NS shooting: Families fear report will be ‘tablet’

The families of the victims of the Nova Scotia massacre on Wednesday called for the creation of an oversight committee to ensure that the recommendations of the public inquiry into the tragedy do not go to die on the shelves.

In his closing remarks, Tom Macdonald, lawyer for the brother of the victim Sean McLeod, considered that this select committee should include representatives of the provincial and federal governments and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, but also a representative of the families of the victims.

This committee would be chaired by a single “main responsible for the implementation” of the recommendations of the commission, who should hold the federal and Nova Scotian governments to account, he pleaded before the commissioners.

The lawyer said the murders of Sean McLeod and his wife, Alanna Jenkins, in West Wentworth, on the second day of the killings, along with the other 20 people – including a pregnant woman – murdered on April 18 and 19, 2020, demanded lasting reforms.

“In two years, we may have a totally different direction at the RCMP, a different Minister of Public Safety, maybe a different government, and these (recommendations) are too important to be left to the vagaries of change,” pleaded Me Macdonald.

He told commissioners there was “voluminous” evidence of police shortcomings, including early confusion over which staff sergeant should oversee operations, poor knowledge of local geography and “unacceptable” delays in public alerts of an active shooter driving a replica patrol car.

Steve Topshee, a lawyer whose firm represents the families of victims Lillian Campbell, Aaron Tuck, Jolene Oliver and Emily Tuck, also spoke of the need for a mechanism that will follow up on the recommendations of the commission of inquiry.

Without reforms, he said, the Nova Scotia government should seriously consider whether it should continue to contract with the RCMP for field policing.

The commission cannot lay blame or conclude any criminal or civil responsibility for this tragedy. On the other hand, the commission will publish non-binding recommendations to prevent such tragedies from happening again.

More collaboration

Jane Lenehan, who represents the family of Gina Goulet, who was murdered on Sunday morning, said the image of the RCMP in Nova Scotia has taken a hit, despite the bravery of some officers during the killings. “The vision and mystique of the RCMP’s red uniform, this comforting and reassuring image, has been shattered,” she said Wednesday.

Ms. Lenehan said her clients were shocked to learn of the poor relationship between the RCMP and local law enforcement — she noted that during the investigation, police even admitted that this relationship had only ‘to get worse.

The lawyer for the 22nd victim of the killer asked the commissioners to recommend that there be more collaboration between the various police forces. She also wanted a permanent moratorium on the sale to the general public of former RCMP vehicles.

The killer managed to evade police for 13 hours and fooled many of his victims because he was driving an exact replica RCMP cruiser.

Mr. Lenehan argued that the proceeds from the auction of old federal police vehicles were not worth the risk it posed to public safety. According to her, the federal government should instead get rid of the old RCMP vehicles by selling the parts and scrap metal.

Gender-based violence

During a short afternoon session on Wednesday, the commission was also asked to make strong recommendations to combat gender and domestic violence.

The commission had already heard witnesses recall that the outburst of the killer had been preceded by an attack on his spouse, Lisa Banfield. The evidence collected revealed that he had used coercive tactics against her throughout a 19-year affair, but also against other women in his life.

On behalf of a coalition of advocacy and support organizations such as women’s shelters, lawyer Jamie Goodwin said the commission must use its platform to challenge the “false dichotomy” between public and private violence.

“We cannot make sense of the April 2020 killings without understanding the perpetrator’s history of domestic, gender-based and spousal violence,” Goodwin said.

NS shooting: Families fear report will be ‘tablet’