New Brunswick

Coroner's inquest to be held into fatal police shooting of Chantel Moore

A corner's inquest will be called into the fatal shooting of a First Nations woman by a police officer in Edmundston last week and an independent probe into the officer's actions may eventually be released.

Province says independent report into Moore's death will be made public - eventually

Chantel Moore, 26, recently moved to New Brunswick where she joined her mother and daughter. CBC has permission from Chantel Moore's family to use the photos included in this story. (Chantel Moore/Facebook)

A corner's inquest will be called into the fatal shooting of a First Nations woman by a police officer in Edmundston last week and an independent probe into the officer's actions may eventually be released.

Shawn Berry, a spokesperson for the province, confirmed in an email Thursday the coroner services will call an inquest into the June 4 shooting death of 26-year-old Chantel Moore. 

Moore's death has been the subject of national attention, with calls for a speedy, independent investigation that would bring the facts of the situation to light. The Edmundston Police Force has said an officer shot a woman during a wellness check June 4 after she threatened him with a knife. The officer was not injured. 

An inquest is a formal court proceeding where all evidence relating to a death is presented to a jury that can make recommendations to prevent deaths in the future.

It's not clear when it may take place. An inquest into the police shooting death of Michel Vienneau in Bathurst in 2015 has yet to take place and was on hold pending criminal proceedings and the conclusion of the police disciplinary process. 

The scene of a shooting in Edmundston surrounded by police tape last week. (Gary Moore/CBC)

The officer who shot Moore is on paid leave for at least several weeks at the direction of the police force, Mychèle Poitras, a spokesperson for the City of Edmundston, said in an email.

Quebec's Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes, the province's police watchdog agency, is investigating the officer's actions and says that work could take months to complete. 

Public Safety Minister Carl Urquhart told reporters Thursday the agency's report will be sent to the province's Crown prosecution service to decide whether charges against the officer are warranted. It would also be used as part of the inquest. 

"If it goes to criminal charges, it would be as evidence in the charges," Urquhart said. "Once the court proceedings are over, then there will be a coroner's inquest and at that time it will be made public."

Michael Boudreau, a criminology professor at St. Thomas University in Fredericton said the report should be released to the family and the public. He said sections with highly personal information can be blacked out to protect privacy. 

And he said the province could follow the lead of Nova Scotia's Serious Incident Response Team, which still releases some of its findings even if criminal charges are laid. 

Withholding could erode trust: Boudreau

Without an obligation to release the reports, he said it could erode trust in police.

"So even if the public may not believe that report, nonetheless releasing it is in the public interest," Boudreau said.

"Concealing it just makes the public question the motives of the police and makes them even more suspicious or confirms in some people's minds that the police must be hiding something when they may not be hiding anything."

The various organizations involved had told CBC News they won't be releasing the report. 

A spokesperson for the Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes last week would only say the report would be provided to the New Brunswick equivalent of Quebec's director of criminal and penal prosecutions. 

Poitras confirmed Edmundston will receive a copy of the report.

"It won't be up to us at all," Poitras said, when asked if the city or its police force would release the report. Poitras said the report will be handed to the RCMP, the provincial Crown prosecution service and the provincial coroners service.

Cpl. Jullie Rogers-Marsh, a spokesperson for the RCMP in New Brunswick, wouldn't say whether the force would release the report.

"It would be inappropriate for the New Brunswick RCMP to comment on an ongoing investigation by an independent agency," Rogers-Marsh wrote in an email Wednesday.

As recently as August last year the New Brunswick RCMP told CBC News that the force doesn't release the reports of independent police review agencies anywhere in the country. RCMP say that's the responsibility of the independent agency.

The RCMP are involved, Poitras said, because under the province's state of emergency declaration the force is in charge of all police services in New Brunswick and had requested the independent review.

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs says the family will be kept updated on the progress of the investigation, but didn't say if the report would be released. (New Brunswick Office of the Premier)

On Wednesday, Premier Blaine Higgs said "arrangements have been made" to provide updates to Moore's family on the progress of investigation. 

"That doesn't mean that all of the details can be provided, as many of the details may not be available as such for the public," Higgs said. 

Higgs said he believes the investigation will likely take weeks or months to complete. 

"Whether we can disclose, or whether even I know all of the details at the end of the day, I want to know what can be done to prevent this sort of situation in the future," Higgs said. 

Moore's family, who held a private funeral service for her Thursday in Edmundston, have questioned whether what happened that night will be known. 

"I'm sure every one of us would love to know what happened that morning," Martha Martin, Moore's mother, said Tuesday. "Are we ever going to get the full truth? She's not here any more to defend herself."

Martha Martin questions whether the family will ever know the truth about what happened the night her daughter died. (Radio-Canada)

New Brunswick doesn't have its own independent agency like Quebec's or Nova Scotia's Serious Incident Response Team. Instead, police forces have called in agencies from outside the province as needed. 

Boudreau said Moore's death again shows why the province needs some form of an independent agency to investigate police actions, whether one only working in New Brunswick or shared with other provinces. 

The New Brunswick Police Association has publicly supported creation of a provincial agency similar to Nova Scotia's. 

A report last year called on the province to establish its own independent agency, but this week Urquhart said it would make more sense to have one agency for the Maritimes. 

"I'm not sure that New Brunswick having its own is the right answer," Urquhart said Monday in the legislature.

About the Author

Shane Magee

Reporter

Shane Magee is a Moncton-based reporter for CBC.

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