous peoples make up only 5 percent of Canada’s population, 36 percent of people shot to death by RCMP officers over a 10-year period were Indigenous, according to a recent access to information request referenced by the First Nations leaders.
Moore has been described by family and friends as a warm, kind woman who had just moved to the Atlantic province with her mother and daughter for a fresh start. VICE has reached out to the family but has not heard back.
Martin told the Vancouver Sun that the police story seems very “out of character” for Moore and her niece “didn’t have a mean bone in her body.” Martin said that police were called because an ex-boyfriend in Toronto contacted police after she complained she was being harassed by someone.
A GoFundMe set up by a Port Alberni woman has already raised over $60,000. The funds are to help her family travel to Edmunston from B.C. to be with Moore’s mother and 5-year-old daughter and practice traditional Nuu-Chah-Nulth grieving protocols, the page says.
A Change.com petition pressuring “the Edmundston Police Force to criminally charge the officer (whose name is yet to be released) with a count of second-degree murder” was shared by one member of the family. So far it has received over 3,000 signatures.
Nunavut RCMP are under investigation for five additional incidents in Nunavut since 2020 began, according to APTN.
The two incidents of alleged anti-Indigenous racism at the hands of police come at a time of international unrest, scrutiny of the use of police force, and widespread campaigns to defund police.
In Canada, protesters attended a massive rally in Toronto after Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a young Black woman, died after police were called to conduct a wellness check and help her family. Korchinski-Paquet fell 24 stories to her death and the circumstances surrounding how she fell are disputed.