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Hundreds march to demand public inquiry into Nova Scotia shooting

Victims of Nova Scotia mass shooting march to demand public inquiry
WATCH: Calls for a public inquiry into the Nova Scotia shooting continue to grow. On Wednesday, families and supporters of the victims gathered in Bible Hill, N.S., to send a message to politicians who they say aren’t moving quickly enough.

Family members of victims were joined by supporters in a march Wednesday demanding a public inquiry into the April mass shooting that left 22 people dead in Nova Scotia.

About 280 people walked from a grocery store parking lot to the station in Bible Hill, N.S., where many of the RCMP officers who responded to the rampage were based.

The event was organized by families of the victims to protest the failure of the provincial and federal governments to call an independent public inquiry, more than three months after the April 18-19 killings in central and northern Nova Scotia.

Read more: 37 Canadian senators sign letter for public inquiry into N.S. shooting

Relatives carried signs in memory of each victim and chanted, “We demand answers” as they walked the three blocks. Children carried photographs of lost grandmothers as their parents pushed them in strollers.

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Organizers Nick Beaton, whose wife Kristen Beaton was killed, and Darcy Dobson, who lost her mother Heather O’Brien, said the action was on behalf of all 22 families.

The families had an online meeting scheduled with Nova Scotia Justice Minister Mark Furey after the march, and late Wednesday, Beaton said he’d been informed that the province will make an announcement about an inquiry Thursday.

Nova Scotia shooting: Trudeau admits ‘many questions remain’ as RCMP investigation continues
Nova Scotia shooting: Trudeau admits ‘many questions remain’ as RCMP investigation continues

Beaton said he is “not fully pleased” about the planned format but declined further comment.

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Earlier, Beaton had said he’s concerned about shifting language from politicians on the nature of a potential inquiry, noting that at times the justice minister has referred to it as a simple “review.”

The families want hearings that are open, overseen by an independent party and include a detailed look at the police response, he said.

“We deserve answers and the truth. We’re finished sitting back. It’s been three months now …. We want a public inquiry,” he said.

Furey has said the provincial and federal governments were ironing out details of how an inquiry would work, and he has attributed delays to “legalities and technicalities.”

He had originally said the investigation could take the form of a traditional federal-provincial public inquiry led by an independent commissioner, but on July 2 he made it clear that some sort of hybrid is in the works.

Family and friends of victim Joey Webber attend a march demanding an inquiry into the April mass shooting in Nova Scotia that killed 22 people, in Bible Hill, N.S. on Wednesday, July 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Family and friends of victim Joey Webber attend a march demanding an inquiry into the April mass shooting in Nova Scotia that killed 22 people, in Bible Hill, N.S. on Wednesday, July 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan.

The challenges facing legal teams in Ottawa and Halifax appeared to stem from the fact that Nova Scotia wants the probe to include a restorative justice element.

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When Nova Scotia created a “restorative inquiry” in 2015 to look into allegations of long-term abuse at a former orphanage in the Halifax area, its collaborative approach featured private “sharing circles” with former residents and others.

Dobson said she is concerned about the minister’s recent statements, saying she would not favour efforts to shift testimony behind closed doors. She said she wonders what is behind the delays.

“There was supposed to be an announcement over a month ago, and there hasn’t been,” Dobson told reporters.

Tom Webber, the father of victim Joey Webber, said in an interview that he has specific questions about how the killer managed to escape from Portapique after committing 13 murders and setting fire to homes.

Still no timeline on public inquiry for N.S. shooting
Still no timeline on public inquiry for N.S. shooting

His son was killed on April 19 during an errand to pick up furnace oil in Shubenacadie, N.S., and the killer then stole Joey Webber’s car.

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“The police don’t seem to give us any answers, and that’s what we’re looking for,” Webber said.

“It’s hard to imagine this really happened. You wake up thinking that it didn’t happen. But it did.”

Family and friends of victims attend a march demanding an inquiry into the April mass shooting in Nova Scotia that killed 22 people, in Bible Hill, N.S. on Wednesday, July 22, 2020.
Family and friends of victims attend a march demanding an inquiry into the April mass shooting in Nova Scotia that killed 22 people, in Bible Hill, N.S. on Wednesday, July 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Leon Joudrey, a resident of Portapique who gave shelter to the shooter’s common law spouse early on April 19, said he’s also hoping for an open inquiry that looks carefully at the police response.

He recalled a nightmarish scene of burned houses and dead bodies in the small community in the early hours of April 19, and yet when he drove through the community, he said he saw little police presence.

Read more: ‘No confidential informants at issue’ in redacted RCMP documents related to N.S. shooting

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Joudrey said if officers had knocked on his door, he could have provided helpful information about the killer, Gabriel Wortman, a 51-year-old Halifax denturist.

“I’m here today to point out the fact the police didn’t handle this correctly at the management level …. Let’s a get a public inquiry going,” he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 22, 2020.