N.S. announces comprehensive policing review following 2020 mass shooting

Click to play video: 'Nova Scotia to conduct comprehensive review of policing in the province'
Nova Scotia to conduct comprehensive review of policing in the province
The Mass Casualty Commission’s final report made 75 recommendations regarding policing in Canada. That includes examining the future of the RCMP’s contract policing services in Nova Scotia. Megan King reports – Sep 29, 2023

The Nova Scotia government says it will complete a comprehensive review of how policing is conducted throughout the province, in response to a recommendation made earlier this year by the Mass Casualty Commission.

In a Friday media release, the province said the project could “potentially recommend changes for how policing services are delivered.”

“We are committed to making our communities safer, and a big part of that work is ensuring our policing services are effective, efficient and structured in a way that best serves Nova Scotians,” Attorney General and Justice Minister Brad Johns said in the release.

The province says the process is already underway to form a qualified committee tasked with conducting this review.

Clare MacLellan, a retired Nova Scotia Supreme Court justice, and Hayley Crichton, an official with the Department of Justice, have been assigned as co-chairs, while letters have been sent to various policing agencies and community groups seeking nominations for additional members.

Story continues below advertisement

“Other police review advisory committee members will be announced at a later date,” the release read.

On March 30, the Mass Casualty Commission released a final report that contained 130 recommendations following an extensive investigation into the police response to the Nova Scotia mass shooting in 2020.

The deadliest mass shooting in modern Canadian history occurred throughout the course of 13 hours on April 18-19, 2020, when a gunman killed 22 people, including a pregnant woman, across three Nova Scotia counties. He was at times dressed like a Mountie and driving a replica RCMP vehicle.

The rampage ended when the perpetrator was fatally shot by two RCMP officers at a gas station in Enfield, north of Halifax.

Story continues below advertisement

The inquiry into the tragedy – fought for and won by family members of the victims – included 76 days of public hearings, more than 7,000 exhibits and source materials, and 230 witnesses.

The commission’s final report highlighted significant systemic issues within Canada’s national police force and called for widespread changes.

“The future of the RCMP and of provincial policing requires focused re-evaluation,” said the report, titled Turning the Tide Together. “We need to rethink the role of the police in a wider ecosystem of public safety.”

One of the commission’s recommendations was the creation of a “multi-sectoral council” to review the structure of policing in Nova Scotia.

The recent release from the province notes that proposal requests for an external consultant — who will be tasked with working alongside the police review advisory committee — were also issued on Friday.

The overall committee is expected to include people from “equity-deserving groups, the provincial government, police agencies, subject matter experts and diverse community representatives,” according to the release.

“I’m pleased that this important work will include a committee of people representing the diversity of our communities, ensuring that local voices are reflected in this review,” Johns said.

This week, a separate independent committee tasked with overseeing how governments and the RCMP are responding to the Nova Scotia mass shooting inquiry met for two days of discussion.

Story continues below advertisement

Following the meetings, committee chair Linda Lee Oland said previous public inquiries have failed to bring about substantive change within the RCMP and added that the public will play a key role in ensuring the inquiry’s recommendations don’t go to waste.

“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.

The RCMP in N.S. issued a statement about the province’s announcement, saying they look forward to working with those involved.

“The Nova Scotia RCMP welcomes this review, which I hope will be holistic in nature, consider the social and health determinants that affect our profession and services to our communities, and be inclusive of communities from across the province,” said assistant commissioner Dennis Daley.

“We look forward to participating alongside our provincial, municipal and community partners.”

The technical review is expected to be completed by 2025.

— with files from the Canadian Press and Global News’ Alex Cooke

Sponsored content