Newfoundland and Labrador is rife with folk songs tackling injustice. But local artists MCP are bringing a new, darker and urban electronic sound to the scene, and their latest song tackles an issue that continues to concern and outrage many in this province — the death of Don Dunphy.
MCP is Colleen Power, who records with various other artists. Power, an award-winning singer-songwriter, is known for working in a variety of styles, from rock to folk. She’s won awards for her francophone musical work and has also produced comedy. She describes MCP as focusing on “digital electronic urban hip hop and rap.” She released an initial album as MCP in 2014; ‘Cop on a Sunday’ is the first single off MCP’s soon-to-be-released second album. The track was recorded with DJ Available, aka local musician Neil Conway.
“MCP is urban hip-hop music and speaks out against injustice—social injustice,” said Power. “We’ve put out some political commentary pieces, and Neil [Conway] is able to create a real dark sound in this genre, with the electronics, that I thought would fit in more with the tone of the subject matter.”
Power initially wrote the song three or four weeks after Dunphy was killed, but says it kept evolving as the investigations experienced successive delays.
Dunphy was fatally shot in his home on April 5, 2015 by Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) officer Joe Smyth, who was part of the premier’s protective unit. The RCMP conducted an investigation into the fatal shooting which concluded in January 2016, but then the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team was tasked with conducting a review of the RCMP’s handling of the investigation. As a result of that review, the RCMP announced no charges would be laid against Smyth.
In September 2016 the provincial government announced a public inquiry into the shooting death of Dunphy, headed by N.L. Supreme Court Justice Leo Barry and tasked with delivering its report by July 2017. Although Barry had announced his intention to publicly release the previous investigative reports, in October it was announced those releases would be delayed by several more weeks.
There’s still no answers but there’s more delays, there’s evidence lost, and there’s no charges being laid on the police officer. — Colleen Power
“When we heard there’s going to be more delays now at the inquiry with the release of the report of the investigation, we figured we should release [the song] now just in case they decide to delay it again, just to show that this song has evolved over a year and a half of waiting for the results of the investigation,” said Power.
“We still don’t really have any information. The only thing that has really changed is that no charges are being laid against the officer, and we want to know why. There’s still no answers but there’s more delays, there’s evidence lost, and there’s no charges being laid on the police officer.
“For Newfoundland, I don’t think we’ve ever had anything like that here, where a police officer goes into someone’s house and shoots them,” she continued. “There’s a lot of questions. If I was in my house and some guy came into my house with a gun, I’d probably pick up my gun too! There’s a lot of questions to be answered. We’ll never hear Don Dunphy’s side because he’s not here.”
Power said she’s concerned about police violence and accountability, which is why cases involving police shootings need to be investigated thoroughly and without delays. She said regardless of the image people have of Newfoundland and Labrador, this province is not immune to police violence.
“I mean a man was shot dead. It’s setting a bad example too for law enforcement,” she said.
“I don’t think we’ll ever know and I don’t think there ever will be justice. I hope for the family there will be, but when you’re faced with something like loss of evidence, delays upon delays upon delays, I cannot imagine how frustrating it is.”
Power’s own grandfather had a house in Mount Carmel, near the community in which Dunphy lived and was killed. She recalls her childhood there fondly.
“It was always the most peaceful place I ever went to. I spent a lot of time out there as a child. So I find that adds to it, it makes it so hard to believe it happened out there.”
Power says one of her big concerns is that the more time passes without information or answers, the greater the risk of people forgetting and moving on. She said it’s important for the public to continue demanding answers and to demand that the police be held accountable.
“What we should be concerned about is letting it go, about apathy. The family is waiting for answers — that’s first and foremost the top priority. But the public needs to know that this can’t happen again. Am I going to tweet something, and then some cop’s going to show up at my door with a gun and pull a gun on me? Is something that I say going to be misinterpreted, or something that MCP says going to be misinterpreted? Is somebody going to come and pull a gun on me and my kids? We need to demand answers and make sure this never happens again,” she said.
“There was no need for that police officer to go to that man’s house.”
Power added that the way the investigation has been handled, and the errors and delays that have occurred, suggest the authorities in this province are behind the times.
“I think that if this was anywhere else, we would have answers before now. Is it because it’s the only time it ever happened here? I don’t know. But if this was in Toronto I think that they’d be on it before now and it wouldn’t have been handled the same way. I think whoever made the decision for that officer to go to that house should lose their job.”