The family of a 26-year-old Port Alberni woman is flying to Edmundston, New Brunswick, on Sunday in a quest for answers as to why Chantel Moore was shot by police during a wellness check early Thursday morning.
Investigators with Quebec’s independent police oversight body are heading to the northwestern New Brunswick city to probe the circumstances surrounding the police shooting.
Moore’s grandmother, Grace Frank, said the family is calling for a public inquest. Twelve members of Moore’s family, including Frank, are flying to Edmundston.
“We want answers. We want to know what happened. There are so many questions we’re wanting to ask,” said Frank, speaking from her home in Tofino.
“We believe something else happened because my granddaughter, she couldn’t hurt a fly. She’s such a kind, loving, caring, gentle person.”
Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said at a news conference Friday that he was outraged by Moore’s death and that it’s part of a pattern of violence against Indigenous people.
Officers with the Edmundston Police Force received a request to check on Moore’s well-being at about 2:30 a.m. on Thursday. Police say when the first officer arrived at the apartment, she was holding a knife and threatening the officer.
“At first the officer went on scene, and all of a sudden the person just exited the apartment with a knife and was attacking the officer,” Edmundston Police Force Insp. Steve Robinson told CBC News on Thursday. “He had no choice but to defend himself.”
Police and paramedics tried to resuscitate Moore, but she died at the apartment.
Nora Martin, Moore’s aunt, said Moore’s boyfriend, who was in Toronto, had asked the police to check on her because she complained to him that she was being harassed by someone.
Moore leaves a six-year-old daughter named Gracie, who was living with Moore’s mother, Martha, in Edmundston. Moore left Port Alberni a few months ago to join her mother and daughter, Frank said. Moore had just moved into her own place after spending time living with Martha.
Gracie has been asking her grandmother “Where’s my mom?” Frank said. “Martha said she doesn’t know what to tell her.”
Frank said Moore was a positive and loving person. “She was always just so happy and had a big smile on her face all the time,” she said. “She touched everyone’s heart. She would get a job somewhere and people would fall in love with her right there and then.”
Moore was set to start college in New Brunswick
Frank said Moore planned to start college in New Brunswick. “She was already buying her books and she was all excited about going back to school,” she said.
Moore is from the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation near Tofino, and has a brother, Mike, and two sisters, Kaylee and Courtney.
She was adopted out of the community as a child, but kept in touch with her mother and grandmother, Frank said. Moore lived with Frank between the ages of 14 and 16.
Moore then moved to Surrey with her aunt Corinne, then to Campbell River, where she met Gracie’s father. She separated from Gracie’s father and moved to Port Alberni, which is where Gracie was born, Frank said.
The family plans to bury Moore in Edmundston, but funeral plans have not yet been made.
Eight investigators with Quebec’s Independent Investigations Office are being sent to Edmundston. The RCMP is also assisting with the investigation. An autopsy has been scheduled.
“I don’t understand how someone dies during a wellness check,” Miller said during a news conference Friday morning. “You look at it and you say: ‘Yes there will be an independent investigation,’ but frankly, along with many Canadians, Indigenous peoples living in Canada, politicians, I’m pissed, I’m outraged. There needs to be a full accounting of what has gone on. This is a pattern that keeps repeating itself.”
While it’s hard to find official numbers for the proportion of police shootings involving Indigenous people, more than one-third of people fatally shot by the RCMP over a 10-year period were Indigenous, according to an RCMP document obtained by the Globe and Mail.
In a December 2017 briefing note written for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, the RCMP said its officers fatally shot 61 people across Canada between 2007 and 2017. In 22 of those cases, the victim was Indigenous, according to the memo, obtained by the Globe through access to information laws.
Indigenous people make up five per cent of the population.
First Nations community: ‘Another senseless loss”
Doug White, chairman of the B.C. First Nations Justice Council, criticized the lack of government action in the year following the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, which recommended sweeping reforms to the justice system and policing in Canada.
“De-escalation training and racial-bias training is urgently needed across this country to avoid another senseless loss,” White said in a statement.
Federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett said in a Twitter message on Thursday that Moore’s loved ones deserve answers through the independent review. “Another Indigenous woman is no longer with us,” Bennett wrote. “Significant work remains to ensure that all Indigenous women, girls, two-spirit and gender-diverse people have access to the supports they need and can walk safely, wherever they live.”
Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne wrote on Twitter: “A wellness check results in the loss of a young Indigenous woman’s life. I cannot comprehend this.”
The Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, which represents 14 First Nation communities on the west coast of Vancouver Island, said in a statement that police shootings of Indigenous peoples have to stop.
“The family and community of Chantel needs answers as to why she was shot on a health check by the police. Justice must not wait and every power must be exerted to ensure that justice is served in an appropriate, immediate, and respectful way.”
Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, and Gord Johns, the MP for Courtenay-Alberni, have talked to the RCMP to ensure the investigation is independent and expedited, according to the statement.
The Quebec police oversight body is asking anyone who witnessed the shooting to contact them through their website at bei.gouv.qc.ca
An online fundraising page set up to help support Moore’s daughter and family had raised more than $100,000 as of Friday evening; gofundme.com/f/support-for-family-of-chantel-moore
— with files from Vancouver Sun