A lawyer for the RCMP and the federal government became emotional on the final day of a public inquiry into the mass shooting in Nova Scotia by acknowledging that the police response to the massacre was “far from perfect”.
Lori Ward, counsel for the Attorney General of Canada, made a final oral statement Friday before the Mass Casualty Commission in Truro, Nova Scotia, which heard from counsel and participants this week.
The commission is leading the investigation into the rampage in rural Nova Scotia where gunman Gabriel Wortman burned homes and killed neighbors, acquaintances and strangers on April 18 and 19, 2020, while driving a fake police car. Twenty-two people, including a pregnant woman, were killed.
“In the face of such a tragedy, the urge to lay blame is strong and the person who bears the ultimate responsibility is not there,” Ward said.
“He’s taken out of the narrative, and the focus becomes what others did or didn’t do to stop him. Those who are left behind and couldn’t stop the violence are at the center of the story. anger.”
Ward said some things during and after the shooting went according to police plans and training, others “didn’t work out the way they should have.”
She cited two examples that were mentioned several times during the investigation by the lawyers for the families of the victims.
Ward said it was “obvious” the roughly 19 hours it took to find the Bond and Tuck-Oliver families on Cobequid Court in Portapique – where the violence began – was far too long.
“The anguish felt by the families of these victims at the thought of this time is unimaginable, and we recognize that suffering,” Ward said, his voice cracking.
Likewise, she said the scene security at victim Gina Goulet’s home was mishandled and “shouldn’t have happened.”
Goulet’s daughter and son-in-law said no one told them when they could return to the house, and when they finally did, they discovered blood and a casing. They arranged to have the house cleaned themselves.
Ward also said problems encountered by RCMP Bible Hill Detachment officers using the Pictometry force mapping program, which is based on satellite imagery, show it needs to be easier to access. . Better GPS technology would have allowed more immediate response teams to get to Portapique, she said.
It’s also clear that radio communications were a problem, Ward said, as critical information was not heard or replayed to ensure the right people recognized it, such as how two victims of the Portapique shooting survived.
There were also speed and accuracy issues with social media posts sent out by the RCMP, Ward said. The first tweet on April 18 referred to the incident as a gun complaint, which did not explain the seriousness of the situation. The next day there was a delay in sending information about the shooter’s fake cruiser.
“These are just a few examples of things the RCMP wishes it could go back in time and change. Some relate to training, equipment and resources, others are simply human errors. All are regrettable,” Ward said.
Many families of victims and others affected by the mass shooting attended the final week of the inquest to hear closing remarks, as they have throughout the commission.
Volunteer firefighter Darrell Currie said the end of public hearings on Friday was an “exhalation type day” for him and many families who often gather around the same tables in hotels and convention centers around Halifax, Dartmouth and Truro to watch the survey since February. .
Currie and Greg Muise, Deputy Chief and Fire Chief of the Onslow Belmont Fire Brigade, were both inside their fire hall on April 19, 2020, when two RCMP officers opened fire on the building, mistakenly believing they were shooting the shooter.
“You know, the reason is not good that we’re all here together, but there’s definitely a good group of friends, and I mean it’s going to be hard to walk away from that,” Currie said. Thursday outside the investigation.
“But I think it will be a relief that this phase is over.”
Currie said it was important for him to come in person for about 70 days of the proceedings to hear what was being said and to support the families of the victims. Although it seemed “somewhat therapeutic” at first for himself as well, Currie said the long days and piles of paperwork had become overwhelming.
Although some family members said they were left with questions and concerns, Currie said he learned a lot throughout the investigation and had the satisfaction of speaking his mind. thought when he testified alongside Muise.
“I was allowed to say whatever I wanted to say where a lot of families haven’t had that opportunity,” Currie said.
Commissioners Michael MacDonald, Kim Stanton and Leanne Fitch also delivered their closing remarks on Friday, summarizing the testimony, documents and panels that took place to meet their broad mandate.
They were tasked with not only examining the mass shootings themselves, but also underlying factors such as domestic violence, access to firearms, police structures and emergency communications.
“After today, the public debates of the commission are over. But our work is far from done. Although you may not hear from us as often, or see us in our daily debates , in the weeks and months to come, we will focus exclusively on preparing and completing the commission’s final report,” said Fitch.
“We commissioners have been entrusted with a great responsibility and we will continue to do our utmost to live up to that.”
The report will be shared publicly by March 31, 2023, and will include guidance on who should implement each recommendation and when, Fitch said.