Protest at the legislature draws over a hundred
Surrounded by friends and supporters, Chantel Moore’s family gathered once again on the steps on the B.C. Legislature to seek justice and advocate for replacing armed police officers with trauma-informed counsellors for wellness checks.
It’s been more than three months since Chantel Moore was shot and killed by police during a wellness check in Edmunston. Moore comes from the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation of the Nuu-chah-nulth on Vancouver Island.
“Each night I’ve gone through in my head a million times, and I can’t even imagine how terrified my daughter must have been, all alone. I can’t even understand why: why is shooting anyone even an option? My daughter should still be here now,” said Martha Martin in a voice cracking with emotion.
Moore’s death brought forward the pain many families in Indigenous communities face. Supporters and advocates at the protest spoke of the systemic nature of racism and police violence in Canada.
“You know the irony of all of this? The day Chantel died, it was the one year anniversary of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women [report],” said Judith Sayers, President of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council. Sayers is also an adjunct professor at UVic’s Gustavson School of Business.
“I should not have to come to this [legislature] and I should not have to beg for justice for my daughter,” said Martin. “My daughter was not just a status card number. She was a daughter, she was a mother, she was a granddaughter, she was a niece — she was human.”
Martin was overcome with emotion and was unable to finish her prepared speech.
Calls for government action on systemic racism in policing
The protest rally was held with the acknowledgement of Songhees and Esquimalt Nations, and a delegation of supporters from the Tla’amin nation was also present. Many attendees wore yellow in remembrance of Moore.
“We’re worried that this man is going to walk away with his life, while Chantel was not able to do that for herself. We need to change the systemic racism in policing, and we need to get that message out to our members of parliament,” said Sayers.
Gord Johns, the MP for Courtenay-Alberni, which overlaps Nuu-chah-nulth territory, also spoke at the protest. Johns has been consistently advocating for Moore’s family since June. Victoria MP Laurel Collins, said Johns has been a champion on this issue.
“My New Democrat colleagues and I have been pushing to transform the way in which wellness checks happen, to invest more money in mental health and make sure that it is mental health workers that are responding instead of police,” Collins said in an interview with the Martlet.
She added that it was important for MPs to show up in these situations and attended the rally in solidarity and support. Victoria Chief Constable Del Manak was also present at the rally.
In an interview with CBC, St. Thomas University criminology professor Michael Boudreau says that the police watchdog Bureau des Enquêtes Indépendantes (BEIQ) assigned to Moore’s case has never produced charges against a police officer that has seriously injured or killed a citizen. Noting the high number of former constables now working for the Quebec-based agency, Boudreau has doubts about the independent investigation.
The officer involved in the incident, Jeremy Son, has since returned to the force on administrative duties, despite calls from hereditary and elected leaders from Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation for him to face criminal charges.