After years of advocating for justice, the family of Gladys Tolley finally got a moment of healing with an apology from the Montreal police on Friday.
"I waited 20 years for this," said her daughter Bridget Tolley.
"Now we can move forward … we'll have a little bit of peace."
Gladys Tolley, 61, was struck and killed on Oct. 5, 2001 by a Sûreté du Québec police cruiser while she was walking across Highway 105, in Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg in western Quebec.
On Friday morning, at a meeting held in private in Kitigan Zibi, Quebec's Indigenous affairs Minister Ian Lafrenière apologized "for the shortcomings in the communication process with the family during the investigation."
Present along with Lafrenière were representatives of the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) and Quebec's public safety ministry.
In a statement by email, the SPVM, who handled the investigation, said it apologized to the family and acknowledged that there was "a lack of communication with the victim's family during this investigation."
"The SPVM is aware that it is important to provide special support to families of the victims and now assigns a detective sergeant for this purpose," the statement read.
Lack of communication during investigation
Three months following Gladys Tolley's death, the investigation was officially closed by Montreal police and was determined to be an accidental collision.
Bridget Tolley said she only found that out over a year later through a reporter. It was just one of many examples of a lack of communication with the family, she said.
Tolley wrote countless letters to government officials over the last two decades, and Lafrenière was the first to respond to a request to meet.
"It was important for government officials to attend in person," said a statement issued by Lafrenière's office.
"It was an important moment for the family. It was held in private and, out of respect for the family, we will limit our comments."
The family's lawyer Virginie Dufresne-Lemire said she's been working on the case for a few years, studying all the options available, and realized an apology is what the family needed.
"The fact that the communication was so mishandled at the time, it creates a feeling of injustice," she said.
"That mistrust, that feeling of injustice, has been building for 20 years. For these representatives of government institutions to come forward and to come to Kitigan Zibi, it's not something that is usual for them to come and to listen and to apologize. I think that's a first."
A first step
As part of her journey for justice, Tolley founded the grassroots group Families of Sisters in Spirit to provide advocacy and support to families impacted by Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG).
Communication and accountability is what many families ask for, she said, when it comes to how their cases are handled.
Tolley hopes Friday's meeting will be the first of many to come. She also said there's still no justice for her mother because no one has been charged. Her requests to have the case reopened and be the subject of an independent investigation were denied by the province in 2010.
"The apology meant so much to my family and just having the acknowledgement of her death and the way her case was examined," said Tolley.
"[But] it's not justice. This is just an acknowledgement."