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Gladys Tolley, a 61-year-old Kitigan Zibi First Nation great-grandmother, was struck and killed on Oct. 5, 2001, by a Sûreté du Québec (SQ) police cruiser while she was walking across the highway. Three months later, the investigation into her death was officially closed by Montreal police and determined to be an accidental collision.
Her daughter, Bridget Tolley, has been fighting for more than a decade to have the case reopened and subject to an independent investigation by the Province of Quebec. Several prominent Indigenous organizations have supported her call, but an investigation was denied by the province in 2010.
Bridget Tolley said police failed to tell the family that her mother’s case was closed and declared an accidental death, and that no one would face charges.
Montreal police confirm that Gladys Tolley’s death was determined to be accidental and the investigation is concluded.
“Nobody’s ever been charged,” her daughter said. “They never came and told us that the case was closed. They’ve never spoken to my family about this once.”
Tolley said her mother was leaving another daughter’s house after visiting for the evening and was on her way home. At around 11:30 p.m., Gladys was struck and killed by the cruiser on Highway 105, which runs past the Kitigan Zibi First Nation. As she walked across the two-lane highway, she was hit.
The series of events that followed has left Bridget with many unanswered questions. She said the local Kitigan Zibi police department had jurisdiction over the scene and should have been called to secure it, but instead, Montreal police were brought in.
She also objected to the fact that police officers were brought in to investigate one of their own.
“We need to talk about police investigating police.” she said.
A coroner’s report completed on June 28, 2002, indicated that there was alcohol present in her mother’s blood, according to her daughter.
Bridget Tolley said she believed that because Gladys was a native woman who drank alcohol, police did not treat the investigation into her death as professionally as they would have for another person.
She said she was also upset about how Gladys’s body was handled after her death and added that no one from the family identified her mother.
“I don’t want this to happen to my grandchildren,” she said. “I don’t want to die not getting justice for my mother.”
CBC News continues to investigate missing and murdered indigenous women and girls in Canada, looking at the unsolved cases and telling the stories of the families and communities.