Indigenous leaders with the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, Pacheedaht First Nation and the First Nations Leadership Council are demanding answers after an RCMP officer shot and killed a 28-year-old Indigenous man near Tofino over the weekend.
On the night of Feb. 27, a young man located on the Opitsaht reserve, one of three communities of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, was shot dead by an RCMP officer from the Tofino detachment.
Indigenous leaders have identified the man killed as 28-year-old Julian Jones, according to CBC.
According to police, two Tofino RCMP officers were called to Opitsaht First Nation on Meares Island, north of Tofino, at around 9:30 p.m. on Saturday night “to locate a woman in distress.” They said a call came in reporting a woman allegedly being held against her will.
Details on what happened next are vague, however, another man was taken into custody during the incident as well.
The Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council is calling for a fully independent and transparent investigation into the shooting, demanding the council be involved “every step of the investigation.”
This marks the second time in under a year that a member of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation was shot by police.
Last June, Chantel Moore – a 26-year-old mother – was shot and killed by a police officer in Edmunston, New Brunswick. After the incident, the head of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council said despite extensive lobbying, First Nations were not being consulted about the investigation.
At the time, the Hawiih (hereditary chiefs) and elected Council of Tla-o-qui-aht released a statement seeking answers on why she was shot during a wellness check and set out a list of demands, however, Indigenous leaders say these demands were never responded to.
“We are devastated and angered that the RCMP did not and have not listened,” reads a statement from the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC).
“The use of deadly force by Canadian police forces against Indigenous peoples is an epidemic in this country. There have been numerous inquiries, studies, reports, and a First Nations Justice Strategy in BC created to address the need for justice reform. Despite this, our citizens continue to die as a result of police shootings. The lack of action on implementing these proposed solutions means more senseless shootings.”
Indigenous leaders on Vancouver Island are calling for a “truly transparent investigation” into the incident.
RCMP said the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. (IIO) has been notified of the incident and would be carrying out an investigation. The Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, Pacheedaht First Nation and the First Nations Leadership Council are demanding transparency in the inquest that will follow the investigation by the Independent Investigation Office (IIO) as well.
“We call for an Indigenous person to be appointed to the IIO process, and we firmly demand that supports be in place for the family as they go through this heartbreak,” reads a statement.
Investigators with the IIO spent most of Sunday travelling to the Island and were not able to provide many details, including whether the man shot was armed at the time.
“The circumstances surrounding the shooting, we don’t know, we have some information that we have received, but our job is to confirm the information and find out for ourselves what happened,” said IIO Chief Civilian Director Ron MacDonald.
“They are there now, they are conducting interviews and doing scene examinations and doing all the work that goes along with that.”
The watchdog is now asking anyone with information on the incident to contact its IIO witness line at 1-855-446-8477.