Nova Scotia

Status of women minister backs N.S. premier, says feds should lead shooting inquiry

As calls grow for the province to take the lead on a public inquiry into the Portapique massacre, the minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women is defending the premier's position that the feds should lead the way.

'I wake up every morning thinking about what happened that weekend,' says Kelly Regan

Kelly Regan, the minster responsible for the Advisory Council on the Status of Women, says launching a public inquiry at the federal level wouldn't diminish Nova Scotia's involvement. (CBC)

As calls grow for the province to take the lead on a public inquiry into the Portapique massacre, the minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women is defending the premier's position that the feds should lead the way.

Advocates, politicians and legal experts want the province, not the federal government, to launch an independent inquiry into the April 18-19 shooting rampage that left 22 victims dead.

"I think we need to have the RCMP complete their investigation. At that point, we are going to know what the questions are. And let me be clear, it's not a question of if there will be a review or an inquiry afterwards. The question is, what will it look like?" Kelly Regan, who's also the minister of Community Services, told CBC's Mainstreet on Thursday.

But Regan also said it's too soon to talk about what the inquiry should look like.

"I can't answer those at this point," she said. "What I can tell you is that the issue of domestic violence, the issue of violence against women, is not solely a Nova Scotia issue."

On Wednesday, MLAs Karla MacFarlane and Claudia Chender said they were "shocked" that Premier Stephen McNeil would leave a public inquiry up to the federal government.

The premier maintains that since the RCMP is a federal agency, it has jurisdiction to look into the police response and how the gunman obtained his weapons.

The MLAs say it's important the inquiry start in Nova Scotia so that the province can have a say in how the findings are implemented. 

But Regan stressed that launching an inquiry at the federal level wouldn't diminish Nova Scotia's involvement.

On the night of April 18, the gunman attacked his girlfriend before going on a shooting rampage that lasted nearly 13 hours. He was killed by police just before noon on April 19.

A woman pays her respects at a roadside memorial in Wentworth, N.S., for one of the 22 victims of the Portapique massacre. (Liam Hennessey/The Canadian Press)

Thirty law professors who signed a letter calling for a provincially led public inquiry say the massacre must delve into the larger problem of domestic violence in Nova Scotia. 

Regan said she's been in regular contact with Justice Minister Mark Furey and that he takes the issue very seriously.

She pointed to several initiatives that the province has implemented through its domestic violence strategy, including paid leave from work for victims of domestic violence.

"What I can tell you is we are deeply interested in finding out what happened and what we need to do to change it," the minister said. "I wake up every morning thinking about what happened that weekend and I know that my colleagues do as well."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would not commit to a federal inquiry when asked about it last week. 

With files from CBC's Mainstreet

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