Nova Scotia

N.S. justice minister concerned about delays in issuing public alerts

The delay between the discovery of a suspected shooter's car in Amherst, N.S., on Wednesday and the issuing of a public alert is again raising questions about the RCMP's response to emergency situations in the province. 

Mark Furey wants alerts to be issued as quickly as possible for public safety

Justice Minister Mark Furey says he has addressed the need for timely and effective communication with the RCMP multiple times. (CBC)

The delay between the discovery of a suspected shooter's car in Amherst, N.S., on Wednesday and the issuing of a public alert is again raising questions about the RCMP's response to emergency situations in the province. 

The Mounties came under scrutiny after last April's mass shooting when they did not request an emergency alert from the Nova Scotia government while the shooter was on the loose.

On Wednesday, police were on the hunt for a suspect wanted in connection with a shooting the previous evening in Riverview, N.B. A black Hyundai Elantra that the suspect had reportedly been driving was spotted parked about 70 kilometres southeast in downtown Amherst.

Nova Scotia Justice Minister Mark Furey told CBC News at 6 that he wants the time period between the preliminary police investigation being conducted and an alert being issued to be shortened.

"The earlier a public alert is issued, the greater opportunity for public safety and detention of the subjects of those public alerts," he said Wednesday. 

Furey said the vehicle was located at 9:30 a.m. AT in Amherst. More than an hour later, at 10:40 a.m., the RCMP tweeted they were requesting an alert.

Furey said the province's Emergency Management Office did not get the approved message and text until 11:35 a.m., and issued the alert at 11:42 a.m. — more than two hours after the vehicle was found.

However, in an interview with CBC News earlier in the day, Amherst police Chief Dwayne Pike said they found the vehicle "just prior to eight o'clock" in the morning, which would mean a delay of three hours from the discovery of the vehicle. 

The first emergency alert was sent at least 2 hours after the suspect's car was found in Amherst, N.S. (CBC)

Responding to questions from CBC News, Sgt. Andrew Joyce of the RCMP said information was provided to the public by the RCMP in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia throughout Tuesday evening and Wednesday. 

"Decisions on public communication, including alerts, are made based on operations," said Joyce.

Furey said he has spoken to the RCMP a number of times, most recently on Dec. 17, about being more timely and effective in their communication.

He noted there may have been a number of factors during the investigation that affected the response time, but he maintained work still has to be done to "compress the time frame."

Furey said in some other provinces, such as New Brunswick, agreements are in place that allow the RCMP the direct ability to send out alerts.

But, he said, "it is ultimately the police jurisdiction's decision whether they choose to go with that direct opportunity or process."

A committee on public alerts headed by the deputy justice minister that includes government departments, the Emergency Management Office and law enforcement officials was already scheduled to meet Thursday.

Furey said he expects the events of Tuesday and Wednesday to be discussed. 

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Vernon Ramesar

Reporter/Editor

Vernon Ramesar is a reporter and video and radio journalist originally based in Trinidad. He now lives in Halifax.

With files from Emma Davie and Tom Murphy

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