FREDERICTON — The chiefs of a coalition of Maliseet First Nations are calling for an independent probe of the New Brunswick justice system after a fatal police shooting of a 26-year-old Indigenous woman from British Columbia.
The six chiefs in the Wolastoqey First Nation in New Brunswick issued a joint statement on Friday in response to the death of Chantel Moore, expressing their condolences to Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation in B.C. to which Moore belonged.
Police have said Moore was shot as Edmundston officers responded to a "wellness" call in the northwestern New Brunswick community, and have alleged she was making threats and holding a knife.
The chiefs' letter says they plan to formally request that Premier Blaine Higgs' Conservative minority government create a committee to review the justice system in New Brunswick in light of the death.
They're seeking recommendations on how the province can create change "to allow for a system free of systemic discrimination and that no longer fails to serve the Indigenous people of this province."
It is signed by the chiefs of communities along the Saint John River Valley, including Tobique, St. Mary’s, Madawaska, Oromocto, Kingsclear and Woodstock First Nations.
Public Safety Minister Carl Urquhart said in an emailed statement that a probe has started through Quebec's independent police investigation agency, known as the Bureau des enquetes independantes, along with a New Brunswick coroner's investigation.
"Decisions on next steps will be taken after the investigations have been completed," wrote the solicitor general.
"We acknowledge the chiefs want to discuss a review of Indigenous people and the justice system, with a scope broader than this one tragic case. We have already begun a dialogue with indigenous leaders on this important topic but we will engage with the chiefs in the days ahead," he said.
The Quebec agency has provided a brief statement, saying its investigation will determine if the information provided by police is accurate.
The City of Edmundston and the Edmundston Police Force said Friday they will make no further comment.
The union representing the 30 police officers and 11 dispatchers in the service said on Saturday in a release that it wished to offer sincere condolences to the family of Moore, calling the death "a difficult and tragic situation for all the parties involved."
Moore was killed early Thursday morning when police arrived at her home in response to a request to check on her well-being.
Edmundston police say their officer encountered a woman with a knife making threats. She was shot and died at the scene despite attempts to resuscitate her.
Moore's grandmother, Grace Frank, has said in an interview with The Canadian Press that her granddaughter was "tiny" and she doesn't believe she could have attacked the officer.
The young woman had lived with her grandmother for a number of years as a teenager before moving in with other relatives and later settling in Campbell River, B.C., where she met her boyfriend and had a daughter named Gracie.
Frank said her daughter — Moore's mother — had been raising Gracie in New Brunswick, and Moore recently moved there to be with her mother and daughter and to go to college. She said she was not aware that Moore had any mental health issues.
In Ottawa Friday, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said the family deserves answers, quickly. "It was a wellness check and someone died," he said. "I can't process that."
The Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council in B.C. has also called for the independent investigation to be conducted in a timely way.
The council represents 14 First Nations, including Moore's home community.
— Story by Michael Tutton in Halifax.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 6, 2020.
The Canadian Press