Ron MacDonald fields questions at a news conference in Halifax on Sept. 27, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Ron MacDonald fields questions at a news conference in Halifax on Sept. 27, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

B.C. police watchdog struggling to find ‘comfortable’ Indigenous monitor in shooting death

Search hampered by difficulty finding a civilian comfortable with police privacy protocols

British Columbia’s police watchdog has run into complications as it works to name an Indigenous civilian monitor for its investigation of the shooting death of a Tla-o-qui-aht man in February, its chief civilian director says.

Julian Jones, 28, was shot and killed by RCMP officers on the Opitsaht reserve on Meares Island, near Tofino B.C., in late February.

The decision to have an Indigenous civilian monitor its investigation was a first for the watchdog, with an aim of helping investigators work more closely with affected communities.

But Ron MacDonald, the head of the Independent Investigations Office, says there have been issues with finding a candidate who will be comfortable following privacy protocols.

“The challenge to the civilian monitor role is while the person is given complete access to the file, they’re not allowed to discuss that with anybody due to privacy laws,” he said. “That’s an issue the community is still figuring out.”

Part of the problem, MacDonald said, is having regular citizens understand how police investigations operate. Watchdog members aren’t able to comment on cases, with MacDonald having the final say on what can be released to the wider public.

He admits it’s a process that can take time to get used to, especially when it involves close-knit communities.

Jones was the second of three Tla-o-qui-aht members shot by police in the past year, two of which ended in deaths.

MacDonald said the civilian monitor program in its current form may not be the “perfect fit” for this and other investigations.

“It might mean in the future, we’ll go to the government and say ‘we need to change the legislation’ and come up with a better program or way for the community to be involved in our investigations,” he said.

Judith Sayers, the president of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, said in an interview that the recent investigation into the death of Chantel Moore highlights the need for Indigenous voices in police watchdog investigations.

Moore was a member of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, which is part of the Nuu-chah-nulth council.

She was living in New Brunswick when an Edmunston police officer shot and killed her during a wellness check in June 2020. Prosecutors have ruled out criminal charges against the officer.

“We had absolutely no information or anyone on the inside to make sure that investigation went right,” Sayers said about the investigation into Moore’s death.

The civilian monitor role, if done properly, offers a chance for Indigenous input on a process they’re often excluded from, Sayers said.

“We have to find ways to make the system better. If somebody sits on an internal investigation we might know more about how we can make this operate better.”

MacDonald said his office has been working to develop a community liaison program, which would draw expertise from members from various communities.

“The whole idea would be that they would help us explain to people who we are, what we do,” he said. “Similarly they would be able to give us information about their community, how we can make the correct approaches and right steps.”

Solicitor General Mike Farnworth declined a request for an interview on the subject of Indigenous communities and policing.

The issue of reaching out and forming trust between the police watchdog and other communities is important, MacDonald said, noting preliminary data shows Indigenous people are overrepresented in police complaints investigations.

Out of the 90 cases investigated by the watchdog where victims identified their ethnicity, MacDonald said Indigenous people accounted for 25.

Sayers said the shootings have taken a toll on the Tla-o-qui-aht and Nuu-chah-nulth communities.

“That’s an amazing number of people who have been shot by police,” she said, referring to thetwo deaths out of a community of 1,200. “It’s huge for us to be dealing with.”

—Nick Wells, The Canadian Press

RELATED: B.C. First Nation demands transparency in probe into second fatal RCMP shooting

RELATED: B.C. First Nation wants ‘massive change’ after its 3rd police shooting in less than a year

IndigenousPolicepolice shooting

Just Posted

Little Brown Bat, Cori Lausen image
Puntledge River bats being studied

Scientists will be monitering bat activity in the Puntlesge River Watershed this… Continue reading

A 30x40 ft boat/car shop in the Little River area near Wilkinson Road was fully involved by the time firefighters arrived on scene. Photo by Comox Fire Rescue
Comox firefighters battle ‘showy’ shop fire Saturday night

Smoke could be seen throughout the Comox Valley

ROAM Media’s Ian Adams designed the label for the new honey ale. Image supplied
Church St., Ace combine on a true Comox Valley brew

The taphouse has Home Buoy on tap, and it’s also in cans

The finish line! Huband held a ‘Colour Run’ Friday to celebrate what’s been a different school year. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Comox Valley school lets its colours run

Huband Elementary wanted a way to bring kids together

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Port Alberni court house (Alberni Valley News)
Coroners’ inquest into 2016 death of Port Alberni teen rescheduled for June 21

18-year-old Jocelyn George died of heart failure after spending time in jail cell

Children’s shoes and flowers are shown after being placed outside the Ontario legislature in Toronto on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ontario commits $10 million to investigate burial sites at residential schools

Truth and Reconciliation Commission identified 12 locations of unmarked burial sites in Ontario

Singer-songwriter Jann Arden is pictured with a draft horse. (Canadian Horse Defence Coalition)
Jann Arden backs petition to stop ‘appalling’ live horse export, slaughter

June 14 is the International Day to End Live Export of Animals

Two hundred and fifteen lights are placed on the lawn outside the Residential School in Kamloops, B.C., Saturday, June, 13, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Days after Kamloops remains discovery, Tk’emlups families gather to unite, move ahead

‘We have to work together because this is going to be setting a precedent for the rest of the country’

In this Saturday, May 29, 2021, file photo, people crowd the Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica, Calif. California, the first state in America to put in place a coronavirus lockdown, is now turning a page on the pandemic. Most of California’s coronavirus restrictions will disappear Tuesday, June 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)
With COVID tamed, it’s a ‘grand reopening’ in California

No more state rules on social distancing, no more limits on capacity, no more mandatory masks

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

Most Read