On MMIWG report anniversary, Indigenous leaders left grieving for Chantel Moore
First Nations leaders say it's time to change justice system for Indigenous peoples
On the one-year anniversary of the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, Chantel Moore, a 26-year-old Nuu-chah-nulth woman, was fatally shot by an Edmundston police officer during a wellness check early Thursday.
The police officer who is currently under investigation was allegedly attacked by Moore with a knife and "had no choice but to defend himself," said Edmundston police.
Moore was born in Tofino, B.C., in the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation area on Vancouver Island. She had moved to New Brunswick after living in Port Alberni, B.C. to be closer to her mother and five-year-old daughter.
Brandy Stanovich, president of the Indigenous Women's Association of the Wabanaki Territories and board member of the Native Women's Association of Canada, expressed her disappointment in Canada's process of implementing the recommendations that emerged from the MMIWG inquiry.
"We're very disappointed and saddened by the government not responding to the 231 calls for justice of the national inquiry," Stanovich said. "We don't understand how a whole year could go by without a national action plan because that was there to address this problem."
Chief Ross Perley of Neqotkuk First Nation, a Wolastoqey community known as Tobique, also expressed his disappointment with the incident on the anniversary.
"Makes me feel disappointed that we had a year to come up with solutions to this problem," he said.
Perley, a father of four daughters, said Moore's death hits home for him.
"I have four young daughters that are growing up in a society that is discriminatory toward them," Perley said. "As the chief, I'm going to do whatever I can to fix that, so when they grow up they don't have to be fearful of law enforcement or the justice system."
Perley said the Wolastoqey nation has written a letter to the New Brunswick justice minister this morning, "hoping to work together to improve the system we have here in New Brunswick and the procedures and protocols police forces use when dealing with Indigenous peoples."
"They don't treat non-Indigenous citizens the same as they treat Indigenous citizens," Perley said of police forces. "That's the problem, and it's a problem across the county."
Officer apologizes for interview conduct
Ruth Levi, council member of Elsipogtog First Nation, said she felt "lots of anger" when she heard the news of Moore's death.
Levi said her frustration only grew when she saw Insp. Steve Robinson of the Edmundston Police smirk when he declined comment on the amount of times Moore was shot.
"The smirk on his face was uncalled for, totally uncalled for and disrespectful," Levi said.
"I pray that his superiors see this. He does owe the family and the public at large, not just First Nations but the public, an explanation or an apology.
Robinson released a statement late Friday afternoon apologizing for what appeared to be a lack of compassion during his interview with CTV.
"I understand that my reaction to the camera has caused frustration and concern," he said in the statement. "I sincerely apologize if my reaction has been interpreted or perceived to be carelessness or lack of compassion. This is absolutely not the case. I have great sympathy with family, friends and the Aboriginal community."
Levi said, "New Brunswick has failed again."
"It doesn't matter where you're from, it doesn't matter what race," Levi said. "You do not deserve to die in the arms of a police officer with a gun that shot you."
"Is he fully trained, this man? The question comes to my mind," Levi said.
She said it's time to sit down with the province and discuss what Indigenous justice looks like in New Brunswick.
"We need to talk, we need action, this has to stop. No more," Levi said, calling for improved relations between First Nations and federal and provincial governments.
"It does not matter where Chantel Moore was from. What matters is she's an Aboriginal woman who was in fear of her life," Levi said.
Faith in police
Moore's boyfriend had called the police for a wellness check because she was being harassed after moving to Edmundston.
Levi questioned whether, as an Indigenous woman, if she or other Indigenous women can safely rely on the police.
"So when I live in fear, I'm not to call the police?" Levi questioned. "Do I go get a gun? Should I take matters into my own hands?
"Just sit back for a moment and imagine where I'd be right now. I wonder if that police officer is in the same place I would be. I don't think so."
Call for Indigenous investigator
Wolastoq Grand Council Chief Ron Tremblay said he wrote a letter to Edmundston Mayor Cyrille Simard, the New Brunswick Police Association and the Edmundston Police Department requesting an Indigenous person be part of the team investigating the shooting.
"We know a lot of times that if minorities are not a part of any investigation or any police search of what happened, it gets swept under the rug," Tremblay said.
Tremblay said he also asked for Robinson's dismissal following his interview with CTV.
"This clearly shows the racism that's part of policing here in New Brunswick, too," he said.
Tremblay said he plans to attend a sacred fire that has been lit at Madawaska First Nation, a Wolastoqey community which neighbours Edmundston.
"They're calling on people with pipes or any people who would want to go up to share prayers or do ceremonies for Chantel and send those prayers out to her family out in British Columbia," Tremblay said.
Tremblay said that the sacred fire will be lit until Sunday.
Edmundston police have engaged an "independent agency" to investigate whether the officer's actions complied with policing standards. New Brunswick doesn't have an agency like Nova Scotia's Serious Incident Response Team or Ontario's Special Investigations Unit that investigate police actions
Quebec's independent police watchdog, BEI, announced on Twitter it would handle the review.
An autopsy has been scheduled.
CBC has permission from Chantel Moore's family to use the photos included in this story.
With files from Shane Magee