The governments of Canada and Nova Scotia have announced a three-member panel will conduct an independent review into the mass shootings that began in Portapique on April 18 and 19.
The panel will consider the causes that led to the event, as well as evaluating the police response, how well authorities informed the public of what was transpiring and what was done to support and engage victims, families and residents.
The panel will be chaired by former Chief Justice of Nova Scotia Michael MacDonald.
It also includes former Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan and Leanne Fitch who served as Fredericton chief of police for seven years during her 34-year municipal policing career.
Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair and Nova Scotia Attorney General and Minister of Justice Mark Furey have committed the agencies and organizations under their jurisdictions to cooperate with this review and provide the panel with whatever it needs to fulfill its mandate.
Those organizations include the RCMP, the Canada Firearms Program, the Canada Border Services Agency, the Criminal Intelligence Service and the national Alert Ready program.
When announcing the independent panel, both ministers were repeatedly asked why their governments didn’t move forward instead with an inquiry with the power to compel testimony under oath.
Furey said they heard from families affected by the tragedy that they wanted answers and they wanted them in a timely fashion.
“We felt that the review process itself, provided the most timely opportunity in setting up a panel and the most timely opportunity for the earliest responses,” Furey said.
The three-member panel have been tasked with not only examining the actions that led up to the tragedy, but also to form recommendations for government and law enforcement agencies to prevent something like this from happening or to be better prepared if it does happen again.
The panel cannot compel those bodies to follow their recommendations, but Furey said his department will be taking their responses seriously.
“It’s the commitment of individual governments to ensure that recommendations are implemented," Furey said. "I think I can speak for both Minister Blair and myself that that is our objective.”
Both levels of government have heard calls for a review of this April’s events since it took place.
Around 300 people marched on the Bible Hill RCMP detachment Wednesday morning, calling again for an inquiry into the shootings.
Furey said his office and their federal counterparts needed the time to find the right process and the right people.
“That experience in judicial fact-finding, that experience in the areas of gender-based violence and intimate partner violence, that experience in understanding government, provincial and federal relations, public policy, was critical to ensure that the review panel was positioned to be successful," he said.
The panel now has until February 28, 2021, to present an interim report, which will also be made available to the public.
The panel’s final report setting out findings and recommendations will be delivered to the ministers by August 31, 2021.
Reported by Ed Halverson