Government now launching full public inquiry into N.S. mass shooting
OTTAWA -- The federal government will now proceed with a full public inquiry into the Nova Scotia mass shooting, following increased pressure from victims and families to provide more transparency into the investigation.
On Tuesday, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair said the government will “work diligently with all those affected by this tragedy to bring forward the critical answers, and to ensure an event such as this will never happen again.”
“We have heard calls from families, survivors, advocates, and Nova Scotia Members of Parliament for more transparency,” Blair wrote in the statement.
The federal government is now pursuing a full public inquiry, under the authority of the Inquiries Act and it will include the power to summon witnesses, require them to give evidence under oath and produce documents the commissioners deem required.
This about face comes after his provincial counterpart Nova Scotia Justice Minister Mark Furey announced on Tuesday that he was now in support of the calls for a full inquiry into the shooting, citing the political pressure from some parliamentarians who have challenged the federal and provincial governments’ decision to launch a joint review rather than a public inquiry.
In the statement, Furey said he has heard the calls from Nova Scotians and “a number of federal MPs” who have come out against their own government’s decision to opt for a joint review. He said that if the federal government agrees to instead pursue an inquiry that would see the RCMP and other federal agencies testify, he would support it.
“And so will our government,” Furey said.
This change of tune from both governments follows closely on the heels of continued questioning about the decision from parliamentarians.
In response to the review, senators tabled a formal question seeking answers from the federal government.
Tabled by Independent Sen. Kim Pate — a longtime advocate for women and girls in the Canadian justice system — the formal question requested the government answer for the decision.
“Why hasn’t the government chosen the only option guaranteed to provide the answers so desperately sought by survivors of the victims and the public? And, will the government revert its position and convene a public inquiry?” reads the senator’s question, tabled by in the Senate during an emergency summer sitting on behalf of a group of Senators.
Nova Scotia Liberal MPs have also spoken out in favour of a more robust interrogation of the tragedy.
In a statement posted on social media, MP Darren Fisher said, while he is pleased the shooting and response is being reviewed, “the gravity of this tragedy demands a greater response.”
“I’ve made my voice heard on this issue to our government’s decision-makers on this file, and I remain hopeful that greater authority will be given to this matter, with the ultimate goal being the announcement of a public inquiry,” Fisher said.
And, as The Canadian Press is reporting, MPs Sean Fraser and Lenore Zann joined the calls for an inquiry, saying the current plan is not enough.
The federal Conservatives have also backed the calls for a full public inquiry.
“The families and loved ones of the 22 Nova Scotians who senselessly lost their lives in this horrific attack deserve answers and transparency,” tweeted outgoing Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer.
The review had been loudly criticized after it was announced on July 23 by Furey and Blair, with families of victims and Canadians across the country questioning the lack of transparency and accountability powers built in to the joint review process.
The review format did not allow for witnesses to be compelled to testify under oath, public hearings were not expected, and the interim report from the independent review panel was to land on the federal and provincial governments’ desks before being released.
“There is no guarantee of openness and transparency; something the victims’ families and the public have the right and are entitled to expect,” reads the Senator’s question.
Considered among the worst mass murders in Canadian history, 22 people were killed by a gunman who evaded police for hours between April 18-19, burning down properties in the Portapique, N.S. area before being shot and killed by police at a gas station in Enfield, N.S., about 100 kilometres from where the spree began.
New revelations continue to be reported about the gunman and the RCMP’s response, further bolstering the calls for a complete airing of the series of events that unfolded.
Pate is among a group of 37 senators from across Canada that sent letters to Blair and Furey on three occasions already this month, imploring them to go the public inquiry route, arguing that “only a comprehensive, open and fully transparent process would be able to address the complexities of this massacre and answer the legitimate questions and concerns of Nova Scotians and Canadians.”
With files from CTV News Atlantic