Nova Scotia

N.S. mass shooting inquiry enters final week of hearings

After seven months of testimony and thousands of documents piecing together what happened around the mass shooting in Nova Scotia, the final week of public proceedings will hear what participants think recommendations should be.

Participant submissions take place through Friday in Truro

Michael MacDonald, chair of the Mass Casualty Commission inquiry into the mass murders in rural Nova Scotia on April 18-19, 2020, is flanked by fellow commissioners Leanne Fitch, left, and Kim Stanton in Halifax on Monday, Aug. 29, 2022. The third and final phase of the inquiry will be focused on developing recommendations. Gabriel Wortman, dressed as an RCMP officer and driving a replica police cruiser, murdered 22 people. (The Canadian Press/Andrew Vaughan)

After seven months of testimony and thousands of documents piecing together what happened around the mass shooting in Nova Scotia, the final week of public proceedings will hear what participants think recommendations should be.

The Mass Casualty Commission is leading the inquiry into the tragic events of April 18 and 19, 2020, and what led to the mass shooting that left 22 people dead, including a pregnant woman.

On Tuesday, the commission will hear from family members of many victims during hearings in Truro, either through lawyers or speaking on their own behalf.

"It's an opportunity for the participants to sum up what they think is the key evidence and the key issues and make any recommendations or comments that they want about the process," said Michael Scott of Patterson Law, which represents most of the victims' families.

Although it will be difficult to sum up their clients' specific issues and touch on matters brought up through the inquiry like emergency alerts or allegations of political interference, Scott said they'll be making "fulsome submissions" to the commission.

He said there are two parts to the process: participants can provide written submissions to the commission and make an oral presentation when their time comes this week. 

Wednesday will see more presentations from family lawyers, and counsel for the gunman's longtime partner, Lisa Banfield. 

A coalition including Women's Shelters Canada, Transition House Association of Nova Scotia and Be the Peace Institute will also present.

On Thursday, the inquiry will hear from a wide range of advocacy groups including sexual assault centres, the Elizabeth Fry Society of Mainland Nova Scotia, RCMP veterans, gun owner and gun control groups, as well as the Truro Police Service. 

Twenty-two people died on April 18 and 19, 2020. Top row from left: Gina Goulet, Dawn Gulenchyn, Jolene Oliver, Frank Gulenchyn, Sean McLeod, Alanna Jenkins. Second row: John Zahl, Lisa McCully, Joey Webber, Heidi Stevenson, Heather O'Brien and Jamie Blair. Third row from top: Kristen Beaton, Lillian Campbell, Joanne Thomas, Peter Bond, Tom Bagley and Greg Blair. Bottom row: Emily Tuck, Joy Bond, Corrie Ellison and Aaron Tuck. (CBC)

Friday will see presentations from civil liberty and prison justice groups, the union representing most RCMP officers, and lawyers for the federal and provincial justice departments.

The commissioners will then deliver their final remarks and conclude the public proceedings Friday afternoon.

Although public proceedings finish Friday, the commission said its Phase 3 work focused on developing recommendations will continue until the end of September. 

During this time, the commission said its team is holding additional meetings in smaller settings with community members and people directly affected by the mass casualty.

Report expected next year

Anyone can share suggestions for recommendations until Sept. 30.

As of Monday, the commission has heard from more than 230 witnesses, including 60 people who testified live during the proceedings. There are more than 3,300 documents on the inquiry website.

The commissioners will take the next few months to finish their work and plan to submit a final report by March 31, 2023. 

They recently got an extension to file the report in March rather than in November of this year, citing a tight original timeline, delays from COVID-19, and "the pace, unpredictability and volume of document disclosure," which severely affected the commission's ability to work in a timely way.

The commission's mandate directs them to examine what happened before and during the mass shooting, including the RCMP's response, but also various topics like the role of gender-based and intimate partner violence in the killings, his access to firearms, the gunman's prior interactions with police, police training and policies, and communications with the public during and after the massacre.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Haley Ryan

Reporter

Haley Ryan is the municipal affairs reporter for CBC covering mainland Nova Scotia. Got a story idea? Send an email to haley.ryan@cbc.ca, or reach out on Twitter @hkryan17.

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