Nova Scotia

Public safety minister concerned gunman could create fake RCMP cruiser, obtain uniform

Canada’s public safety minister says he’s "very concerned" that someone planning to commit crimes could gain access to an RCMP uniform and decals to be used as part of a convincing, but fake, police cruiser.

Bill Blair says steps must be taken to prevent such breaches of trust

Bill Blair is Canada's public safety minister. (CBC)

Canada's public safety minister says he's "very concerned" that someone planning to commit crimes could gain access to an RCMP uniform and decals to be used as part of a convincing, but fake, police cruiser.

"The police are trusted in their community and it is the basis of that trust that enables them to do their job of keeping communities safe," Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said in an interview from Ottawa.

That trust was violently exploited late Saturday night and into Sunday morning when a gunman, dressed in an authentic RCMP uniform and driving a car that would have appeared real to much of the public, killed 22 people over the course of 13 hours in central Nova Scotia.

The path of destruction ended at a gas station in Enfield, N.S., when officers shot and killed 51-year-old Gabriel Wortman.

Blair said the RCMP investigation is looking into how the gunman obtained the uniform and decals for the car, as well as how he got his weapons.

Police have not said what weapons were used, in part because the information is connected to an investigation by the province's Serious Incident Response Team.

An 'appropriate and important question'

Based on the findings of those investigations, Blair vowed the federal government is prepared to "take whatever action is necessary to make sure it does not happen again."

The minister also weighed in on what he called the "appropriate and important question" of whether the province's emergency alert system should have been used while the gunman was on the loose.

Police used Twitter to provide updates during the manhunt, although families and friends of some of the victims have noted not everyone uses Twitter or would even think to look at social media late on a Saturday night or early on Sunday morning.

Premier Stephen McNeil has said officials with the province's Emergency Management Office were prepared to issue an alert and offered to the RCMP to do so, but they required information from police about what would be included before one could be sent.

RCMP officials said on Wednesday that they were preparing to issue an alert, but it was taking time to approve a message through the various levels in the chain of command. As those preparations were taking place, police took down the gunman.

The more information, the better

Blair said he's "heard very clearly" the concerns people in Nova Scotia have expressed about the lack of alert and he's discussed it with both RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki and Nova Scotia Justice Minister Mark Furey, who, like Blair, is a former police officer.

"I think in hindsight, it could quite clearly — the issuance of a provincial alert — could have been very useful and helpful," said Blair.

"But I think it's also important to understand the rather dynamic and challenging circumstances that the RCMP were dealing with through the course of that investigation."

Blair said it's incumbent on the RCMP to provide information to the public as quickly as possible in instances such as these, something he said he believes the police are committed to doing.

People's sense of safety has been taken from them and Blair said a key way law enforcement can help restore it is by providing people with accurate information to understand what's happening and how such incidents could be prevented in the future.

"The more we're able to share timely information I think the better understanding — I think Canadians will really truly come to understand the enormous challenges that the RCMP faced in responding to this investigation," said Blair.

"And a clear understanding of what exactly transpired, when and how the response took place, will help Canadians do that."

If you are seeking mental health support during this time, here are resources available to Nova Scotians.

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