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‘Police have killed more TFN members than COVID has,’ First Nation demands transparency in Tofino RCMP shooting investigation

Julian Jones, a 28 year-old Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation man was shot and killed by police on Feb. 27.
The Independent Investigations Office of BC is investigating the shooting of a Tla-o-qui-aht man by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht on Feb. 27. (Black Press Media file photo)

An Indigenous civilian monitor will be appointed to an investigation into the shooting of Julian Jones, a 28 year-old Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation man who was shot and killed by police on Feb. 27.

Jones was killed by a Tofino RCMP officer when police responded to a report of a woman being held against her will in the Tla-o-qui-aht community of Opitsaht, located on Meares Island roughly two kilometres from Tofino.

The Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia, an independent civilian oversight agency that investigates all incidents where a police officer’s actions result in serious harm or death, is investigating the shooting and the IIO’s Chief Civilian Director Ronald MacDonald has announced he will appoint an Indigenous civilian to the investigation.

In a statement released on March 1, the IIO explains that MacDonald may, “appoint a person who is not a current or former member of a police force in British Columbia or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to review and assess the integrity of a specific investigation in accordance with this section and the terms of reference, if any, established by the chief civilian director in the appointment.”

“In the interest of a fully transparent investigation, the IIO commits to making the monitor’s final report available to the public,” the statement reads.

The Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation released a statement on March 3 questioning the RCMP’s use of deadly force and requesting access to body camera footage as well as any 911 dispatch calls related to the Feb. 27 shooting.

“Tla-o-qui-aht admonishes the recent outcome of Police action in our community. 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.”

Jones is the second Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation member to be killed by police in the past nine months. Chantel Moore, a 26 year-old Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman was shot and killed by a police officer conducting a wellness check at her New Brunswick home on June 4, 2020.

“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,” the statement reads.

“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.”

The Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, Pacheedaht First Nation and the First Nations Leadership Council released a statement on March 1 demanding a “fully independent and transparent investigation” into the shooting.

“The Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council must be involved in every step of the investigation,” the statement reads.

The NTC had also submitted a list of recommendations following the shooting of Chantel Moore and says they never received a response to those recommendations from the RCMP.

“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 BC president Hugh Braker is also demanding a transparent and independent inquiry into Jones’ death.

“If it is the police who are appointed to investigate this police shooting, there will be an outcry from family, friends and First Nations. Nor will many in the public be satisfied if another police agency does the investigation. We are well aware of the ‘brotherhood’ among police officers and forces,” Braker said through a statement.

“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. 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.”

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Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
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