Group monitoring RCMP response to mass shooting inquiry needs public’s help: chair

Click to play video: 'Committee overseeing RCMP response to mass shooting inquiry holds first meeting'
Committee overseeing RCMP response to mass shooting inquiry holds first meeting
The head of the committee overseeing how governments and the RCMP are responding to the Nova Scotia mass shooting inquiry have concluded their first meeting. The group's founding chair says progress is being made, but it's unlikely all recommendations will be implemented within the committee's three-year lifespan. Vanessa Wright has more – Sep 28, 2023

The head of the independent committee overseeing how governments and the RCMP are responding to the Nova Scotia mass shooting inquiry says the public will play a key role in ensuring the inquiry’s recommendations do not gather dust.

Linda Lee Oland, chair of the progress monitoring committee, told a news conference Thursday that the 16-member group cannot force the Mounties and government officials to do the right thing.

“While we may not have a stick to make governments react, we do have a role in asking what they are doing and in reporting clearly to the public so that they can judge,” said Oland, who retired from the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal in 2020 after serving 20 years on the bench. She was appointed to lead the committee in May.

Oland said the committee’s reports, to be submitted for public review every year for the next three years, will provide a yardstick for the public to measure how much progress has been made. She stressed that the committee is not in charge of implementing recommendations, only monitoring them and providing accountability.

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“When we report on the progress, the public will know and react,” Oland said.

The committee, appointed by the federal and Nova Scotia governments, recently met for the first time, holding two days of discussions that were sometimes emotional, she said. The committee includes victims’ family members, community representatives, RCMP and government officials, and they have access to a trauma counsellor and a quiet room when they are meeting.

“We all know that what unfolded in this province in April of 2020 was an incomprehensible, searing tragedy,” Oland said. “We lost so many people.”

In all, the federal-provincial public inquiry — formally known as the Mass Casualty Commission — issued 130 recommendations in March, most of them aimed at improving public safety, reforming the national police force and addressing the root causes of gender-based violence.

The commission’s 3,000-page report concluded the RCMP were ill-equipped to deal with a gunman who was disguised as a Mountie and driving a replica police car when he fatally shot 22 people during a 13-hour rampage on April 18-19, 2020. It was the worst mass shooting in modern Canadian history.

On Thursday, Oland agreed that previous public inquiries have failed to bring about substantive change within the RCMP.

“Everyone is well aware … that has happened,” she said. “There is a strong desire at the table … that there will be action taken.”

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During a hearing in September 2022, the inquiry heard from a former assistant commissioner of the RCMP who said the police force has a history of ignoring calls for change. Cal Corley said the RCMP has long resisted outside advice because of its deep-rooted paramilitary culture, lack of diverse views and dearth of what he called “transformational leadership.”

“It’s been an organization that’s been historically very slow to adapt to its external environment,” Corley said. “There’s an institutional culture that has been rather closed for many years.”

The former senior Mountie, who also served as head of the Canadian Police College, cited a 2017 study that included a 41-page list of recommendations for change that he said were largely ignored by the RCMP.

The committee, which includes relatives of two victims, has already heard presentations from the Mounties and government officials, who insisted progress had already been made on several recommendations.

“What the committee saw was a commitment to action,” Oland said, adding that the victims’ family members have made it clear that progress on the recommendations will represent the “legacy of their loss.”

“They yearn for something good to come out of what happened in Nova Scotia,” she said.

The committee’s next meeting is slated for Dec. 11. Its deliberations are held in private, and it is expected to meet no more than four times each year.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 28, 2023.

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