No public broadcast for RCMP officer's testimony about N.S. mass shooter

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HALIFAX — The testimony of an RCMP officer once described by another police officer as a “friend” of the man behind the 2020 mass shooting in Nova Scotia will not be publicly broadcast when he appears before the inquiry investigating the rampage.

The commission probing the mass shooting in rural Nova Scotia that left 22 people dead issued a written decision on Friday saying Const. Greg Wiley will answer questions via video, but his testimony will not be available to the public in real-time. Instead, a transcript of his remarks will be posted to the commission's website.

He will be the first witness to speak before the mass casualty commission whose testimony will not be aired on the livestream that has been used throughout the proceedings.

“In order to receive the best information possible from Const. Wiley, we have directed that Const. Wiley’s testimony not be webcast and a transcript be posted on the website,” the decision reads.

The request for accommodation was made by the federal Attorney General and means that video and audio of Wiley’s answers “shall not be disseminated, released, published, or shared.”

The commission said Wiley’s scheduled Zoom appearance can be viewed by inquiry participants, media and members of the public who request to watch the virtual testimony. Live audio access to the proceedings will also be available by phone.

Wiley is the officer who was asked in 2010 to look into whether Gabriel Wortman — the gunman behind the deadly shooting spree — had firearms at his home in Portapique, N.S. when Wortman had threatened to kill his parents.

The investigation into the alleged death threat did not lead to any charges.

In his interview last year, Wiley told the commission’s investigators he had a good rapport with Wortman and that they often had brief "chinwags" at the killer's residence. Wiley estimated he visited Wortman in the “ballpark” of 15 occasions over the years, but he said he hadn’t noticed anything unusual.

According to a report shared by the inquiry in May, the Halifax Regional Police service led the 2010 investigation into Wortman's threats against his parents. The investigating officer, now-retired sgt. Cordell Poirier, had referred to Wiley as a "friend" of Wortman, the report said. Poirier had said he asked Wiley on several occasions to visit Wortman's Portapique residence to check for firearms and to determine if a search warrant was needed.

Wortman's spouse, Lisa Banfield, told the inquiry on July 15 that Wiley had come to the Portapique property in June 2010 to see if there were guns at the residence. Wiley's visit came after Wortman's threats.

Banfield said Wiley was shown antique guns in the house during a visit that lasted 10 minutes.

During his interview last year with lawyers for the public inquiry, Wiley was unable to recall details of the June 2010 investigation. In a followup letter to the inquiry, a lawyer for the RCMP said Wiley no longer had his notes from that time.

Wiley is also connected to a 2017 murder case that is under federal review.

Susie Butlin, from Bayhead, N.S., had complained to the RCMP about being sexually assaulted and harassed by Ernest Ross Duggan before he killed her in September 2017. In August of that year, Wiley received Butlin’s complaints of harassment and was assigned as lead investigator.

According to the internal police report, Wiley "determined there was no basis for charges" and advised her to block Duggan on Facebook.

The investigation into Butlin's death is now under a federal civilian review examining the RCMP's response to her complaints and the adequacy of its handling of sexual assault investigations.

Wiley is scheduled to answer questions from the commission on Tuesday afternoon.

The commission has previously allowed accommodations for RCMP witnesses. In May it allowed two senior Mounties to answer questions in recorded sessions instead of testifying before lawyers and participants.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 3, 2022.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Lyndsay Armstrong, The Canadian Press