A memorial for victims of Canada’s worst shooting in modern history is seen in Wentworth, Nova Scotia. Photo by The Canadian Press
Families of the victims are upset that there will not be a public inquiry into the Nova Scotia mass killing that left 22 people dead.
On April 18-19, 22 people, including a pregnant woman and an RCMP officer, were killed by a man dressed as a police officer who, for a time, was driving a replica RCMP cruiser in Nova Scotia. Police handling of the event, and whether it cost lives, has been sharply criticized.
At a Thursday press conference, Nova Scotia Justice Minister Mark Furey and Federal Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair instead announced there would be a three-person review panel. This panel will not be able to compel witnesses to testify or have subpoena power as a public inquiry would.
As reported by the CBC, the review means that the hearings held by the panel do not have to be in public and the documents and information will be kept confidential.
During the almost hour-long press conference, it was also announced that the panel would be made up of former Nova Scotia chief justice Michael MacDonald, who would act as chair, retired Fredericton police chief Leanne Fitch, and former Liberal cabinet minister Anne McLellan. The federal and provincial governments will split the costs.
Furey and Blair did not commit to accepting all of the panel’s recommendations but instead pledged to implement them “where reasonable, within a reasonable timeframe.”
Furey said the decision was made as the process will be quicker than the public inquiry and therefore won’t be “re-traumatizing or re-victimizing individuals.”
A statement released by the victim’s families—published by the Halifax Examiner—calls the forthcoming panel review “wholly insufficient.” The statement says Furey and Blair have “hidden behind their contrived notion of a “trauma-free” process to exclude the full participation of the families under the guise of protecting them from further trauma.”
“The families want a full and transparent public inquiry,” reads the statement. “Why will Minister Furey not give them this? Why will he not give the citizens of Nova Scotia this? ‘We are all in this together’ has been the slogan throughout 2020—the families simply want us all, the public, to be in this together now to figure out a better tomorrow for families and the province?”
The RCMP’s handling of the case has been strongly denounced. Police sent tweets warning the public of the shooter rather than issuing an emergency alert, something that family members say would have saved victims. Different police departments were slow communicating during the operation. Even though they were warned about the killer actions, which include domestic abuse, the RCMP did not investigate him. During the manhunt, two shot at a fire hall nowhere near where the killer was.
A day before the announcement almost 300 people marched on a rural RCMP detachment to demand a public inquiry, many of them carrying signs showing photos of loved ones who had died and demanded answers.
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