Nova Scotia

Inquiry into Nova Scotia mass shooting announces directors

The commission leading the inquiry into the mass killing in Nova Scotia last April has announced the people who will lead the teams supporting its work.

Picks include former Supreme Court justice, law professor, mental health expert

Photo of floral tributes and a signed Canadian flag in front of an RCMP sign.
A woman comforts her daughter after they placed flowers at an impromptu memorial in front of the RCMP detachment on April 20, 2020 in Enfield, N.S. It was the home detachment of slain RCMP Constable Heidi Stevenson. (Tim Krochak/Getty Images)

The commission investigating the mass killing in Nova Scotia last April has announced the six people who will lead the teams supporting its work during the joint federal-provincial 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," the Mass Casualty Commission said in a news release.

"They include a former justice of the Supreme Court of Canada from Nova Scotia; a deputy chief of police of Canada's largest city, who is originally from Nova Scotia; the country's foremost scholar in complex criminal matters related to violence against women; and leaders in human rights and mental health and wellness."

The new roles announced Thursday are:

  • Thomas Cromwell, former Supreme Court justice, as commission counsel director.
  • Emma Cunliffe, law professor whose research focuses on complex criminal matters such as violence against women, as research and policy director.
  • Christine Hanson, CEO of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, as executive director and chief administrative officer.
  • Barbara McLean, Toronto Police Service deputy chief, as investigations director.
  • Mary Pyche, mental health and addictions expert, as mental health director.
  • Maureen Wheller, mental health and addictions communicator, as community liaison director.

In the release, Cromwell described the commission as "one of the most important undertakings in recent Nova Scotia history."

"My team is responsible for presenting evidence to the Commission that will permit the Commissioners to fulfil their mandate and the many people who have been affected by this mass casualty to get the most complete and accurate answers to their questions," he said.

"The most important thing for me is that we do that to the very best of our ability and with the highest standards of fairness and thoroughness."

The three commissioners for the inquiry were already announced. They are J. Michael MacDonald, Leanne Fitch and Kim Stanton. 

Inquiry commissioners will have the authority to summon witnesses and require them to give evidence under oath. They also will be empowered to compel witnesses to produce documents or other items they deem relevant to their investigation.

The commission says it is working to design a process to hear from people who want to participate, while still observing COVID-19 protocols.

In an email, Mass Casualty Commission spokesperson Sarah Young said the commission will share updates once other team members and team details are in place.

Reports expected in 2022

They are expected to deliver two reports on their findings, lessons learned, and recommendations — an interim report by May 1, 2022, and a final report by Nov. 1, 2022.

In the release, the Mass Casualty Commission said the new directors will lead teams investigating and gathering evidence, conducting meetings, researching, and helping with the groundwork that will inform the development of the recommendations 

"Currently, the directors are working with the commissioners to identify the people, resources, and processes required to undertake this important work," the release said. "They are also focused on making sure those impacted by the mass casualty have access to the mental health and wellness supports they require throughout the commission process."

Twenty-two people died in the shootings on April 18 and 19, which began in the small community of Portapique, N.S., and ended about 13 hours later at a gas station in Enfield, N.S. The shooter also set fire to several homes and eluded arrest by impersonating an RCMP officer before being shot dead by police.