Shooting victims’ families deserve an inquiry

Justice minister and former RCMP officer Mark Furey. Photo: Communications NS

An independent review isn’t what the people affected by the Nova Scotia mass shooting want or deserve.

But it’s exactly what the federal and provincial governments have announced in regards to Canada’s largest mass shooting that happened on our own soil, in our own communities, in our own yards and streets.

For three months, families of 22 victims (including one pregnant with her second child) have sought answers. And they’ll probably never get them with an independent review.

Families and many other Canadians have been calling for transparency, a full public inquiry into the shootings on April 18 and 19, as well as the events leading up to the tragedy, and the police response. Many also want it to include a feminist analysis, as the gunman had a violent past and this tragedy began with a domestic assault.

A public inquiry could get those answers.

While an independent review may provide some answers, it falls short in so many ways. There are a number of key differences between a review and a public inquiry, and those differences could mean we will never know exactly what happened.

Under a public inquiry, judges can compel witnesses to testify and produce evidence under oath. The panelists of the review don’t have that power.

If witnesses don’t have to testify under oath, how do we know they’re telling the truth? With a review, those witnesses can either lie to the panelists, or not participate whatsoever. There’s also no legal penalties for lying in a review.

With a public inquiry, all evidence and testimony is public record. Witnesses can be cross-examined. Everything would be out in the open for all to see and hear. Under a review, the panelists have the choice as to what, if anything, is made public. Evidence and testimony can remain secret.

And with public inquiries, binding recommendations are often a result. In a review, the government has no obligation to adopt recommendations.

Thirteen hours: that’s how long the gunman was on the loose, evading police, killing innocent people.

Twenty-three victims: fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, police and peace officers, volunteers, nurses, and the unborn were among them. Many of the victims became victims when they went to help friends and neighbours. Those out for an innocent walk or driving to visit family were also taken in an instant.

Yet the governments have decided the families, friends, and the public don’t deserve to know what happened.

Premier McNeil needs to call a full public inquiry. It’s what victims’ families have demanded for the past three plus months.

When announcing the review, provincial justice minister and former RCMP officer Mark Furey admitted the families want a public inquiry and no one requested this independent review. Yet he and his government colleagues insist a review is the right response for this tragedy.

For whom?

For the victims? For their families? The public?

Or the right move for government and police?

This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.

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