N.S. shooting inquiry promises 'pragmatic' recommendations to make communities safer

·3 min read

HALIFAX — The chair of the public inquiry into the April 2020 mass shooting in Nova Scotia said Monday the commission wants to issue “clear and pragmatic” recommendations following its third and final phase of work.

In a statement read at the hearings in Halifax, Michael MacDonald said the commission is committed to doing its utmost to ensure that its findings help prevent similar incidents from happening in the future. The last stretch of the inquiry — known as the Mass Casualty Commission — began Monday and will be focused on developing recommendations.

Over a 13-hour period on April 18-19, 2020, a gunman driving a replica police car killed 22 people in the small rural community of Portapique, N.S., and in the northern and central parts of the province.

“We must bring forward recommendations that can help improve safety for the communities most affected by the mass casualty and for all communities across Nova Scotia, Canada and beyond,” MacDonald said. “Recommendations that are clear, pragmatic and ready to be implemented so that people across our governments, institutions and communities can take action right away.”

Since the inquiry began its work in early 2021 and commenced public hearings in February, MacDonald said it has shared its “best understanding of what happened” at all of the 17 crime scenes. The inquiry has released 31 foundational documents, more than 3,000 supporting source materials, 19 commissioned reports and more than 1,100 research and policy documents; it has also released 20 supplementary reports by the inquiry’s investigative team.

Inquiry officials conducted more than 240 interviews with witnesses, including with 79 members of the RCMP. They also heard from 90 experts during inquiry roundtable discussions.

”This inquiry is of national importance and that scope will continue to inform our approach in our final phase,” MacDonald said.

On Monday, the inquiry released a 376-page document that examined 71 reports containing more than 2,000 recommendations from inquiries and reviews conducted in Canada between 1989 and 2022. Commission counsel Jennifer Cox said the overview looked at recommendations that are relevant to the Mass Casualty Commission, involving such things as internal and public police communications, police oversight and training, and gender-based violence.

“Of the recommendations that have already been made, are there things that could have been recommended and have not been recommended?” Cox asked. “The other thing we want to do is gather ideas on how to make improvements in the future.”

She said the purpose of looking back is to assist with “shaping” the inquiry’s recommendations.

Throughout September, the inquiry will hear from witnesses who have not yet provided testimony. It will also gather suggestions from organizations, local residents and the general public on ways to make communities safer.

Last week, Lee Bergerman, retired commander of the Nova Scotia RCMP, and Commissioner Brenda Lucki told the inquiry that the force requires more resources because policing costs continue to rise. During her testimony, Bergerman noted that the force has long complained of lacking the staff and equipment needed to adequately police the province.

The deadline for the final report of the public inquiry into the April 18-19, 2020, mass shooting has been extended five months and is now expected by March 31, 2023. The report was originally expected on Nov. 1.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 29, 2022.

Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press