Report on RCMP, government responses to mass shooting inquiry offers no evaluation

Click to play video: 'RCMP release progress report on their response to inquiry into 2020 mass shooting'
RCMP release progress report on their response to inquiry into 2020 mass shooting
RELATED: The head of the RCMP acknowledged “mistakes were made” as he unveiled the force’s plan to implement recommendations from the inquiry into the 2020 Nova Scotia mass shooting. Skye Bryden-Blom reports – Mar 27, 2024

An independent committee has released its first report on how governments and the RCMP are responding to the inquiry into the 2020 mass shooting in Nova Scotia, but it does not offer any assessment of the progress made so far.

The report released Wednesday from the Progress Monitoring Committee includes a thorough accounting of actions taken by the federal and Nova Scotia governments and the Mounties, but chairwoman Linda Lee Oland declined to say whether the committee was satisfied with those measures.

Oland, a former judge with the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal, said the seven-month-old committee recently developed a rating system to track progress or lack thereof. But the system won’t be used until after the committee meets again with government and RCMP officials in June, she told a news conference.

“It took a while for the committee … to figure out the best way to go about monitoring progress,” the chairwoman said. “We are not looking at a factory and counting the number of widgets.” The rating system assesses progress on a four-step descending scale: completed; on track; initiated; and no expectation of material progress.

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Click to play video: 'Nova Scotia to conduct comprehensive review of policing in the province'
Nova Scotia to conduct comprehensive review of policing in the province

Committee meetings in September, December and March featured written briefs and presentations from the two levels of government, as well as the RCMP. But that information was not subjected to any evaluation.

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Still, Oland said there has been “momentum” when it comes to the changes called for by the federal-provincial inquiry known as the Mass Casualty Commission, which filed a 3,000-page final report with 130 non-binding recommendation in March 2023. About half of those recommendations focus on policing.

The committee’s report includes a long list of actions taken by the RCMP, repeating what the police force had to say in March when it released its own progress report.

During the inquiry’s public hearings in Nova Scotia, the commission heard that the killer’s 13-hour rampage started in Portapique, N.S., on the night of April 18, 2020. Disguised as a Mountie and driving a car that looked exactly like an RCMP cruiser, Gabriel Wortman fatally shot 13 people on the first night, and the next day he killed another nine people, including a pregnant woman and an RCMP officer.

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The seven-volume report went so far as to suggest Ottawa should rethink the RCMP’s central role in Canadian policing.

The inquiry offered pointed criticism of the Mounties’ response to the shootings. Its final report found the RCMP missed warning signs about the killer, including reports of domestic violence, possession of illegal firearms and repeated run-ins with the law. Among other things, it found the Mounties were poorly organized and failed to promptly send alerts to the public until it was too late for some victims.

The three commissioners leading the investigation were told that the RCMP has a history of ignoring reports that call for change. That’s why the commissioners called for the committee to be established, saying there had to be a mechanism to ensure the inquiry’s recommendations are implemented.

With that mandate in mind, the committee now sees itself as a “trailblazer.”

“Recommendations made by public inquiries are not binding,” the committee’s new report says. “Often their reports gather dust or their implementation mechanisms, if any, are ineffective or slow. There is no precedent or model for the (committee) to follow.”

Committee members include several relatives of the victims, community members, police and government officials, advocates who deal with gender-based violence and members of the Indigenous and African-Canadian communities.

The group meets every three months. Progress reports are required every six months and its mandate spans three years. Oland’s term as chairwoman expires May 31, and her replacement is expected to be announced shortly after that date.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 1, 2024.

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