Police watchdog to have Indigenous adviser into death in B.C.: First Nations chief

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TOFINO, B.C. — The chief councillor of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation says British Columbia's police watchdog has agreed to allow an Indigenous person to act in an advisory role during its investigation of a fatal police shooting on the weekend.

Moses Martin says the decision by the Independent Investigations Office, which could not immediately be reached for comment, is something the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation had requested.

The Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, Pacheedaht First Nation and the First Nations Leadership Council said in a statement they want a transparent investigation into the death of the man from the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation.

The RCMP said two officers from its Tofino detachment were called to a home on the Opitsaht reserve on nearby Meares Island to locate a woman in distress on Saturday night.

The Mounties allege an unspecified "interaction" took place in which one man was shot and killed, while another was taken into custody.

The RCMP declined to comment because the shooting is being investigated by the provincial Independent Investigations Office, which investigates all officer-related incidents that result in serious harm or death.

The office says the RCMP responded to a report of a woman being held against her will at a residence on Meares Island at about 9:30 p.m. on Saturday. The woman was taken to hospital for medical assessment, it says.

Martin welcomed the advisory role, adding First Nations had also asked to participate in the investigation into the death of Chantel Moore, a 26-year-old Indigenous woman, in New Brunswick last year.

"That's a change for us," he said in an interview on Monday. "That's something we also wanted to be a part of in the Chantel Moore case, but we never got a response."

The Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation is a member of the Nuu-chah-nulth tribal council and the Opitsaht reserve makes up one of its three major communities.

The Pacheedaht First Nation is part of the Nuu-chah-nulth culture, but does not fall under the council's umbrella.

Martin added that the community will require RCMP officers who enter its territories to do so with an escort by a band member.

"Hopefully something like that would defuse some of the situations," Martin said.

Judith Sayers, president of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, said the death on the weekend is another shocking incident for the community involving police shootings.

"It just doesn't make sense why there aren't other de-escalation methods being used," said Sayers.

"This has become far too often that Indigenous people are being shot. I just really hope people are taking note of this out in the public."

An Edmundston police officer shot and killed Moore during a wellness check in June. Police allege she lunged at an officer with a knife, and her death was also investigated by the agency in Quebec that investigates police shootings.

Moore, who was from the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, had moved to the community in northwestern New Brunswick to be closer to her mother and young daughter.

New Brunswick's public prosecutions service announced on Dec. 23 that it had received the Quebec agency's report into her death and would take time to examine the findings.

— By Nick Wells in Vancouver.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021.

The Canadian Press