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N.S. premier waiting on Ottawa before deciding on inquiry into mass shooting

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WATCH (April 17, 2020): As Nova Scotia continues to mourn the victims of Canada’s worst mass shooting, more voices are coming forward and calling for a public inquiry. Jesse Thomas reports.

Nova Scotia’s premier is still not committing to a public inquiry into the shooting rampage that claimed 22 lives last month, saying the province is waiting to see what federal authorities ultimately decide.

Stephen McNeil says the province “will wait to see” what Ottawa commits to, other than an ongoing RCMP investigation.

He says provincial Attorney General Mark Furey is “working with his partners at the federal level,” but a step such as an inquiry hasn’t been determined.

READ MORE: Calls for public inquiry into Canada’s worst mass shooting grow in Nova Scotia

The premier was asked about news reports quoting a former neighbour of the gunman who said she reported his domestic violence and cache of firearms to the Mounties in the summer of 2013.

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McNeil says he has read the stories, but wasn’t previously aware of any of the details in them.

Domestic violence is being examined as a key aspect of the mass shooting, as police have said the rampage began after the gunman restrained and beat his common law spouse in Portapique, N.S.

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Psychological autopsy to be conducted on N.S. gunman

McNeil said Wednesday that people have to “come to terms” with the fact domestic violence is happening in Nova Scotia.

“We need to have an open and frank conversation about how do we address this issue in our province,” he said during a media briefing.

“We as a government will continue down this path. It is just completely unacceptable in my view that in this day and age women and children are still feeling afraid in their homes.”

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A fire-destroyed property registered to Gabriel Wortman at 200 Portapique Beach Road is seen in Portapique, N.S. on Friday, May 8, 2020. A former neighbour of the gunman behind last month’s mass shooting in Nova Scotia says she reported his domestic violence and cache of firearms to the RCMP years ago and ended up leaving the community herself due to fears of his violence.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
A fire-destroyed property registered to Gabriel Wortman at 200 Portapique Beach Road is seen in Portapique, N.S. on Friday, May 8, 2020. A former neighbour of the gunman behind last month’s mass shooting in Nova Scotia says she reported his domestic violence and cache of firearms to the RCMP years ago and ended up leaving the community herself due to fears of his violence.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

McNeil said a network needs to be created that gives victims a way out so they feel safe and secure.

“If you are living in fear reach out to one of our organizations to provide you with support,” he said.

The Nova Scotia government’s website advises anyone in immediate danger to call 911. Crisis services can be reached by texting 211 or calling toll free 1-855-466-4994.

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RCMP say no evidence of “hatred towards women” in Nova Scotia mass shooting

The neighbour who spoke to The Canadian Press, Brenda Forbes, said she first learned of the gunman’s domestic violence shortly after he moved to the Portapique area in early 2000s, when his partner came to her door and asked for help.

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Forbes said she encouraged her neighbour to seek help, but recalled that the woman was frightened of Gabriel Wortman and of the repercussions of going to police due to threats he’d made against her family.

READ MORE: Neighbour reported mass shooter’s domestic violence, weapons to police

McNeil said it’s up to government and the wider society to help women who are living in fear to understand they do have options.

“When you hear that it (violence) is still happening and people are not leaving that environment we need to continue to do more,” he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 13, 2020.