Public proceedings in the inquiry examining the circumstances of the killings of 22 people during a shooting rampage that started in Portapique, N.S., have been delayed another month and will start Feb. 22.
A release from the Mass Casualty Commission did not offer an explanation for the schedule change.
Public proceedings had been slated to begin Jan. 25 at the Halifax Convention Centre. Those proceedings include hearings that were expected to start in early February.
The first phase of the public inquiry's work is to find out what exactly happened when a gunman disguised as a Mountie murdered neighbours, acquaintances and people he encountered while travelling nearly 200 kilometres through rural parts of Nova Scotia on April 18 and 19, 2020.
This is not the first delay. Originally, hearings were scheduled to begin in late October. They were pushed back by three months after the commission determined it needed more time to consult with affected families and participants.
The plan remains for hearings to be held in person, though a press release from the commission said this will be dependent on the COVID-19 situation and it's possible that they could go ahead virtually. Regardless, there are plans to live stream the hearings.
"The commission will continue to monitor COVID-19 closely, follow all public health protocols, and remain agile to complete its work," the news release stated.
The proceedings are expected to continue into March and much of April. The focus will shift from the first phase — determining what happened on April 18 and 19 — to looking at the broader factors that contributed to the killings, such as the gunman's access to firearms, the decisions that police and emergency responders made, and the support offered to people and communities after the tragedy.
An interim report is due in May.
1000s of pages of documents
As part of the proceedings, the commission will be releasing dozens of detailed summaries of parts of its investigation, which has been underway for the past year.
Some will be centred on what happened at specific locations, such as the actions of first responders in Portapique, as well as what occurred at the Big Stop gas station in Enfield, where police shot and killed the gunman. Other summaries will be centred on topics, such as public communications from the RCMP and governments.
The foundational documents will be posted on the commission's website. The commission said they'll feature "a significant amount of information ... including timelines of events, accounts of the casualties and information about police response and witness reports."
Since the fall, lawyers representing affected groups have been reviewing the documents to identify any gaps or errors.
The commission said the first documents will be released beginning Feb. 24.
3 phases will go into final report
The third phase of the commission's work relates to putting together recommendations to improve public safety. It had been scheduled to start the first week of June and run into July, but the commission now expects it will begin late in the summer.
The final report is set to be released Nov. 1, 2022. The commission's website said it "will contain the commission's findings, lessons learned, and meaningful recommendations to help protect Canadians in the future."
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