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Nova Scotia senators continue to push for joint shooting inquiry


Justice Minister Mark Furey announces a moratorium on street checks during a news conference on Wednesday.
A group of Nova Scotia senators is calling on federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair and Nova Scotia Justice Minister Mark Furey to launch a joint review into the April shooting rampage. - Ryan Taplin
OTTAWA, Ont. —

A group of five of Nova Scotia's newest senators is demanding answers on why the governments of Canada and Nova Scotia have yet to call a public inquiry into a mass shooting that left 22 dead and say the delay is fueling speculation and eroding trust in law enforcement.

Earlier this month, senators Mary Coyle, Colin Deacon and Stan Kutcher, all members of the Independent Senators Group, issued a letter to both federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair and Nova Scotia Justice Minister Mark Furey calling for the two governments to immediately launch a joint review.

Now, three weeks later, two other senators — Dan Christmas and Wanda Bernard, also members of the ISG — have added their names to a second letter asking the ministers to provide concrete answers on why an inquiry has not yet been launched, and again calling for a “comprehensive, thorough and fulsome public inquiry, jointly and equally led by the federal and provincial government” to be announced immediately.

“We appreciate that preliminary steps have been taken in the process and that there is a certain level of complexity in establishing any type of investigative mechanism surrounding such a mass atrocity, let alone in the midst of a pandemic,” the letter reads.

“The current delay and lack of transparency is fomenting speculation regarding the shooting and the shooter himself. The longer we wait to establish an inquiry, the more assumptions will arise, further eroding public trust regarding law enforcement.”

Amid calls for a public review, for more than two months the feds and the province have played ping pong with who should lead an inquiry. Nova Scotia has been adamant that any inquiry would need to be jointly led by the federal government, as it would involve a number of federal bodies such as the RCMP, the firearm registry and the department public safety, and without leadership from Ottawa, no recommendations would be binding.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau finally committed in early June to work with the province on a larger review, and Furey told reporters the same day that the province is in the final stages of talking to the federal government and that he would be able to share something “in the coming weeks” about what the process will look like.

On June 25, Blair assured the Senate chamber that work towards launching the inquiry was ongoing.

In their June 7 letter, senators listed 11 questions they would like to see addressed in an inquiry. Some of those questions centre around police response, like why the provincial emergency alert system was not initiated and why there was a delay in sharing the information regarding the shooter’s impersonation of an RCMP officer.

Some were more general — such as how the perpetrator acquired his weapons, and other questions are more systemic in nature, such as what changes in the law are required to have multiple reports of violent misogynistic behaviour addressed by not just police, but by mental health experts as well, and how Canada can better conduct threat assessments in communities to avoid these kinds of tragedies.

In their first letter the senators also noted that the inquiry must address the social and public safety issues which are related to the tragedy, and not just focus on the details of how the RCMP responded to the events as they unfolded.

In both letters, the senators stressed the importance of the review involving both the federal and provincial governments, saying it is the only option that will ensure all issues surrounding the tragedy are evaluated in an objective, unbiased and nonpartisan manner,

“A joint inquiry could significantly impact policies, practices and procedures at various levels and provide law enforcement with the necessary tools to prevent future tragedies of this kind,” the letter reads.

Mary-Liz Power, a spokesperson for Blair’s office, said Blair has been in close contact with the government of Nova Scotia and that the two governments are working together to “ensure that we take all lessons to be learned from this tragedy, and both are considering all possible tools and avenues of investigation.”

“We will do everything possible to ensure tragedies like this one never happen again,” she said.

In an emailed statement, Furey said provincial department of justice is actively engaged with the federal government the matter.

“I know everyone is eager for an announcement to be made – especially the families,” he said. “The families will hear from us first, before we make a public announcement.”

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