Inquiry examining N.S. mass shootings holds open houses

·3 min read
Barbara MacLean is the director of investigations with the Mass Casualty Commission.  (CBC - image credit)
Barbara MacLean is the director of investigations with the Mass Casualty Commission. (CBC - image credit)

The inquiry examining the circumstances behind the killings of 22 people in rural Nova Scotia last year is holding open houses this week to share information on its work.

In Truro on Monday, staff were set up in a former school around tables with pamphlets on the Mass Casualty Commission's timeline and mandate.

Barbara MacLean, director of investigations, said staff have been explaining the many layers of their work: from the current stage of gathering facts to the recommendations the commission will eventually make

She said it was a chance for people to talk informally and share questions and concerns.

"The benefit of this public inquiry is to bring people together — whether they are eyewitnesses, academic experts, technical experts — to have conversations about what do we need to do to ensure public safety in our communities," MacLean said.

CBC
CBC

The joint federal and provincial inquiry came about as the result of families demanding a thorough and independent look at the circumstances around the April 2020 massacre, during which a gunman disguised as a Mountie torched homes and killed 13 neighbours in Portapique, N.S. He went on to kill nine more people — acquaintances and people he encountered while travelling nearly 200 kilometres in a vehicle outfitted to look like a cruiser.

Findings not public yet

While some residents dropped in to the open house in Truro with questions about what the inquiry has uncovered, staff did not discuss their findings, only the steps they were taking.

MacLean said summaries of the evidence gathered so far will be shared during public hearings, which are scheduled to start Oct. 26 at the Convention Centre in Halifax.

"We're summarizing that information in what we're calling a foundational document, as well as citing the sources of the information that gives us that summary that will be shared with participants. Participants will help us identify areas for further exploration," said MacLean.

She said the documents will be updated as the investigation continues into 2022.

"So if someone sees a foundational document posted and they have some information, it's not too late to contact us with that information."

Héloise Rodriguez-Qizilbash/Radio-Canada
Héloise Rodriguez-Qizilbash/Radio-Canada

The commission has the power to subpoena information and witnesses. Its mandate includes examining how police and government agencies responded as well as issuing ranging from access to firearms to gender-based violence.

MacLean pointed out that recommendations won't be legally binding, so it's crucial for the public to support the findings and push for changes.

"Post November of 2022, we will need community members, community leaders to champion the changes that we identify collectively to enhance public safety in our communities," she said.

Wayne Smith, a welder and artist from Salmon River, N.S., said he dropped by to better understand what the commission was doing and to ask questions about grief counselling. He said Clinton Ellison, the son of his former partner, continues to struggle with the loss of his brother, Corrie Ellison, who was killed in Portapique.

"The reason I came here mainly was to get comfort and see... all the different things that have to be touched [on] and talked about this particular incident," he said.

CBC
CBC

Smith said he was surprised more people weren't at the Truro open house.

"You can't just pretend that it never happened. It did happen," he said.

The commission said 50 people attended the open house in Debert Sunday evening and another 30 in Truro. Sessions are planned in Millbrook on Tuesday and Wentworth on Wednesday.

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