A large group of protesters gathered in Bridgewater, N.S., Monday in front of Justice Minister Mark Furey’s constituency office to voice their frustrations over the failure to call a public inquiry into the April mass shooting that claimed 22 lives.
The rally came after both the provincial and federal governments established an independent review into the incident.
Unlike a public inquiry, the review panel will not have subpoena power or the ability to compel testimony or the production of documents.
Attendees at Monday’s rally balked at the decision by Furey, the Nova Scotia Attorney General, and his federal counterpart, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair.
“It’s the easy way out, I think, to avoid answering a lot of questions that we have,” said Tom Webber, the father of Joey Webber who was killed by the gunman while running an errand the morning of April 19.
The Webber family is disappointed by the decision to hold an independent review and says so are the other families affected by the mass shooting.
“We’ve talked about it, sure they want it (the public inquiry) there’s no doubt about that,” said Webber. “I want to see the full inquiry, to see what really happened.”
Close to 100 people showed up for the rally as the group made their way from Furey’s constituency office down King Street, to the Shipyards Landing Park where speakers voiced their concerns.
Progressive Conservative leader Tim Houston said the families need justice and wanted to add his voice to the group who are calling for a public inquiry, where the answers, he said, can be heard in public.
“The families have been calling for a full inquiry and Nova Scotians have been calling for a full inquiry and I’ll listen to those voices as opposed to Minister Furey and Premier Stephen McNeil, trying to tell them what’s best for them,” said Houston.
Last week, Furey said the independent review, which can’t compel testimony under oath, will take a restorative justice approach to limit further trauma on the families and participants.
But Webber said the trauma has already been suffered and not giving the families what they want — a public inquiry — only creates more
“It makes it worse, if anything,” he said. “It doesn’t help.”
NDP Leader Gary Burril agrees and says a panel review misses the mark and doesn’t give the public and the families the answers they want.
“All of these calls for a public inquiry and to only bring forward this limited and constrained review is a major mistake,” said Burrill.
“And people here in Bridgewater and in Halifax are calling on the government to do the honourable thing when one makes a mistake…and rectify the mistake.”
The public outcry is calling on the government to reverse its decision but it’s not clear how the government will respond. Minister Furey was not at his constituency office.