Nova Scotia

N.S. conflicts commissioner considers Mark Furey review in mass killing inquiry

Over the summer, the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party asked Justice Joseph P. Kennedy to review whether the justice minister — a former Mountie — should be involved in the public inquiry into the Nova Scotia mass killing.

PCs question whether justice minister, a former Mountie, should be involved in public inquiry

Justice Minister Mark Furey (CBC)

Nova Scotia's conflicts commissioner is considering a review into whether Justice Minister Mark Furey — a former Mountie — should be involved in the public inquiry into April's 13-hour rampage that left 22 people dead

In a letter to Justice Joseph P. Kennedy dated July 31, 2020, the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party noted, "the public has raised several concerns related to this perceived conflict." On Thursday, PC Leader Tim Houston's chief of staff told CBC News that Kennedy informed the party that he's examining and considering their request. 

The RCMP have come under scrutiny for its handling of the tragedy — like the decision to tweet about the shooter's whereabouts instead of issuing an emergency alert — and issues around transparency when it comes to releasing details about the case. CBC applied in April for access to the records and seven other media outlets joined the application.

Furey has previously said he does not believe he's in a conflict of interest and did not seek an opinion because Kennedy had previously told him he wasn't in conflict in dealing with the Glen Assoun matter — a case where RCMP destroyed evidence that could have freed a man wrongfully convicted of murder.

"In the particular fact scenario of the Assoun matter, you found that it appeared there was 'no real conflict of interest.' You also found that as the matter progressed, there was a 'danger that the public would perceive a conflict of interest,'" the PC letter to Kennedy said.

The letter also noted even just a perceived conflict of interest is a violation of the Conflict of Interest Act. It also pointed out that just because Furey was cleared for the Assoun matter, it doesn't mean he's absolved from all other cases involving RCMP.

The faces of the 22 victims of the Nova Scotia shootings. (CBC)

The letter states Furey is a compellable witness in the mass shooting inquiry.

"Given the subject matter of any investigation into the events would examine the role of the RCMP, it is a reasonable conclusion to draw that the more comprehensive the process (i.e. an inquiry) the more likely Minister Furey would have been compelled to give evidence," the letter said.

"The Minister knew or ought to have known that he would be a compellable witness. The fact that the Minister was participating in any capacity in making a determination on a process in which he could be forced to testify, in and of itself establishes a conflict, or, at the very least, the reasonable perception of a conflict."

When asked about the situation on Thursday, Furey said Kennedy is acting on a complaint and has reviewed the preliminary information and deemed there is more work to do.

"I'll allow the commissioner to finish his work and continue to be guided by his advice," Furey said.

Furey said he hasn't spoken with the commissioner yet, but that he plans to submit a response "in the very near future."

With files from Michael Gorman and Jean Laroche