There is a new petition to force Quebec police officers to wear body cameras. It comes from Tracy Wing, the mother of deceased 17-year-old Riley Fairholm.
Fairholm was shot and killed by the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) in 2018 in the Eastern Townships.
“I feel him here, telling me to keep fighting for him and being his voice,” Wing told Global News at her home on Wednesday.
Fairholm’s memory is very present at Wing’s Lac-Brome home. In her kitchen, there are photos and paintings of her late son. His ashes sit in an urn in her living room.
“It’s a different emotion every day. Sometimes I’m mad at him. Other days I miss him like crazy for sure,” she said.
Fairholm was killed on July 25, 2018. Just before 2 a.m. that morning, Wing was woken by a text message from her son.
“It said ‘I love you,’ and that was sort of a code for me and him and his dad saying he was in trouble, he needed help, he wasn’t feeling good,” she explained.
According to Quebec’s Independent Investigations Bureau (BEI), Fairholm was walking down a main street in Lac-Brome with a CO2 gun, screaming.
After someone called 911 at 1:20 a.m., Fairholm came face to face with SQ officers. The officers told him to drop the weapon, but instead the BEI says he walked toward them. One of the police officers opened fire, according to the BEI.
“Riley was a danger to himself, not the police,” Wing said. “They could have stayed in their car and waited for me. I would have taken care of him.”
Fairholm’s mother said her son was popular and well-liked among his friends.
She takes issue with how her son’s death and the investigation that followed were handled.
“I found out one of the officers didn’t give a statement to the BEI, and also it took over an hour for the police to inform the BEI that that happened,” she said.
In 2013, the former Parti Québécois government proposed creating the BEI as a way to prevent police from investigating themselves. The BEI was then created in 2015.
“They’re not the answer. They’re a very small organization and they have all of Quebec,” she said. “Thirteen investigators on Riley’s case and it took 10 months to investigate an incident that took six minutes,” Wing said.
The BEI declined to comment, saying Fairholm’s case is still being analyzed by Crown prosecutors.
Wing is bringing a petition to the National Assembly in early June demanding police be equipped with body cameras. She also wants their squad cars to be equipped with dashboard cameras and GPS.
“I want to make everybody think,” she said. “Don’t we all act a bit different when we know we’re being filmed? We all do.”
She’s gathered more than 500 signatures online and in person. Quebec MNA Gregory Kelley has agreed to present it to the provincial legislature on June 14.
“I think this petition will raise the issue of body cameras again in light of what happened roughly a year ago to Mrs. Wing’s son,” Kelley told Global News. “It also might bring to the forefront some different questions around mental health care for the English community.”
At Wing’s home, Riley’s room is mostly as it was before his death.
“It’s my son’s smell. I haven’t made his bed. Sometimes I close the door and it’s the Riley smell in the room,” she said.
Until Crown prosecutors complete their investigation into Riley’s death and decide whether or not officers will face charges, Wing says she will keep a picture of her son and a candle in the window of his room.