There will be a public coroners’ inquest into the death of a 17-year-old who was fatally shot by Quebec provincial police nearly three years ago
Riley Fairholm was fatally shot by the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) in July of 2018, and his mother has been searching for answers ever since.
“It’s like I’m always in limbo,” she told Global News.
For almost three years now, Wing has felt stuck in the worst night of her life.
On July 25, 2018, Fairholm was in a mental health crisis, waving an air gun and pacing in the street in Lac-Brome. After a 911 call, the SQ arrived. Sixty seconds later, one of the officers shot him in the head.
One of the officers refused to speak with Quebec’s Independent Investigations Bureau, and in 2019, Crown prosecutors said none of them broke the law that night. Wing has long wondered exactly how events unfolded.
“I’d like to be able to close that chapter and say that every question that I have is going to be answered,” she said.
Now it appears Wing will finally get her chance to hear the officers questioned about what happened.
Quebec’s coroners’ office confirms to Global News there will be a public inquiry into the causes and circumstances surrounding Fairholm’s death.
“In August 2020, the chief coroner had an exchange with the mother of the deceased to inform her a public inquiry with witness testimony will move forward,” explained Jake Lamotta Granato, a spokesperson for the Quebec coroners’ office. Coroner Andrée Kronström will preside over the inquest.
Wing said she has been sitting on the knowledge since then, but recently started to grow upset that the coroner had still not publicly announced that the inquiry would be held. As of \Wednesday afternoon, no news of the inquiry has been posted on the Quebec coroner website alongside other public inquiry announcements.
“I want to know what all the other police officers were thinking and why didn’t they have their gun out. Why didn’t they all shoot? Why one shot right to the head?” Wing wonders.
Though she’s happy the inquest will take place, she’s upset it took almost three years to launch.
“I’m frustrated with how long it’s been. Like, it’s just insane. It’s not even imaginable,” she said, explaining that when she spoke to the coroners’ office on the phone, they cited COVID-19 as one reason for the delay.
“I was very angry, telling them they were being so disrespectful to me because they were using COVID as an excuse. COVID doesn’t prevent you from writing a mandate.”
Victims rights advocate and senator Pierre Hugues Boisvenu said he feels for Wing, and that long delays in the justice system add to the suffering of families.
He says the wheels of justice turn slower in Quebec than anywhere else in Canada.
“In the court, the time is double if we compare to Ontario. It’s triple if you compare to the Atlantic provinces,” Boisvenu told Global News.
The coroners’ office explained they have a packed schedule of public inquiries already, contributing to the delay.
When asked if Wing having to wait three years for the inquiry was acceptable, the office of Quebec’s public security minister Genevieve Guilbault pointed to a law adopted last year that seeks to give coroners more resources.
Liberal MNA Greg Kelley, who has followed the case, thinks the government needs to make sure the coroner and the justice system in general is well financed.
“I think it does come down to a little bit of making budgetary choices to ensure that all the resources are at their disposition,” he said.
No date has been set for the inquiry, but the coroners’ office says it will begin before the end of 2021.
Wing knows that the inquiry will be painful, as it will bring to light her family situation and her son’s mental health. She hopes when it’s complete, she can finally get some closure.