Inquiry into N.S. shootings welcomes input 'so we get to the best answer'

·3 min read
The Big Stop gas station in Enfield, N.S., on April 19, 2020. (Eric Woolliscroft/CBC - image credit)
The Big Stop gas station in Enfield, N.S., on April 19, 2020. (Eric Woolliscroft/CBC - image credit)

Investigators with the Mass Casualty Commission were in Enfield, N.S., Wednesday morning gathering drone footage and photos at the gas station where the man responsible for killing 22 people was shot and killed by police in April 2020.

The commission is a joint federal and provincial public inquiry established after the public and family members of people killed called for an independent look at the circumstances surrounding the 13 hours of violence. A gunman disguised as a Mountie travelled nearly 200 kilometres through rural areas and murdered neighbours, acquaintances and strangers, including a pregnant woman and an RCMP officer.

Barbara McLean, the commission's director of investigations, said the commission is conducting an independent probe similar to ones she oversaw as a police officer in Toronto. Through it, they've gathered documents and spoken to people who gave statements to RCMP as well as others who did not.

The commission has subpoenaed information from the Mounties, and her team continues to go through thousands of pages of information, McLean said in an interview shared by local media outlets.

CBC
CBC

In response to questions about whether the RCMP is co-operating with the inquiry's work, she said collaboration is happening "to the extent that we would expect."

"When we have questions or there are gaps we request more. We are in that process now," she said.

She implored people to get in touch if they think they have any information that is pertinent to the commission's work.

"The commission cannot subpoena information that it doesn't know about. So it's important that people work collaboratively with us so we get to the best answer," she said.

CBC
CBC

Through the summer, members of the commission have been visiting communities and attending public meetings to explain their work and how they're now gathering information, said McLean.

She said the first part of the inquiry's work is establishing the facts of what happened and work is underway on a document that will set out the facts that the commission has gathered. The commission plans to release it this fall.

Planning for public hearings ongoing

As part of the inquiry process, there will also be hearings where witnesses must give evidence under oath. According to the commission's timeline, those hearings will be held next spring.

The commission plans to hold roundtable discussions starting at the end of October that may involve panels of witnesses speaking to issues such as gun control, intimate partner violence and police policies.

Olivier Lefebvre/CBC
Olivier Lefebvre/CBC

Planning for those proceedings is ongoing and it's not yet clear how many people will be involved, McLean said.

"We're going to take the facts of what happened and look at the broader social issues and structures that impacted and either enabled these tragedies to happen or failed to prevent them," she said, "so that we can ultimately make recommendations to enhance public safety in our communities."

About two dozen people, including families of the people killed, and 26 organizations have been approved to participate in the inquiry, which may include testifying under oath, participating in roundtable discussions, providing expert reports or opinion evidence.

The commission's final report is due in November 2022.

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