A Vancouver Island First Nation has issued a stinging rebuke to the RCMP in the wake of the second death of a member at the hands of a police officer in less than a year.
The Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation released a statement March 3 questioning the RCMP’s use of deadly force in the case of Julian Jones, a 28 year-old Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation man shot and killed on Feb. 27.
“It is incomprehensible to see such unnecessary loss of life at the hands of the RCMP,” the statement reads. “It is obvious that the RCMP need more social service resources and community-based responders to assist them when interacting with those members of the society that have mental health issues, or whom are currently going through other trauma.”
“Nine months ago, our Nation put forward a list of recommendations to support better interactions with police and to reduce police brutality. To date, none of the recommendations have been followed up on and the RCMP/police have killed more TFN members than COVID has.”
Jones is the second Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation member to be killed by police in the past nine months. Chantel Moore, 26, was shot during a wellness check at her New Brunswick home on June 4, 2020.
Jones was killed when police responded to a report of a woman being held against her will in Opitsaht, located on Meares Island roughly two kilometres from Tofino.
The Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia, the civilian agency that investigates all police incidents resulting in serious harm or death, has appointed an Indigenous civilian monitor to the investigation.
“In the interest of a fully transparent investigation, the IIO commits to making the monitor’s final report available to the public,” an IIO statement reads.
The West Coast’s larger Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council had released a statement on March 1 demanding a “fully independent and transparent investigation” where it must be involved in every step. The NTC had also submitted a list of recommendations following the shooting of Moore and says they never received a response.
“We are devastated and angered that the RCMP did not and have not listened,” the statement reads. “The use of deadly force by Canadian police forces against Indigenous peoples is an epidemic in this country.”
Native Courtworker and Counselling Association of B.C. president Hugh Braker is also demanding a thorough and transparent inquiry.
“An investigation that drags on for a year or more or one that is not completely open to the public will make it even worse,” he said. “The RCMP are given the power, in some circumstances, to shoot and kill people. For the public to maintain confidence in the justice system, when these extraordinary powers are used, there must be an investigation that recognizes and reflects the need for public confidence.”
The Tla-o-qui-aht are requesting access to body camera footage as well as any 911 dispatch calls related to the Jones shooting.
“Our community has lost a nephew, a grandson, a brother, a friend. Our community is grieving this loss and ask for privacy during this time. This press release will be our Nation’s only statement regarding this tragedy, whilst we conduct our business of putting our community member to his final resting place.”
For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.