N.B. police killing of Chantel Moore 'hard to understand,' says her great-uncle
'There could have been or should have been some de-escalation,' says Chief Moses Martin
Moses Martin says he has a lot of trouble wrapping his mind around the idea that a trained police officer would be forced to kill his niece, who he calls "a tiny little lady," in self-defence.
Martin is the chief of Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation on Vancouver Island, and his 26-year-old grand-niece Chantel Moore was shot and killed on June 4 by a police officer in Edmundston, N.B.
Edmundston Police Force Insp. Steve Robinson told reporters that an officer was responding to a request to perform a wellness check when he was attacked by a woman with a knife and "had no choice but to defend himself." He said said the officer in question is "off work" pending the results of an investigation.
Quebec's independent police watchdog, the Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes, is investigating with support from the RCMP.
Martin spoke to As It Happens host Carol Off about his family's loss and their quest for answers. Here is part of their conversation.
Chief Martin, first of all, I'm sorry for your loss.
Thank you very much for your acknowledgement. Yeah, it's hard to understand.
What is your understanding ... at this point? First of all, why were police called to Chantel's apartment last Thursday?
We've been told that a wellness call was made.
Do you know what a wellness call is and who would have made it?
That's a piece that I'm not understanding. And it's hard for us to really understand what really happened and what the nature of that call [was].
When you get no information, we're left to make assumptions on what happened. And we're told that she was shot multiple times.
It really raises questions .... Was the intent to kill? Why didn't he try to disarm her? Why didn't he run? Did he not have a Taser?
So police went to her home to check on her well-being. She is shot multiple times and killed. Do you know anything else about what happened. They say she had a knife. What can you tell us about that?
That's the same message that we got, and that's the piece that I'm having trouble trying to understand because ... Chantel, as we knew her, was a very beautiful young lady inside and out. So it's hard to understand how she is being described by police coming at a trained police officer with a knife.
Do you have a belief or concern that her First Nations identity, her First Nations ethnicity, had a role to play in what happened to her?
I don't know that either, ma'am. Sorry. No, I couldn't say one way or the other.
To me, it's a senseless killing.- Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Chief Moses Martin
Other members of your family are casting doubts on the police version of what happened to Chantel because of family history of dealing with police. So do you share that?
Personally, I can't say that. I mean, I'm involved in politics and have spent my lifetime building relations with municipalities ... that's what I do.
It's difficult. I know that racism exists, and I know that all too well because, you know, I've seen it. I've heard it.
For me, it is time that we stop talking about it and begin to start planning on how we deal with this, because we're all people that call this place home, and we call different places of our country home, and it's time that we try to create a better life for all of us.
Not just us as First Nations people, but all of us in this country, including Black people, Chinese people and all the other people that come into our country.
Your own son is a 20-year veteran of the RCMP. From what you know of policing, does it seem that there was something that might have happened between the arrival and the shooting of Chantel? Was there an opportunity, in your view, to de-escalate what was going on, whatever it was?
I would think that, yes, there could have been or should have been some de-escalation, even if she had a knife.
She's a tiny little lady and a trained police officer? You know, it just doesn't make any sense. And to me, it's a senseless killing.
Quebec's independent police watchdog has been asked to investigate the incident independently. What are the most important questions that you want answered?
Oh, boy. There's all kinds of whys. Why did this happen and why was she shot?
Chantel had her own daughter, didn't she? A five-year-old. And she'd gone ... to New Brunswick to be with her mom and her daughter. What stories would you tell her daughter about her mother? What do you want the daughter to know about her mom?
Her mother was a beautiful, kind and very well-spoken person. She wanted to be near her daughter. All those things that come with being a parent in the end.
In our family, especially in my own family, we talk about the law of respect as far as First Nations people go, the lessons that we've been taught as individuals by our parents, and that, in very simple words, I can't demand respect; I have to earn it.
Very simple, but a lifetime of learning.
Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from CBC News. Interview produced by Morgan Passi. Edited for length and clarity.