The names of Chantel Moore and George Floyd rang out across Ucluelet on Sunday as the West Coast marched in unified opposition against racism and police violence towards people of colour.
Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer on May 25, spurring protests across the United States, Canada and Europe.
The officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on Floyd’s neck, pinning him to the ground for roughly nine minutes and is facing a second-degree murder charge. Three other officers who were at the scene face charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
“I’ve been in tears on the couch since he was murdered. I have no real connection to him, but what happened was wrong and what’s happening in this police system is wrong,” Marissa Mack, one of the organizers of Sunday’s demonstration in Ucluelet, told the Westerly News.
As Mack was helping to plan a West Coast march in honour of Floyd, 26 year-old Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman Chantel Moore was shot and killed by police in Edmundston, New Brunswick, during a well-being check on June 4 around 2:30 a.m.
In a statement, the Edmundston Police Force said an officer “was confronted at the scene by a woman holding a knife who made threats,” so the officer “discharged a firearm.”
Moore had recently moved to N.B. after living in Tofino and Port Alberni.
“I just felt completely helpless, you can only donate so much money and I felt like this community is so supportive, both Tofino and Ucluelet, and something needed to be done here. I want justice for Chantel Moore and all these other black and brown people who are being shot while unarmed; wrongfully shot by the police,” Mack said.
“I want people to know that we care here too. And, I want people to know that it happens here. The police system is broken everywhere, it’s not just in America, it’s not just on the east side of Canada, it’s here too. It’s everywhere.”
Mack, a Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman from Tofino, said she did not know Moore personally, but was deeply affected by her death.
“I do share the same skin colour,” she said. “It’s a huge issue here, missing and murdered Indigenous women and it’s not just one single incident. We’re being shot and killed, we’re going missing and nothing is being done about it.”
The Nuu Chah Nulth Tribal Council issued a statement on June 4 demanding an immediate and independent investigation into Moore’s death.
“We want to speak out against the senseless shooting by police of a young indigenous woman on the one-year anniversary of the issuance of [Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women] report and highlight that killings are still happening. These police shootings of indigenous peoples have to stop,” the statement read, in part. “The family and community of Chantel needs answers as to why she was shot on a health check by the police. Justice must not wait and every power must be exerted to ensure that justice is served in an appropriate, immediate, and respectful way…We call for action on implementing measures to ensure conduct and police practices are done in a way that de-escalates a situation and to use trauma-informed practice when doing so. We ask that changes be made to police conduct in this sense to ensure more lives are not lost in this devastating manner.”
Participants in Sunday’s demonstration marched from the Ucluelet Post Office at Davison Plaza to the Whiskey Dock, where they lay down for nine minutes to symbolize how long police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck.
They also demonstrated outside the Ucluelet RCMP detachment.
“I think it speaks for itself, we’re marching past the police station while we’re protesting police brutality and a broken, corrupt police system,” Moore said.
The Ucluelet RCMP attended the demonstration and assisted the march by blocking off roads to keep the over 100 participants safe from traffic as they made their way through town.
Detachment commander Sgt. Steve Mancini told the Westerly News that police were there to support the event and help the marchers “get to where they want to be safely and have their message heard.”
“We’re just here to offer our support and be an ear to listen too,” he said.
He acknowledged the Ucluelet RCMP detachment was an intentional part of the demonstration’s route and said he was “100 per cent supportive” of that.
“As police, we constantly have to learn and to educate ourselves and to take what we can to be better. I think, as a society, everybody needs to do their part to be better and we’re no different. In Ucluelet here, we’re a big part of the community, we want to remain that way and we want to be seen as people that are supportive of the community’s concerns and the community’s issues. We want to be part of the solution, not a part of the problem,” Mancini said. “We want to be a part of the community and a part of the solution here to ensure that nobody’s falling into any issues based on systematic racism or anything of that nature.”
Ucluelet resident Andy Horne marched alongside his family, including two sons Marcus, 11, and Liam, 9.
“The solution starts at the upper crust, that’s what I was born into and privileged into and I believe everyone should have equal rights, equal opportunities and equal freedoms,” Horne told the Westerly. “I wanted to show both the children today that there should be no racism, everybody should be treated as equal and you should never ever judge someone by the colour of their skin…I’m super glad that we had such a great turnout and thank you to Marissa Mack for being there to teach us.”
Fundraising to help cover the costs for Moore’s West Coast family members to travel to New Brunswick are ongoing and a GoFundMe Page titled Support for family of Chantel Moore had raised $119,781 at presstime.
“Her mother and daughter are in need of family support during this tragic time and 6 members of her family are planning to travel to New Brunswick to support her and practice traditional Nuu-Chah-Nulth grieving protocols,” the page reads.