Trudeau promises change as Ottawa reacts to N.S. mass shooting report
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised changes in the wake of the inquiry into the 2020 mass shooting in Nova Scotia that left 22 people dead.
After listening to seven months of witness testimony and reviewing thousands of pages of documents, the Mass Casualty Commission (MCC) released its sprawling final report Thursday — 130 recommendations spanning more than 3,000 pages.
The report gave a scathing review of the RCMP for its failure to warn community members of the danger they were in, which deprived them of potentially life-saving information.
Trudeau was on hand in Truro, N.S. when the commission delivered its final report on Thursday. He told reporters that changes would be made but said the government would "digest" the recommendations first.
"There's no question there need to be changes and there will be," he said. "But we will take the time to get those right."
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, who is responsible for the RCMP, echoed Trudeau's remarks.
WATCH | RCMP needs to improve communication with the public, report says:
"We're committed to strengthening oversight, to strengthening accountability, to strengthening transparency so that Canadians can have trust and confidence in the RCMP and all of their law enforcement institutions," he told a news conference, adding that the government would study the commission's recommendations "very carefully."
"My job as the minister of public safety is to hold the RCMP and law enforcement to account, to make sure we make the reforms that are necessary so that this kind of tragedy never happens again."
The report took aim at the RCMP's response to the crisis on almost every level. It called out a lack of preparation, a lack of communication and a lack of leadership — issues so important the commissioners are calling for a root-and-branch review of how the entire force operates.
Out of 130 recommendations in the report, more than half are aimed at the RCMP and policing culture.
One of the higher-profile recommendations calls on the federal public safety minister to commission an independent review of the RCMP and to examine the force's approach to contract policing and its work with contract partners, such as the province of Nova Scotia.
The report also recommends that:
The RCMP adopt a policy of admitting its mistakes and accepting responsibility for them, and ensure that accountability mechanisms are in place for addressing its errors.
A demonstrated capacity to accept responsibility for errors should be a factor for any promotion within the RCMP.
The RCMP phase out the depot model of training by 2032, and that Public Safety Canada work with provinces and territories to establish a three-year, degree-based model of police education for all police services in Canada.
MPs call for RCMP reform
Conservative Nova Scotia MPs Rick Perkins, Stephen Ellis and Chris d'Entremont, along with Conservative Sen. Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu, criticized the commission and the government's handling of the inquiry.
"From the outset, the main focus of the MCC's efforts should have been on the victims' families. It was very clear from the early stages that not only did families have minimal involvement in the process, but they would not be allowed to interview witnesses," they said in a media statement.
They also cited the controversy over whether then-public safety minister Bill Blair's office directed former RCMP commissioner Brenda Lucki to get the RCMP to disclose the weapons that were used in the shooting.
"In the aftermath of the shooting, there was also significant alleged interference for political gain. Promises to the government to release specific investigative details could have jeopardized the entire investigation," they said.
Speaking to reporters, Perkins expressed disappointment with the RCMP's response to the shooting.
"I think there's some issues with regard to contract policing and the ability of the RCMP to provide the level of support that we need," he said.
Perkins also accused RCMP leadership of failing to implement sufficient reforms after the 2016 mass shooting in Moncton, N.B., where a gunman killed three RCMP officers.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said in a media statement that the report confirmed "what many Nova Scotians already suspected — that the RCMP failed to prevent or contain the gunman's rampage and that their response was inadequate and disorganized.
"We must learn from these failures and take action to ensure that such a tragedy never happens again."
Singh added his party would like to see changes to how police respond to gender-based violence and called on the government to adopt the commission's recommendations on that front "without delay."
NDP MP Peter Julian said changes in policing are long overdue.
"[The report] tragically, sadly, points the way to reforms that should have been put into place years ago," he said.
"We know this government has not acted on police reforms around training, around communication, around responses to victims, and this has to be a wake-up call for the government."
WATCH | 'The government has to take these responsibilities seriously': NDP MP on Mass Casualty Commission report
Minister of Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair, who was public safety minister when the tragedy occurred and appointed the commissioners, commended the MCC's recommendations.
"There's a lot in those recommendations that I think is very, very important to ensuring these type of tragic events never occur again, and that should they occur, the response is appropriate and what people need," Blair said.
Blair, who served as chief of police in Toronto prior to entering politics, said a critical look at policing is especially important as the country grapples with a rise in crime.
The massacre prompted debate about gun control in Canada and the government banned approximately 1,500 models of assault-style weapons shortly after.
"We're always respectful of the legitimate, lawful rights of hunters and sports shooters. There are some weapons simply so dangerous that they have no real place in our society, and we are committed to effective gun control," Blair said.