Interim report into N.S. shooting inquiry notes lack of grief, trauma supports

·4 min read
The Mass Casualty Commission began public hearings on Feb. 22, 2022. (Brett Ruskin/CBC - image credit)
The Mass Casualty Commission began public hearings on Feb. 22, 2022. (Brett Ruskin/CBC - image credit)

An interim report from the commission leading the public inquiry into Nova Scotia's mass shooting doesn't contain any findings, but notes many families and communities connected to the tragedy are not getting the support they need.

The Mass Casualty Commission released its interim report on Monday, including details on the progress gathering information about the events of April 18 and 19, 2020, when 22 people, including a pregnant woman and an RCMP officer, were killed by a gunman.

Emily Hill, senior counsel with the commission, said the document is intended to be a "checkpoint."

She said the commission is still working through the fact-finding process of phase one, looking at what happened during the 13-hour killing spree. It will now begin layering on phase two of the inquiry, focused on the broader issues around the tragedy like intimate partner violence and police communications.

"As we're still right in the middle of that work, it would be too early to make findings or to make recommendations," Hill said in an interview Monday.

CBC
CBC

Findings about what happened and why, and any recommendations for police and government, will come in the commission's final report in November.

The report did note the commission has heard many of the individuals, families, and communities most affected "are yet to receive the support they need."

A comment card left at a commission open house in the fall of 2021 said "we need a grief and trauma counsellor more than ever."

This theme was reiterated by "numerous respondents" to an online survey conducted in February and March 2022, including someone who wrote "it does not feel like anyone understands what we have gone through. That there is a before and after in our lives. That we were not able to grieve and heal due to the timing of the pandemic. That our community desperately needs additional mental health supports."

Hill said the commission has been "hearing those echoes" from many people, as well as the point that the difficult information coming out of the inquiry has an impact.

CBC
CBC

"There's just not enough resources for people as they are still processing what happened two years ago," Hill said.

The report urges government and other agencies to act now to provide the necessary mental health, trauma, and bereavement supports.

Both reports go to the provincial and federal governments, Hill said, so they're aware of the issue and she expects it will be addressed again in the final report.

But some victims' family members and their lawyers have criticized how the inquiry has unfolded so far, in particular what they say is a lack of live witness testimony.

Michael Scott, a lawyer representing more than a dozen victims' families, said all public inquiries are different but this one is leaning particularly heavily on foundational documents assembled by the commission, as well as transcriptions of witness statements.

"We're just not hearing the level of detail or enough witnesses to really get down to the issues that matter," Scott told CBC's The National last week.

"Our clients are primarily interested in getting some of their questions answered openly, and candidly and transparently."

Scott said while the inquiry has heard much about the commission's mandate to avoid retraumatizing witnesses like responding RCMP members, the courts already have various methods for protecting victims of crimes or people testifying.

"We don't do it at the expense of foregoing their evidence," he said.

Nick Beaton, whose pregnant wife Kristen was killed in the mass shooting, told the National he doesn't feel the commission has been digging hard enough to get to the truth.

"I don't feel that they're acting independently at all with this. I feel they're in bed with the RCMP and the government," Beaton said.

"The families and the legal teams are left fighting this alone — again."

Commission says they are working with families

Hill said the commission is aware of concerns from some family members about how they're completing their work, and they are "continuing to work" with these participants and their lawyers.

She said it's important the commission continue to engage with the families, and that the families keep providing feedback because ultimately the goal is to create recommendations in their final report that "are meaningful and can make Canadians safer."

In the coming weeks, Hill said there will be the opportunity for anyone in the public to provide submissions. She said anyone with ideas or recommendations for the commissioners can submit them directly to them.

MORE TOP STORIES

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting