Ottawa and Nova Scotia announced Thursday that a three-person panel will review the mass shooting that left 22 victims dead in April, though it will not be a fully public process.
Calling the killings “shocking and deeply concerning to all Canadians,” Federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair noted many people have called for a comprehensive review.
“They want to know about all the circumstances that led to it, and perhaps most importantly, they want to know what we must do to make sure it does not happen again,” he told a news conference.
The panel’s interim and final reports will be presented next year to Blair and provincial Justice Minister Mark Furey before being made public. However, it appears little — if any — of the review will be conducted in open hearings.
The panel’s terms of reference don’t contain provisions to compel witnesses to speak under oath, and they say information collected in the preparation of its report “shall be kept confidential.”
The panel will be led by the former chief justice of Nova Scotia, Michael MacDonald, who will be joined by former federal Liberal cabinet minister Anne McLellan, and Leanne Fitch, the former chief of police in Fredericton.
Family members of victims have called for a full public inquiry that would include a comprehensive look at how the RCMP handled the April 18-19 shootings in central and northern Nova Scotia.
Furey said he expects the panel to take a “hard, broad and objective look” at what happened.
“We’ve heard the calls for answers and know that the survivors, families of the victims and the broader public want a process to get answers that is independent from government and will make recommendations in an impartial and transparent manner,” Furey said. “This review responds to those needs.”
On Wednesday, close to 300 relatives of victims and their supporters marched to the local RCMP headquarters in Bible Hill, N.S., emphasizing their desire for a transparent and open inquiry.
A news release from the federal and provincial governments says the panel’s mandate is to conduct a broad review that includes the causes of the tragedy, the response of police and the way families of victims and affected citizens were dealt with.
The review panel is to complete its interim report by Feb. 28, 2021 and a final report by Aug. 31, 2021.
According to the terms of reference, the governments will consider the panel’s recommendations and commit to implementing them, “where reasonable,” within a reasonable time.
In a statement the RCMP’s commanding officer in Nova Scotia, Assistant Commissioner Lee Bergerman, said the force welcomes the review.
“We support the independent review and will co-operate fully,” she said. She said April’s unprecedented events had forever affected victims’ families foremost, but also RCMP employees across the province, particularly those who were involved in the incident.
“We owe it to the memory of those we lost to learn as much as we can from this terrible tragedy,” Bergerman said.
Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press
Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.