Hundreds of people gathered at a Halifax park and in the riding of Nova Scotia’s justice minister today to demand a public inquiry into the April mass shooting that killed 22 people in the province.
The protests followed last week’s announcement by the provincial and federal governments of an independent review, which has been criticized by victims’ family members as lacking transparency and legal heft.
Feminist community activists and advocates spoke to more than 100 people at Victoria Park in Halifax at noon, saying the panel created by the federal and provincial justice ministers is destined to work behind closed doors.
Over a 22-minute strike, they provided 22 reasons governments should reverse their decision not to hold an inquiry — each minute and reason representing a victim of the atrocity.
“Because police dismiss one in five sexual assault claims as baseless,” said Women’s Wellness Within chair Martha Paynter, reading from the list.
“Because we’ve lost all trust in leaders and institutions and their closed door decisions…because ex-police should not investigate police.”
Emily Stewart, executive director of Third Place Transition House, which serves several counties where killings occurred on April 18 and 19, said only a public inquiry could effectively expose the role that domestic violence played in the mass shooting and challenge an environment of misogyny that allowed it to occur.
Opposition MLAs present, including the NDP’s Claudia Chender and the Nova Scotia Progress Conservatives’ Barbara Adams, called on Premier Stephen McNeil to reconvene the legislature so they can debate the merits of a public inquiry on the record, with doors wide open.
READ MORE: ‘We want a public inquiry’ — families speak out against N.S. shooting review
Meanwhile, in Bridgewater, N.S., organizer Desiree Gordon estimated about 100 people marched to the riding office of Justice Minister Mark Furey, joined by the provincial PC and NDP leaders.
Activists, lawyers, Nova Scotia opposition parties and senators from across Canada have joined the call for an inquiry in recent months, expressing disappointment in the governments’ chosen format.
The provincial and federal governments have previously defended their decision to hold a review, saying it will avoid re-traumatizing the victims of the tragedy, take a restorative justice approach, and consider contextual factors, including intimate partner violence.
With files from Global News’ Elizabeth McSheffrey
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