Nova Scotia

N.S. senators say shooting inquiry must happen now to stave off speculation

Five senators from Nova Scotia have renewed a call for a joint provincial-federal inquiry into April's shooting rampage, saying the current delay is fueling speculation and eroding public trust in law enforcement.

Five Nova Scotia senators have renewed a call for a joint provincial-federal inquiry

On April 19, RCMP shot and killed the gunman at a gas station in Enfield, Nova Scotia. (Tim Krochak/Canadian Press)

A group of Nova Scotia senators has renewed a call for the province and Ottawa to launch an inquiry into April's mass shooting that left 22 victims dead, arguing the delay has stirred up speculation and eroded public trust in law enforcement.

Senators Mary Coyle, Colin Deacon and Stan Kutcher sent a letter June 7 to both federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair and Nova Scotia Justice Minister Mark Furey asking them to join forces for a public inquiry. The senators note the gunman started his rampage with an assault on his common-law spouse, and therefore, the inquiry needs to be conducted with a feminist lens.

Three weeks later, the senators have sent a second letter to the ministers, urging them, again, to launch an inquiry. Two more colleagues, Senators Wanda Thomas Bernard and Daniel Christmas, have added their names to this second letter.

"Minister Furey has responded indicating that he is working with the federal government on how to best seek answers for those that have lost loved ones," the senators wrote in the letter, which was released to media Monday. "Minister Blair has assured us in the Senate Chamber on June 25th that work is on-going." 

The senators said they understood establishing a review mechanism into a "mass atrocity" was complex, especially in the midst of a pandemic, but added things shouldn't be put off any longer.

Speculation about the gunman

"The current delay and lack of transparency is fomenting speculation regarding the shooting and the shooter himself. The longer we wait to establish an inquiry, the more assumptions will arise, further eroding public trust regarding law enforcement," the senators said.

Wentworth volunteer firefighters douse hotspots as an excavator digs through the rubble of a destroyed home of some of the gunman's victims. (Tim Krochak/Getty Images)

The senators don't mention any specific rumours, but the RCMP have been trying to quash recent speculation following a story by Maclean's that the gunman, Gabriel Wortman, was acting as a confidential informant or agent for the police organization. 

The Maclean's story said Wortman took out $475,000 in cash from a Brink's outlet a month before the shooting. The magazine spoke to sources who also suggest the transaction at Brink's was consistent with a payout to an agent or informant who passed information to police. CBC News has not confirmed this was the case.

The role of COVID-19

RCMP Supt. Darren Campbell told CBC News that the gunman liquidated his assets because of pandemic-induced paranoia, which also caused him to stockpile food and fuel.

RCMP have repeatedly said they had no relationship with the gunman, and Campbell called the allegations "very sensational and factually incorrect."

The office of 51-year-old denturist Gabriel Wortman, the gunman in April's tragedy. (Sean Dewitt/Reuters)

In their initial letter, the senators called for the inquiry to look at any role COVID-19 might have played in the shooting. 

They also asked for an examination of why the RCMP didn't issue a widespread public alert through the Alert Ready system during the rampage, which lasted more than 12 hours, and spread across 150 kilometres. The only warnings RCMP issued were on Twitter.

Calls for a public inquiry began just a few days after the tragedy, and after five weeks without a commitment from either the province or Ottawa, family members of the victims implored the two governments to stop bandying back and forth over the question of jurisdictional responsibility.

The senators said an inquiry should be "jointly and equally led by the federal and provincial government."

About the Author

Taryn Grant

Reporter

Taryn Grant is a Halifax-based reporter and web writer for CBC Nova Scotia. You can email her with tips and feedback at taryn.grant@cbc.ca

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