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

(Black Press Media file photo)
FRESH AND LOCAL: Greater Victoria farm markets ready to greet shoppers

A list of markets on the go this spring and summer, right into fall

Graeme Wright is the owner of Hullabaloo, a new ice cream and coffee food truck serving patrons at the Red Barn on West Saanich. (Photo by Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff).
VIDEO: Cool treats, warm bevvies a specialty for new Saanich food truck

Hullabaloo owner Graeme Wright passionate about blending green space with sustainability

Nathan Watts, a member of the Tseshaht First Nation near Port Alberni, shares his story of substance use, a perspective he said isn’t seen enough. (Photo courtesy of Nathan Watts)
Public shaming, hate perpetuates further substance use: UVic researcher

Longtime addict Nathan Watts offers a user’s perspective on substance use

Nicky Cook and Kelly Yee set up their stand at Peninsula Country Market. (Black Press Media file photo)
Peninsula farmers markets ready to welcome back patrons

Both the Peninsula Country Market and North Saanich Farm Market plan to expand offerings in the summer

The closure of Government Street to vehicle traffic between Humboldt and Yates streets began June 11. The corridor will be pedestrian-only between noon and 10 p.m. daily until at least this fall. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Downtown Victoria timed closure of Government Street begins

Pedestrian priority times part of city’s Build Back Victoria program

t
How to tell if a call from ‘CRA’ is legitimate or a scam

Expert says it’s important to verify you really are dealing with the CRA before you give out any info

The courthouse in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file)
Nanaimo man, already in jail, found guilty of sexual abuse of sons

Man previously sentenced for sexual interference involving girl in Nanaimo

British Columbia-Yukon Community News Association’s 2021 Ma Murray Awards were handed out during a virtual ceremony on Friday, June 10. (Screen grab)
Black Press Media winners take gold at B.C. and Yukon journalism awards

Publications received nods in dozens of categories

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets campers while visiting McDougall, Ont. on Thursday, July 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
71% of B.C. men say they’d prefer to go camping with Trudeau: survey

Most British Columbians with plans to go camping outdoors say they’d prefer to go with Trudeau or Shania Twain

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

Chilliwack cocaine trafficker Clayton Eheler seen with a tiger somewhere in Asia in 2014. Eheler was sentenced to nine years jail in 2018, but was released on bail in October 2020 pending his appeal of conviction.(Facebook)
Director of civil forfeiture seeks $140,000 from Fraser Valley drug dealer’s father-in-law

Clayton Eheler’s father-in-law Ray Morrissey caught with money in Fort St. John by B.C.’s gang unit

A Comox Valley shellfish operator pleaded guilty and was fined $10,000 in provincial court in Courtenay earlier this year. Record file photo
B.C. clam harvester fined $10,000 for Fisheries Act violations

Charges against three others were stayed in Courtenay Provincial Court

Frank Phillips receives a visit from his wife Rena at Nanaimo Seniors Village on their 61st wedding anniversary, March 31, 2020. Social visits have been allowed since COVID-19 vaccination has been offered in all care homes. (Nanaimo News Bulletin)
B.C. prepares mandatory vaccination for senior care homes

180 more cases of COVID-19 in B.C. Friday, one more death

Lorraine Gibson, 90, received a COVID-19 immunization at the South Surrey Park and Ride vaccination clinic. (File photo: Aaron Hinks)
Surrey has had 25% of B.C.’s total COVID-19 cases

Surrey recorded 4,012 cases in May

Most Read