For more than two decades, Bridget Tolley has called for both an independent investigation and inquiry into how police handled the death of her mother Gladys.
They haven’t gotten that but they did receive an apology, in private, from police and government officials on Friday.
“An apology is the most important thing to my family,” Bridget says. “My family has been waiting for this for 20 years.
“I think it was a good meeting and a good start for whatever comes after.”
Gladys Tolley, 61, a great-grandmother, was struck and killed by a Sûreté du Québec (provincial police force) police cruiser while crossing Hwy 105 near her home on the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation in the western part of the province in October 2001.
Montreal police investigated, ruled Tolley’s death as accidental, and closed the case a few months later.
But the Tolley family says the investigators missed important details and the investigation lacked transparency.
Montreal police officials at the ceremony wouldn’t comment on the investigation.
Quebec Minister of Indigenous Affairs Ian Lafrèniere admits things could have been done differently.
“There have been some communications breaches, some lack of information and we said we were sorry for that and that was extremely important for the family,” he says.
The family says it was difficult to get a copy of the police report and they were never contacted once the investigation was closed.
Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg Chief Dylan Whiteduck says the apology is an important first step but there is still much more work that needs to be done when it comes to police relations with First Nations people.
“We have to remember there are a lot of injustice incidents that have taken place across Quebec First Nations and we can’t forget about those ones,” he says. “We have to continue on the other files that need to be resolved.”
Although she appreciates the apology, Bridget Tolley says she continues to have little faith in the Quebec police based on her family’s experience.
“Absolutely I don’t trust them (police). It took them 20 years to come and talk to me. I mean 20 years of losing trust and even today I’m worried about what happens if anything happens to my family,” she says.
“Are they going to treat us right? Are they going to hate us for this? There are so many questions.”
She says she is also disappointed neither officials from the Sûreté du Québec nor Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg police was present in an official capacity at the apology.
About 60 people attended the event which was held at the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg Cultural Centre.
After her mother’s death, Bridget Tolley founded the organization Families of Sisters in Spirit as an advocacy group for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
Officials say the apology was made in private at the request of the family.