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Trio of Canadian Senators call on justice ministers to launch inquiry into Nova Scotia shooting

How the Nova Scotia mass shooting unfolded: 13 hours. 22 dead. 16 crime scenes.
On the night of April 18th, 2020, Portapique, Nova Scotia, a village of about 100 residents on the Bay of Fundy, became the starting point of what would become a shooting rampage. By analyzing RCMP statements, interviews, GPS coordinates and records, Global News was able to paint perhaps the most comprehensive picture to date of how the worst mass shooting in Canadian history unfolded.

A trio of Canadian Senators are calling on the provincial and federal governments to work together and launch a joint inquiry into one of Canada’s worst mass shootings.

Senators Mary Coyle, Colin Deacon and Stan Kutcher, addressed the letter to Federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair and Nova Scotia Justice Minister Mark Furey.

All three are independent senators from Nova Scotia.

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They are calling for the immediate launch of a “joint and equally-led public inquiry” into the shooting that left 22 people dead in April.

The rampage by Gabriel Wortman started late on April 18 and continued for the next 13 hours across northern and central Nova Scotia before he was shot dead by police.

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“In the chaos that unfolded in mid-April, twenty-two Nova Scotians lost their lives,” the letter from the senators reads.

“Canadians deserve to know what happened and what actions the police and others took or could have taken to prevent or better mitigate this situation.”

Furey said last week he was in the “final stages” of discussion with Blair, who is working with him to determine the best format for a probe into the massacre. Furey said that he would provide an update this week.

Colchester councilor calls for police services review after mass shooting
Colchester councilor calls for police services review after mass shooting

The senators say a joint inquiry would help everyone “better understand” what transpired and could lead to changes to “policies, practices and procedures” that would give Canadians the tool to prevent similar tragedies in the future.

The Senators say the inquiry “must” address the social and public safety issues of the tragedy and not just examine how the RCMP responded to the event.

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READ MORE: Family of Heather O’Brien, VON nurse killed in Nova Scotia shooting, calls for public inquiry

Some of the issues they’d like the inquiry to assess include:

  • What are the details of what unfolded over the 13 hour killing spree and what occurred in the time leading up to that period?
  • What was the role (if any) of the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • Why was the provincial emergency alert system not initiated?
  • Why was there a delay in sharing the information regarding the murderer’s impersonation of an RCMP officer?
  • When stopped by police, the perpetrator was possibly heading into a highly populated urban area, what plans did the police have to intercept him before that occurred?
  • How did the perpetrator acquire his weapons and what can be done so that in the future, others will not be able to do so?
  • What were the problems in the processes designed to ensure identification and effective response to previous reports of domestic violence, threats and weapon acquisition that involved the perpetrator?
  • What caused a breakdown in communication amongst federal – provincial jurisdictions?
  • What are the communication protocols between Halifax Regional Police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police related to the special warning that was issued and were all protocols followed?
  • What changes in law are required to have multiple reports of violent misogynistic behaviour addressed by not just police, but by mental health experts as well?
  • How can we better conduct threat assessments in our communities to avoid these kinds of tragedies?

READ MORE: Joint federal-provincial inquiry into N.S. mass shooting a good option, says expert

The Senators said a feminist lens would be critical to the inquiry’s success and that it must seek “to change how the current system addresses” spousal abuse and misogyny.

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The letter concludes by saying the Senators look forward “to an immediate announcement” of a public inquiry.

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said Tuesday that discussions between the province and the federal government are ongoing, with the goal of ensuring “that all the players will be at the table.”

The association that represents RCMP members issued its own statement, saying any type of federal-provincial inquiry should have a broad scope.

“When a tragedy like this occurs, it’s short-sighted and insufficient to only look at the hours requiring an urgent police response,” said Brian Sauve, president of the National Police Federation

The federation, which represents 20,000 RCMP members, offered its own list of questions, including what other interactions the shooter had with federal or provincial agencies, whether he went through any previous psychiatric assessments and how his history of domestic abuse was addressed “by the courts or government agencies.”

Police have confirmed the gunman – disguised as a Mountie and driving a replica RCMP vehicle – was armed with two semi-automatic handguns and two semi-automatic rifles when he killed 13 people in Portapique, N.S., on April 18 and another nine people the following day in several other communities in northern and central Nova Scotia.

Unsealed court document reveals N.S. shooting investigation techniques
Unsealed court document reveals N.S. shooting investigation techniques

His victims included an RCMP officer, two nurses, two correctional officers, a family of three, a teacher and some of his neighbours in Portapique.

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After Gabriel Wortman spent the better part of 13 hours killing people he knew and others he didn’t, a Mountie fatally shot the 51-year-old denturist at a gas station in Enfield, N.S., about 90 kilometres south of Portapique, on the morning of April 19.

There have been numerous calls for a public inquiry to investigate how police handled one of the worst mass shootings in Canadian history, including pleas from relatives of victims, politicians and more than 30 professors at Dalhousie University in Halifax.

With files from The Canadian Press