Nova Scotia

RCMP pledges to review N.S. mass shooting recommendations, restore trust in province

The interim commissioner of the RCMP and the top Mountie in Nova Scotia say they are committed to better serving the province, but neither had a chance to review recommendations of the Mass Casualty Commission before speaking to reporters on Thursday.

Mass Casualty Commission final report calls for RCMP to undergo 'fundamental change'

Two men in RCMP uniforms sit on a podium in front of flags.
Interim RCMP Commissioner Mike Duheme, right, and Assistant Commissioner Dennis Daley, commanding officer of the Nova Scotia RCMP, prepare to speak to reporters on March 30, 2023, following the Mass Casualty Commission inquiry's final report into the N.S. mass shootings. (Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press)

The interim commissioner of the RCMP and the top Mountie in Nova Scotia say they are committed to better serving the province, but neither had reviewed the recommendations of the Mass Casualty Commission before speaking to reporters on Thursday.

"I just haven't gone through the recommendations just yet," said interim commissioner Michael Duheme.

"It doesn't minimize the impact of what took place, I just haven't had time to go through the recommendations."

The commission's report, released in Truro, N.S. at noon AT on Thursday, includes 130 recommendations, more than half focused on the RCMP and policing in Canada. The RCMP received an advance copy of the report at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Despite not being familiar with the recommendations, Assistant Commissioner Dennis Daley, the head of the Nova Scotia RCMP, said the work of the commission would help guide public safety in Nova Scotia and the rest of the country.

"We are here today with a promise to act on the MCC's recommendations in a manner that is transparent to the victims, survivors and their families," he told reporters.

Top Nova Scotia Mountie reflects on MCC report

6 months ago
Duration 7:30
In an interview with Tom Murphy, Dennis Daley talks about changes made since the Portapique tragedy, including emergency alerting.

Daley said the RCMP did not wait for the release of the report before making changes.

Since the mass killings in 2020, Daley said, the RCMP has invested in new equipment, has provided employees with more training, enhanced its protocols around critical incidents, is working to improve relationships with municipal police forces and changed its approach with emergency alerts to the public.

Family lawyer says clients read report

Michael Scott, a lawyer with Patterson Law which represents most of the victims' families, said it would have been "preferable" if Duheme had read the report before the event.

"Certainly we read it, some of the clients read it. We did it because it was important," Scott told CBC News.

 "We hope that that's not a signal of things to come, but we certainly appreciate their being here and at least showing their support and indicating that they're open to the changes that have been recommended."

Some of the harshest condemnation issued by commissioners was saved for the RCMP's decision to withhold information from the public during the gunman's 13-hour rampage.

"The RCMP's failure … deprived community members of the opportunity to evaluate risks to their safety and to take measures to better protect themselves," wrote the commissioners.

Some victims' families, especially those who were killed on the morning of April 19, have been vocal that they believe their loved ones would still be alive if the RCMP had broadcast public warnings. 

Duheme said the events of April 2020 were "unprecedented circumstances" and officers who responded did the best they could with the training and equipment at their disposal. He said the force has struck a committee to review the recommendations and address everything that is within the scope of the RCMP.

Progress would be publicly tracked and reported, he said. Where the RCMP does not have direct authority, Duheme said, the force would work with provincial and municipal partners on the policing-related recommendations.

"The RCMP is fully committed to rebuilding the trust and confidence of Nova Scotians," said Duheme, adding that the force would learn from the tragedy and move forward "as a stronger organization."

A collage of 22 people shows the faces of the people who died in four rows
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)

The commission's final report notes just how much work there is to do. It does not mince words.

Overall, "the RCMP must finally undergo the fundamental change that many previous reports have called for," commissioner Leanne Fitch said during a news conference Thursday. 

"Canadian society is at a critical juncture with respect to the future of policing," Fitch said. "The road forward must include a reckoning with the unfulfilled promise of community policing and commitment for community safety and well-being for everyone."

Speaking to reporters later in the day, commission chair Michael MacDonald said the most important recommendation related to policing oversight, in his view, is that the civilian review board for the RCMP cannot be budget dependent.

"In other words, we will look into something if we have the money," MacDonald said.

"Now, I realize you can't give a board a blank cheque, but there has to be some kind of … objective way to make sure that they are independent enough to investigate what they feel they ought to investigate and, surely, bad police behaviour cannot be sacrificed at the altar of not having a budget."

