Launch inquiry into mass shootings

Editor’s note: The following letter was sent to Bill Blair, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, as well as Nova Scotia Attorney General Mark Furey.

Dear Ministers Blair and Furey,

We are calling for the governments of Canada and Nova Scotia to immediately launch a joint and equally-led public inquiry into the recent Nova Scotia mass shootings and related events.

Amidst a pandemic that has shut down major parts of the economy and imposed barriers to human connection, Nova Scotia has faced the deadliest mass shooting incident in Canadian history.

In the chaos that unfolded in mid-April, 22 Nova Scotians lost their lives. The murderer also brutally assaulted his spouse early on in the rampage. Canadians deserve to know what happened and what actions the police and others took or could have taken to prevent or better mitigate this situation.

As independent Nova Scotia Senators, we understand the need to tackle all issues surrounding this tragedy in an objective, unbiased and nonpartisan manner. A joint inquiry would help everyone better understand what transpired and to learn from this tragedy. If properly conducted, the joint inquiry could lead to changes to policies, practices and procedures and hopefully give us the tools to prevent future tragedies of this nature.

We are of the opinion that this public inquiry must include a detailed assessment of multiple issues, including but not limited to: what are the details of what unfolded over the 13 hour killing spree and what occurred in the time leading up to that period?

What was the role (if any) of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Why was the provincial emergency alert system not initiated?

Why was there a delay in sharing the information regarding the murderer’s impersonation of an RCMP officer?

When stopped by police, the perpetrator was possibly heading into a highly populated urban area, what plans did the police have to intercept him before that occurred?

How did the perpetrator acquire his weapons and what can be done so that in the future, others will not be able to do so?

What were the problems in the processes designed to ensure identification and effective response to previous reports of domestic violence, threats and weapon acquisition that involved the perpetrator?

What caused a breakdown in communication amongst federal-provincial jurisdictions?

What are the communication protocols between Halifax Regional Police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police related to the special warning that was issued and were all protocols followed?

What changes in law are required to have multiple reports of violent misogynistic behaviour addressed by not just police, but by mental health experts as well?

How can we better conduct threat assessments in our communities to avoid these kinds of tragedies?

We strongly believe that the inquiry must address the social and public safety issues which are related to this tragedy, and not just focus on the details of how the RCMP responded to the events as they unfolded.

A feminist lens will be critical to the inquiry’s success. Transition House Association of Nova Scotia, Women’s Shelters Canada, Feminists Fighting Femicide and the Canadian Women’s Foundation point out that chronic spousal abuse and misogyny are often linked to larger violent acts in our society.

We must seek to change how the current system addresses this violence. Following a tragedy, the warning signs become abundantly clear, but law enforcement and other responders must be equipped to intervene before harm is inflicted.

We, like many Canadians, are committed to improving public trust in those whose duty is to serve and protect and to provide them with the necessary tools to succeed.

We look forward to an immediate announcement of a comprehensive, thorough and fulsome public inquiry, jointly and equally led by the federal and provincial government, that addresses the details of this event as well as the complex social and structural issues that are related to it.

Senator Mary Coyle

Senator Colin Deacon

Senator Stan Kutcher