OTTAWA – Following a spate of deaths across Canada at the hands of law enforcement in the course of 'wellness checks,' parliamentarians have announced that an inquiry in the Senate will be pursued.
Senator Kim Pate and Green parliamentary leader Elizabeth May, joined by Fredericton MP Jenica Atwin, spoke to the media at an Ottawa press conference. The impetus for the inquiry was the request from Judith Sayers, president of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council. One of the recently killed Indigenous people, Chantel Moore, was a member of the Nuu-chah-nulth Nation who had recently moved to Edmunston, New Brunswick.
“On behalf of the Chantel Moore family and the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, I met with Minister Bill Blair to ask for a Special Taskforce into the use of Wellness Checks and how they can be done differently. He had no interest in a task force indicating that he wants to work on amending the Police Act with AFN. I told him this was too long of a period of time and we needed immediate actions like trauma informed teams and he said there was no budget for such an effort. I am very pleased that the Senate can find a way to take this forward. It is a matter of some urgency that we ensure that 'wellness checks' are not fatal," said Nuu-chah-nulth President Judith Sayers.
The Senate is currently in recess. “Loved ones and members of the public need answers. If the current investigation is not completed or is inadequate by the time we resume sitting in September, many of us will no doubt strive to ensure that a more fulsome inquiry is launched as a priority,” said Senator Kim Pate. “Senate Committees have the power to initiate inquiries and compel testimony. The recent deaths of Chantel Moore, Regis Korchinski-Paquet, D’Andre Campbell, Ejaz Ahmed-Choudry, and Rodney Levi raise questions about systemic racism.
The current health pandemic has exacerbated and underscored the pre-existing pandemic of racism, not to mention the inadequacy of our social, economic and health systems. For decades, instead of addressing such deficits, we have abandoned those with mental health issues to the streets and the criminal legal system. It is well past time to evaluate our abdication of the intersecting issues of race, class and mental health, including the resulting expectation and role of police in responding to and addressing mental health issues. Too many Indigenous, Black and racialized people are fearful and grieving; they and all Canadians want answers and action.”
Supporting the Senate work for an inquiry, Senator Yvonne Boyer, member of the Indigenous Caucus added, “Be it with the tragedy of Chantel Moore or the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, the trafficking of Indigenous women and girls as well as the issues of forced and coerced sterilization, the consensus is overwhelming. There is a grave and warranted lack of trust in the institutions tasked to protect Indigenous Peoples and indeed all Canadians. The system needs an overhaul with an external oversight mechanism to prevent these needless deaths during a wellness check.”
“The premier of New Brunswick has asked the Quebec bureau des enquêtes indépendantes (BEI) to conduct the inquiry into the deaths of the two indigenous people killed in June in this province. The BEI says it will be at least a year before they have any answers,” said Fredericton MP, Jenica Atwin. “That is far too long. I want to know what role systemic racism and/or misogyny played in these deaths. We need answers. No mother should have to wait a year – or longer – to find out how her daughter ended up being fatally shot five times.”
In closing, Elizabeth May noted, "There are many levels of concern about the interaction of mental health supports and law enforcement. If the government changes course and decides to take on this inquiry, we would welcome that. In the meantime, parliamentarians are committed to getting to solutions and saving lives."
# # #
For more information or to arrange an interview:
613-562-4916 ext, 204