Nova Scotia

RCMP union says mass shooting review must tackle 'under-resourced social support system'

The union representing RCMP members says any inquiry into Nova Scotia's mass shooting should look at not only the immediate police response, but also at the gunman's history of domestic abuse and whether he had enough access to mental health supports.

National Police Federation has list of nine questions it says should be in review

A person leaves flowers at a make-shift memorial dedicated to Const. Heidi Stevenson at Nova Scotia RCMP headquarters in Dartmouth, N.S., on April 20. (Riley Smith/The Canadian Press)

The union representing RCMP members says any inquiry into Nova Scotia's mass shooting should look at not only the immediate police response, but also at the gunman's history of domestic abuse and whether he had enough access to mental health supports.

On Tuesday, the National Police Federation called on the governments of Canada and Nova Scotia to make sure a joint federal-provincial inquiry has "sufficient scope" to look at all issues relevant to April's mass shooting.

Union president Brian Sauvé is sending a list of questions to both governments that he said should be included in the "currently undefined scope" of any review to ensure its findings are meaningful and will create change.

Sauvé said the inquiry itself must have a sufficient mandate to look at everything that happened that "allowed" the shooter to get to a breaking point.

"Was there a community failure, was there a police failure, was there a social service failure, was there a probation failure? We don't know," Sauvé said.

"If we really want to get to a point as a society of improving, so that this could never happen again, let's look at everything — not just the 12 hours where the police were responding to an active shooter."

Union questions

Nova Scotia Justice Minister Mark Furey has said he hopes to share details this week about what the review into the mass killing will look like.

The questions the union would like addressed in the review include:

  • What other interactions did the shooter have with provincial or federal agencies during their lifespan, and what were the nature of those interactions?
  • Did the shooter undergo any previous psychiatric assessment, and if so, what was the result or follow-up?
  • How did the shooter gain access to illegal weapons, their origin and what increased measures need to be put in place to stop illegal weapons from coming into Canada?
  • Has the shooter ever been charged with any other offences, been subject to any probation ordered by the courts, and was it completed?
  • Did the shooter have a history of domestic abuse, and how was this addressed by the courts or government agencies?
  • Were there any services that could have prevented this tragedy which were unavailable due to COVID-19 restrictions?
  • Has the funding model of the RCMP been reviewed and appropriate budget requests for manpower, training and equipment been implemented? Is there adequate funding to provide the level of service that Nova Scotians want?
  • Did the shooter have sufficient access to mental health supports and programs throughout his life and what improvements to adequate health supports are needed to improve reach and use?
  • Given the above, were existing laws and policies under which police operate sufficient to protect the public?

Sauvé said if there are lessons to be learned about preventing or responding to situations like this in the future, the union supports a review to identify those aspects. 

The union has not come up with specific questions on how RCMP handled the shooting, since Sauvé said it's expected there will be "lots of scrutiny" on the actions of members and how they responded.

In addition, Sauvé said it's important to look more globally at "how our social justice systems and social welfare systems and social support systems may have either failed, or need improvement."

Any review that only zeroes in on police would ignore factors that "led to a high-risk and volatile individual slipping through the cracks of our often chronically under-funded and under-resourced social support system for years," Sauvé added in a news release.

'Psychological and sociological elements'

On April 18 and 19, a gunman went on a shooting rampage across central Nova Scotia that left 22 victims dead. It began in the small community of Portapique, and ended about 13 hours and 150 kilometres later at a gas station in Enfield where the gunman was killed by police.

Furey has said that despite committing to an inquiry, the province would not be leading it.

The justice minister has already indicated the review will need to consider other "psychological and sociological elements," such as issues around domestic violence and mental health.

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