Commission announces Nova Scotia shooting public inquiry team directors

Click to play video: 'Some Nova Scotians optimistic mass shooting inquiry will produce results, bring healing' Some Nova Scotians optimistic mass shooting inquiry will produce results, bring healing
WATCH: More than six months after the mass shooting tragedy that left 22 Nova Scotias dead, the provincial and federal governments have finally launched the initial stages of a joint public inquiry, examining how the attack happened and whether it could have been prevented. As Elizabeth McSheffrey reports, some Nova Scotia are relieved to see the process begin, and feel optimistic it will bring changes and healing within the province – Oct 23, 2020

The team overseeing the joint public inquiry into the Nova Scotia mass killing tragedy has announced a list of experts to assist the review.

Commissioners include a former Supreme Court of Canada judge, a Deputy Chief of a large Police of Canada agency, a crime expert focusing on violence against women, and experts in human rights and mental health.

A decision to hold an inquiry into the mass killing in April 2020 that resulted in the deaths of 22 people in Nova Scotia, was first announced in July.

Federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair released the decision to hold a joint inquiry with the provincial government after three months of calls for answers from families of those who were killed.

Read more: Governments announce public inquiry into Nova Scotia mass shooting

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In October, Nova Scotia and Ottawa established the inquiry and began work as the final commissioners were selected and a terms of reference was in place.

On Thursday afternoon, the commission released the names of experts to lead teams in the inquiry.

“This is a carefully selected group of experienced and dedicated individuals who are among the most highly regarded in the country in their respective fields,” read a Commission news release.

The commission directors include:

  • Thomas Cromwell, Commission Counsel Director
  • Dr. Emma Cunliffe, Research and Policy Director
  • Christine Hanson, Executive Director and Chief Administrative Officer
  • Barbara McLean (M.O.M.), Investigations Director
  • Mary Pyche, Mental Health Director
  • Maureen Wheller, Community Liaison Director
Click to play video: 'Nova Scotia Shooting: Is healing even possible?' Nova Scotia Shooting: Is healing even possible?
Nova Scotia Shooting: Is healing even possible? – Dec 12, 2020

About the team

Thomas Cromwell, from Nova Scotia, served as the Supreme Court of Canada’s Atlantic representative, appointed by former prime minister Stephen Harper. For 10 years, he also chaired the Chief Justice of Canada’s Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters.

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Cromwell’s role in the commission will be supervising the work of the counsel team.

“This Commission is one of the most important undertakings in recent Nova Scotia history,” he said in a release.

“This province is where I spent most of my legal career and where I learned most of what I know about the law and doing justice. I want to do anything I can to put what I’ve learned in the service of the Commission and the people it serves.”

Emma Cunliffe, described as “an award-winning teacher and researcher,” is a professor at the Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia and a visiting professor at the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University.

According to the commission, her research focuses on investigations in complex criminal cases, particularly those involving violence against women and Indigenous people. Cunliffe is the Commission’s research and policy director.

“Our research and policy work will help the Commissioners to formulate recommendations that could help to prevent future events of this kind,” Cunliffe said in the release.

“This work will help us to understand the causes and context of the events of 18 and 19 April 2020 and point towards how we might foster safe and resilient communities. It will also inform overall policy development and how to better support victims and communities.”

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Christine Hanson, the Mass Casualty Commission’s executive director, is the current CEO of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.

Hanson has worked as an international lawyer and a diplomat with Global Affairs Canada. She graduated from Dalhousie University.

“Our goal is for the Commission to be able to provide meaningful recommendations that are fully implemented so that something like this never happens again and throughout the process, provide the best support possible to survivors and victims of these traumatic events,” she said in the release.

Barbara McLean is the deputy chief of the Toronto Police Service, originally from Antigonish, N.S.

The commission said McLean has “a proven track record in policing, public safety, community engagement, policy development, strategic planning, fiscal accountability, and leadership development.”

Her role in the Commission is the investigations director.

“As a proud Nova Scotian, the events of April 2020 have had a great impact on me,” she said in the release.

“My focus will be on helping to determine what happened so that findings can be communicated in a way that provides answers to Nova Scotians. It’s important to me that this is done in a way that is sensitive to those most affected and honours the lives that were taken during this mass casualty.”

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Mary Pyche is the Commission’s mental health director. The release says she has worked in the mental health and addictions field for over 30 years, including at Nova Scotia Health.

Pyche has also worked in Mental Health Crisis Response for 16 years, focusing on suicide risk assessment.

“It is important to me that this Inquiry has identified attention to Mental Health as an integral part of its overall framework,” she said.

“My focus will be collaborating with all areas of the Inquiry Team to ensure we are intentional in our efforts to minimize and mitigate any additional harms and to apply an understanding of and responsiveness to the potential impacts of trauma.”

Maureen Wheller is the former co-chair of the Nova Scotia Health’s Mental Health and Addictions Program’s first Public Advisory Group.

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Read more: Emotional aftermath: families of victims in Nova Scotia shooting struggle to heal

According to the release, Wheller “builds relationships with community-based organizations, public and private sector partners, individuals, families, and healthcare providers.”

In the Mass Casualty Commission, she is the community liaison director.

“My role is to build consistent, respectful, easily accessible methods to communicate between the Commissioners and the victims, families of the victims, their supports, and communities,” Wheller said in the release.

“Access to information will be fair and equitable and will respond to what is needed.”

The Mass Casualty Commission said this team is tasked with gathering evidence, conducting meetings, roundtables, and gathering research.

The Commission will submit two reports on findings, lessons learned and recommendations that are due on Nov. 1, 2022. An interim report is due May 1, 2022.

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