The mother of an Indigenous woman shot by New Brunswick police in 2020 told a coroner’s inquest Monday that less than two hours after she was awakened by an officer seeking her daughter’s address to check on her safety, police returned with news that her daughter had been killed.
Martha Martin was one of the first witnesses called Monday at the inquest into the June 4, 2020, death of her daughter, 26-year-old Chantel Moore, a member of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, based near Tofino in British Columbia.
Martin said Const. Jeremy Son of the Edmundston, N.B., police knocked on her door at 2:30 a.m. to say there was concern for Moore’s safety. He said police had received calls from Moore’s ex-boyfriend, suggesting someone might be stalking Moore and they needed to check on her.
Martin said she gave Son directions to her daughter’s new apartment and he left, but at 4:19 a.m. there was another knock on her door.
“It was two police officers to give me the news my daughter had been shot,” she said sobbing. “They gave me the news she had been shot and killed.”
Martin said her daughter was an outgoing and loving person who had recently moved to New Brunswick from British Columbia to make a better life for herself.
“She made friends everywhere she went. She was very loving and would go the extra mile for friends and family,” Martin said.
Earlier, Jonathan Brunet, a former boyfriend of Moore, told the inquiry their relationship ended in May 2020 and he was living in Quebec while Moore was in New Brunswick. “She was energetic. She always had a smile. She had a positive energy around her,” he told the inquest jury via video link.
He said he got a series of text messages from Moore in the hours before her death, and at one point it appeared the messages were coming from a third person. He said it was as if the person was in Moore’s apartment and was going to harm her.
Brunet said he tried to reach Moore’s friends and family, but it was late at night and he got no replies, so he called police. “I didn’t know if police believed me. It was a worrisome situation,” he said.
Chelsea Ouellette, a friend of Moore, testified that she had drinks with Moore in the hours before her death. She said Moore was drinking beer and rum that evening and was happy and chatty but didn’t seem overly intoxicated.
Ouellette said she left Moore’s apartment around midnight but realized she had left her wallet behind and returned to retrieve it at around 1 a.m. She said Moore was having a video call with someone and was still on the call when she left with her wallet about five minutes later.
A jury of three women and two men was chosen Monday morning to hear testimony at the inquest, which is expected to last all week. Coroner Emily Caissy said the proceedings are not a trial and are not intended to assign blame. Instead, the jury will have the opportunity to make recommendations aimed at preventing similar deaths in the future.
Police have said an intoxicated Moore was shot on the balcony outside her apartment after reportedly approaching the officer with a knife.
T.J. Burke, the lawyer for Moore’s family, stated outside the inquest Monday that the Edmundston police force lacked the tools to de-escalate the situation without using deadly force, and he plans to file a lawsuit on Tuesday against the city and the officer who shot Moore.
“It sets out the negligence we believe occurred on June 4, 2020, whereby the defendants — the City of Edmundston and the police officer Jeremy Son — fell below a professional standard of care for police officers in preserving the life of Chantel Moore,” he said. Burke said he hopes the lawsuit will provide financial compensation for the family and answers that will help the family heal.
The six chiefs of the Wolastoqey Nation in New Brunswick issued a statement at the start of the inquest Monday.
“It is unacceptable that the family was forced to wait this long for answers to the tragic murder of a young Indigenous mother,” said Chief Ross Perley of Tobique First Nation.
The chiefs have been calling for an independent inquiry on systemic racism in the provincial justice system.
“We want to be clear that this inquest in no way replaces the need for an inquiry on systemic racism, but it is a start and will hopefully bring some closure to Chantel Moore’s family and allow them some peace of mind,” said Chief Allan Polchies Jr. of St. Mary’s First Nation. “Indigenous Peoples in New Brunswick cannot continue to be on the receiving end of injustice within the provincial justice system.”
The province called coroner’s inquests into the deaths of Moore and Rodney Levi — who was fatally shot by the RCMP near Miramichi on June 12, 2020 — rather than an independent inquiry on systemic racism.
—Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press