Governments announce public inquiry into Nova Scotia mass shooting

Nova Scotia and Ottawa have established the inquiry into April’s mass shooting, the province announced on Thursday afternoon.

The province says commissioners will now begin their work investigating how the attack took place and whether there’s anything that could have been done to prevent it.

The first move will be setting up a secretariat in Nova Scotia, including hiring support staff and creating a work plan.

They will submit two reports on findings, lessons learned and recommendations that are due on Nov. 1, 2022.

An interim report is due May 1, 2022, the province said.

The announcement comes just over six months after the tragedy that left 22 people dead at the hands of a gunman impersonating an RCMP officer.

For families of the victims, healing and closure will be linked to the completion of the public inquiry.

The process was ordered by the provincial and federal governments in late July, after days of protest demanding one, led by the victims’ family members.

Its establishment was delayed when former deputy prime minister Anne MacLellan withdrew as a commissioner, resulting in a search for her replacement.

The province announced on Thursday that Kim Stanton has been appointed the third commissioner, joining Michael MacDonald and Leanne Fitch.

They have the power to call witnesses under oath and require them to provide documents or other items they consider necessary.

“The commissioners are highly qualified experts in relevant fields who are known nationally and internationally for their expertise, integrity and commitment to finding truth in an impartial manner,” Nova Scotia Justice Minister Mark Furey said in a release.

Federal Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair took to Twitter to comment on the announcement.

“They will find the answers we’re all seeking, and together we’ll make sure nothing like this happens again.”

Patterson Law lawyer Robert Pineo, representing many of the families impacted, told Global News: “I can convey on behalf of the families that they are very happy to see the process moving forward.”

“We’d like to have the issue of how the inquiry was called, and the communications around that, just so that the public is aware of how inquiries are called and why this one took so long,” he said.

Pineo says families want to know about the delay in deploying forces from other areas to Portapique, the tactics used in the response itself and the government’s failure to use the emergency alert system.

Pineo says he’s not sure how the families feel about the nearly two-year deadline for the final report.

“I’m sure the families are going to be happy that enough time has been set aside to do this properly, to properly review the evidence, question the witnesses,” he said.

Harry Bond, whose parents Joy and Peter were killed by the gunman that night in Portapique, told Global News that Thursday’s announcement doesn’t bring him much comfort yet.

“As long as they’ve actually done a start, I’m fine with that,” Bond said. “It’s not about how long it takes that’s bothering me, it’s about them dragging their feet, not getting it started.”

Now that the process has begun, Bond said he will participate in the process if summoned, and do what he can “to bring out the truth.”

As of now, it is unclear whether the recommendations that come out of the report will have to be implemented.

Pineo says he is hoping they would be made mandatory.

“Governments don’t always have an opportunity to study situations and have the ability to draw on different resources in coming up with policy.”

More to come…

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