Two women and a man are seen seated on a podium.
From left, commissioners Leanne Fitch, Michael MacDonald, chair, and Kim Stanton deliver the final report of the Mass Casualty Commission inquiry into the mass murders in rural Nova Scotia in Truro, N.S., on Thursday. (Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press)

The commissioners determined that "the future of the RCMP and of provincial policing requires focused re-evaluation," said Fitch.

"Significant changes are needed to address various community safety and well-being needs of the 21st century. To do so, the existing culture of policing must change."

The commissioners say the RCMP must adopt a more strategic or co-ordinated approach to contract policing policies and core policing functions.

"For Nova Scotia in particular, we call for a community-wide process to discuss and decide the future structure of policing services in this province."

A culture of learning and accountability within the RCMP and all police services is required, said Fitch.

"We need a complete overhaul of police education in Canada, followed by recruiting officers suitable for modernized policing," Fitch said. "Such transformation is essential to improve all aspects of the RCMP's future work."

Victims' families react to Portapique inquiry report

6 months ago
Duration 1:44
Family members spoke after the Mass Casualty Commission released its final report nearly three years after 22 people were killed across Nova Scotia.

Robert Gordon, a former police officer and professor emeritus with Simon Fraser University's school of criminology, said the commission's report highlights the problem with disorganized policing that exists across the country.

Although he said dramatic reform of the RCMP must happen as soon as possible, Gordon is skeptical about how the federal and provincial governments will respond to the recommendations.

"I think they'll probably wriggle on the hook and try to evade their responsibilities because that's been the pattern with respect to police reform across the country for many years," he said.

It will be a challenge because the reforms essentially call for "the demolition of a Canadian icon," but Gordon said politicians cannot shy away from that work.

"The people of Canada deserve an effective system of policing, which they do not have," he said.

The commissioners' report takes aim at so-called contract policing, which involves the police services the RCMP provide to much of rural Canada.

"There is a long history of efforts to reform the RCMP's contract policing services model to be more responsive to the needs of ... (the)  communities they represent," the report says. "These efforts have largely failed to resolve long-standing criticisms."

The RCMP's other main role is federal policing, an $890-million operation that involves 5,000 employees investigating organized crime, border integrity and cybercrime. By contrast, contract policing involves 18,000 employees and cost $3.2 billion in the 2021-22 fiscal year."

N.S. premier accepts commissioners' challenge

The commission is calling for the federal and Nova Scotia governments to jointly form an Implementation and mutual accountability body to be responsible for creating an implementation plan, and providing regular updates to government and the public.

The body would include representatives from the government, RCMP, municipal police and "those most affected and key communities."

Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston, who attended the event in Truro, said he accepts the commissioners' challenge to implement the recommendations. He said the province would participate in a board to oversee that work and provide accountability.

Assistant Commissioner Dennis Daley, commanding officer of the RCMP in Nova Scotia responds to yesterday's report from the Mass Casualty Commission.

Houston said government officials would work through the recommendations that deal specifically with policing in the province.

"Our only objective is to make sure that people are safe in our communities," he told reporters.

"How we're policed, how law enforcement personnel are trained, those are big discussions to have and we're anxious to have those discussions."

MacDonald noted that the report is not the first to make such recommendations, but with commitment and action from political and police leaders, policymakers, community groups, first responders and members of the public, it could be the last.

"Future acts of violence are preventable, if we have the will to do what is necessary."

Calls for an RCMP overhaul in N.S. mass shooting report

6 months ago
Duration 17:10
Three years after 22 people were killed in a mass shooting in Nova Scotia, an inquiry has condemned the RCMPs response, calling for a major overhaul of the force.

If you are experiencing distress or overwhelming emotions at any time, you can call the Nova Scotia Provincial Crisis Line 24/7 at 1-888-429-8167. The Nova Scotia Provincial Crisis Service can also provide contacts for other crisis services that are available if you live outside Nova Scotia.

If you or someone you know is struggling in any way, you can call 211 or visit 211 offers help 24 hours a day in more than one hundred languages and will be able to connect you directly to the right services for your needs.

The Kids Help Phone is a national helpline that provides confidential support at 1-800-668-6868 or Text CONNECT to 686868.

Additional supports for across Canada are available at



Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia whose coverage areas include Province House, rural communities, and health care. Contact him with story ideas at

With files from The Canadian Press, Jean Laroche, and Angela MacIvor

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now