It’s been nearly one year since the shooting death of Tla-o-qui-aht’s Chantel Moore during a wellness check in her Edmundston, NB apartment, and the family continues to wait for answers.
Moore’s mother, Martha Martin, lives with her husband in Edmundston. The couple are raising their granddaughter, Gracie, who was the daughter of Chantel Moore.
Born in Edmundston, Moore, age 26, lived most of her life on Vancouver Island and was a member of Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation. A few months before her death, she returned to Edmundston to be closer to her mother and six-year-old daughter.
In the weeks leading up to her death, Moore had moved into her own apartment. It was a second story walk-up behind a business front. In the early morning hours of June 4, 2020, Martha was woken from her sleep by a police officer knocking on her door.
According to Martha, the lone police officer said he was looking for Chantel after receiving a call from the young woman’s boyfriend. The boyfriend, who was in Montreal, is said to have told the police that he had been receiving troubling text messages from Chantel complaining that someone was bothering her and that she was scared.
“He called New Brunswick police with his concerns and they went to Martha’s looking for her,” said Grace Frank, Martha’s mother.
According to Martha, the Edmundston Police Force officer, whom she now knows was Jeremy Son, was performing a wellness check on Chantel. Chantel had just moved out of her mother’s home a few days before. Martha gave the officer her daughter’s new address – an apartment in downtown Edmundston, just a few minutes away.
At nearly 3 a.m. police returned to Martha’s home, this time to deliver devastating news. They told Martha that her daughter had been shot and killed.
“Around 2:30 a.m., the Edmundston Police Force received a request to check on the well-being of a woman at an apartment building on Hill Street in Edmundston. The responding police officer was confronted at the scene by a woman holding a knife who made threats,” reads a statement from the Edmundston Police Force issued later that day.
The family has said she was shot five times. They have also said that they do not believe that Moore, a petite woman, would have threatened anyone.
Within a few weeks, Const. Jeremy Son returned to work, having been placed on administrative leave. He remains on administrative duties pending a decision by the Public Prosecutions Services on whether to lay criminal charges against him.
The Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes was asked to investigate the incident since New Brunswick doesn’t have its own police watchdog agency. Its findings were completed late last year but were not released to the public. They were submitted to the Crown in December where they will be reviewed and prosecutors will decide whether or not to proceed with criminal charges against the police officer.
Tla-o-qui-aht Chief Councillor Moses Martin told Ha-Shilth-Sa that he expects to hear within the next few days what will happen with the case.
“Whether or not he (Son) will be charged…probably not,” said Moses.
Martha confirms that they are expecting news on June 7, when she will meet with Lawyer T.J. Burke, who is representing Moore's family.
Martha said these last few weeks have been absolutely chaotic.
“I’ve been on phone all week,” she said.
Martha has spent the past year caring for her granddaughter Gracie, whom she says is traumatized by the loss of her mother and is need of constant reassurance.
“She’s terrified of cops,” said Martha, adding that the child will visibly begin shaking, crouching down in her seat when she sees police officers. “I tell her that not all cops are bad.”
Martin has also been working tirelessly advocating for justice not only for Chantel, but also for other Indigenous people across Canada.
“Last year I counted 20 Indigenous lives lost at the hands of police officers, and there’s probably more,” said Martha.
Following Chantel’s death, two other Tla-o-qui-aht people were shot by police. Julian Jones in February and Melinda Martin in May.
Regarding Melinda Martin, Martha said, “I don’t know the full story but my thoughts and prayers go out to my uncle Peter and his wife Ginny (Melinda’s parents). “This can’t be an easy time as a parent and thinking of them every day. It’s not an easy thing having your child shot at.”
Moses Martin stated that Melinda has had her spine operated on twice and remains in an induced coma.
Martha has been helping to organize yellow shirt and dress campaigns across the country, keeping demands for justice in the forefront. The color yellow was chosen because one of Chantel’s favorite sayings was ‘stay golden’.
“But I don’t want to make this just about my daughter,” said Martha, adding that she wants to use the publicity to help other cases that are not getting the attention they deserve.
She talked about Eishia Hudson, age 16, shot by police in Winnipeg Manitoba earlier this year, followed 12 weeks later by the death of Jason Collins, 36, shot by police in front of his 15-year-old daughter, also in Winnipeg. In both cases, the police were cleared of wrong doing by the Independent Investigation Unit.
“These cases didn’t make the headlines that my daughter did so I think it’s time to shed light on them,” said Martha.
The family is planning a remembrance ceremony on June 4 in Fredericton, N.B., which will be live streamed on social media.
Chantel’s stepmother, Anna Masso, is organizing a walk, in remembrance of Chantel from the Tofino/Ucluelet Junction to Tofino. The walk will start June 4, at 8 a.m.
As for the anticipated outcome of whether or not the Crown recommends charges against officer Jeremy Son, Martha is doing her best to prepare mentally and physically.
“The scary part is not knowing…it can go either way,” she said. “And either way, she’s still not going to come back.”
She went on to say that she knows what she’s lost and she will still have to pick up the pieces no matter what happens.
“I will continue to fight for justice for Chantel, if that’s what it takes,” Martha vowed.