Almost three months after a gunman dressed as an RCMP officer committed the worst mass killing in Canadian history, Nova Scotians are still waiting on a public inquiry that will examine how police handled the rampage that left 22 people dead.
Bill Casey, the former Cumberland-Colchester MP, said that without a full, independent inquiry into the April rampage, the RCMP can’t be trusted to provide the transparency needed to learn from the attacks.
“The RCMP consider themselves to be above accountability. I’m fearful without an inquiry they will only give us the information they want to give us,” said Mr. Casey, who for more than 30 years represented the community where the rampage began, Portapique, N.S.
“I want the RCMP to be the best they can be. But we can’t improve if we don’t know what’s going on.”
A spokesperson with Nova Scotia’s Department of Justice said on Monday an announcement on a federal-provincial inquiry “is forthcoming,” but did not elaborate. The Nova Scotia RCMP have said they’d welcome an inquiry into the shootings.
Mr. Casey said any inquiry will need to examine the police’s use of emergency communications. Nova Scotia RCMP have been criticized for not using the province’s emergency alert system during the shootings, instead notifying the public on Twitter that an armed man driving a look-alike RCMP cruiser was on the loose.
The gunman also managed to elude police for hours while he continued his attack after he drove away from Portapique before midnight on April 18. Police were told the night the attacks began he was driving a mock RCMP vehicle, information that wasn’t shared publicly until the next morning.
“We just know that mistakes were made,” Mr. Casey said. “And we know that communications were a significant failure.”
A Globe investigation revealed a pattern of violence and disturbing behaviour that should have raised red flags in the gunman’s past. That includes a 2001 assault on a 15-year-old boy, death threats against his parents in 2010, a 2011 police safety bulletin that warned he had guns and wanted to kill a cop and a 2013 weapons complaint by a neighbour that also reported a violent attack on his spouse.
An anti-domestic violence group in Truro, N.S., called Persons Against Non-State Torture said it is concerned any inquiry into the killings won’t probe misogyny within the RCMP that it says causes domestic abuse complaints not to be taken seriously.
The gunman responsible for the attacks on April 18-19 started his rampage with an assault on his spouse; he was never charged in connection with the 2013 incident. Linda MacDonald, a nurse who co-founded the Truro group with Jeanne Sarson, wants to know why police didn’t investigate the earlier complaints more deeply, and why some people looked the other way when they witnessed his violence or were too afraid to report it.
“That whole framework of misogyny is really important, or else there’s going to be a gaping hole in the inquiry,” Ms. MacDonald said. “What do we do, just let these men maraud the earth because we’re afraid of them?”
The RCMP initially said it had no record of a 2013 complaint from a neighbour concerned about a violent attack on the gunman’s spouse and a collection of illegal guns. It later confirmed the complaint was made, but couldn’t say what happened after two officers handled the file.
The gunman, a denturist who owned a clinic in Dartmouth, also sexually violated one of his clients, Ms. MacDonald said. A larger pattern in his treatment of women needs to be examined, she said.
“You can’t separate misogyny out of his behaviour,” Ms. Sarson added. “Not only was he violent toward his partner, but other women had fear of him. He had a serial misogyny of women. So you have to look broader than just how he treated his partner.”
Both say Women and Gender Equality Canada, a federal department tasked with advancing women’s equality, should press for an examination of misogyny to be a part of any federal-provincial inquiry into the killings. They’re disappointed the department says that’s not part of its mandate.
The province’s Justice Minister, Mark Furey, announced last month there would be a joint probe of the killings, but has not provided any details on what that might look like. The federal department of Public Safety also gave no indication on Monday when an inquiry might begin.
“Our governments are working together to ensure that we take all lessons to be learned from this tragedy, and both are considering all possible tools and avenues of investigation. We will do everything possible to ensure tragedies like this one never happen again,” said Mary-Liz Power, press secretary for Public Safety Minister Bill Blair.
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