“We are a fair and independent civilian police oversight body,” reads the greeting page of the New Brunswick Police Commission, but friends and family of Chantel Moore beg to differ after learning the commission cited insufficient evidence as the reason that the police officer involved did not commit a breach of the Code of Professional Conduct Regulation.
The Commission released its report Nov. 19.
“The Commission has completed its review of the Police Act investigation conducted by an investigator appointed by the Commission and will take no further action as there is insufficient evidence that the officer committed a breach of the Code of Professional Conduct Regulation,” said Commission Chair Marc Léger in the report.
In other words, they found there was no wrongdoing on the part of Jeremy Sun, the Edmundston Police Force officer who shot 26-year-old Chantel Moore to death during a June 4, 2020 wellness check.
“They don’t protect us, they only protect themselves!” wrote Martha Martin, mother of Chantel Moore, in a social media post after the report was released. “Cops investigation(s) cannot be done by retired cops…. They will never arrest their own!”
The June 4, 2020 shooting death drew national attention after it was learned that Moore, a mother of a young daughter, had lost her life during a wellness check. She was, according to police testimony, asleep on her sofa in plain view of the police officer who went to check on her safety in response to a call from a concerned friend.
Moore had been drinking with friends at her apartment hours earlier. By the time the police officer arrived at her third-story walk-up apartment, Moore’s friend had gone home. The officer alleged that when he woke Moore by pounding on her window, she retrieved something from the kitchen counter and went to the door. He said she was holding a blanket around herself with one hand while wielding a knife with the other.
The officer told investigators that she refused to drop the knife after repeated, loud commands in French, and was advancing toward him in a threatening manner. Moore suffered multiple gunshot wounds and died on scene.
“This finding of no misconduct is outrageous,” said NTC President Judith Sayers. “They and the Crown basically say it is ok to shoot an Indigenous woman four times if the officer feels his life was endangered. That it is reasonable force. How can that be considered reasonable? A large officer against a small woman cannot disarm her? And has to shoot her that many times?”
“The systemic discrimination in the system is rampant and must be changed for justice for Chantel and other First Nations people,” Sayers added. “We need big changes to police acts and complaints procedures. We need Indigenous peoples involved in the complaints procedures.”
“This is yet another example of the so called ‘justice system’ in Canada failing First Nations peoples,” said NTC Vice-President Mariah Charleson. “We cannot forget that Chantel was murdered and shot numerous times on a ‘wellness check’ by an on-duty policeman. When we see no accountability from these horrendous actions that have led to the loss of precious life, it tells the whole world that young First Nations women’s lives don’t matter, which couldn’t be further from the truth.”
Charleson pointed to the final report on the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Its 231 calls to justice have yet to be implemented, she said.
“When we see Canada’s lack of response to these imperative calls to justice, we are seeing a country continue to inflict genocide on our precious women, girls, 2 spirit +,” added Charleson.
The NB Police Commission says it will not release its report to the public in accordance with their Privacy Act, Police Act, and other privacy rules. However, Léger, the commission’s chairman, noted the investigation’s policy and procedural review found issues outside the commission’s mandate.
“The Coroner’s Inquest into Ms. Moore’s death may raise those issues as well and the commission is ready to fully cooperate with the coroner,” said Léger.
Sayers says there will be a coroner’s inquest scheduled for February 2022. The purpose of the inquiry is not to find fault or wrongdoing, but the coroner can rule on the manner of death, whether it be homicide, suicide or accidental. The purpose of the coroner’s inquest is to investigate the circumstances of a death in order to prevent a similar tragedy in the future.
According to Sayers, the Crown Special Investigators Report said it was homicide but that it was justified. She said the coroner’s inquest makes recommendations.
“The recommendations from the Rodney Levi coroners inquiry were good. We can hope for the same,” she added.
Rodney Levi, 48, was an Indigenous man shot by police in New Brunswick on June 12, 2020, just eight days after the death of Chantel Moore. The jury in the coroner’s inquest ruled his death a homicide rather than “suicide by cop” which a forensic suicide expert alleged at the trial.
The coroner’s inquest jury in the Rodney Levi case presented recommendations, including the reinstatement of the Indigenous band constable program, as well as opening detox centres and more mental health services in First Nation communities. They also recommend that RCMP officers not be first responders during wellness checks but should be on standby.
“We also hope for Justice of Chantel in other ways. Better and more de-escalation tactics. Trauma-informed teams used in wellness checks. More training for officers on respect and valuing Indigenous lives,” said Sayers.
She went on to say that a civil lawsuit is likely the next step.
On her Facebook page Martha Martin wrote, “I love you my girl, I will continue to fight for justice. Your life mattered.”