Dalhousie law professors ask premier to launch public inquiry into mass shooting

Dalhousie law professors ask premier to launch public inquiry into mass shooting

HALIFAX — More than 30 faculty members at Dalhousie University’s law school have signed a letter urging Nova Scotia’s premier to call an independent public inquiry into the shooting rampage that took 22 lives last month.

On Thursday, Premier Stephen McNeil said a review of the tragedy should be led by Ottawa, with the province providing support and assistance.

However, 33 of the roughly 40 faculty members of the Halifax university’s Schulich School of Law signed a letter on Friday urging McNeil to initiate a public inquiry with broad terms of reference.

They say in the letter the inquiry’s terms must allow for a critical review of the procedures and decisions employed by police during the April 18 and 19 shootings, and in the months and years leading up to the tragedy.

They also want the inquiry to consider broader social and legal issues that may have been contributing factors, including domestic violence.

“An internal investigation will not suffice. Independence, impartiality and transparency are essential components of maintaining public confidence in the administration of justice. Only a public inquiry can satisfy these requirements,” they say in the letter.

The premier again said Friday he believes Ottawa should lead the inquiry into the shooting because the RCMP is a federal police force with national protocols.

“We can only call an inquiry that constitutionally fall under the responsibility of the province of Nova Scotia. While we have the responsibility for policing, it’s clear the RCMP fall under the Constitution with the federal government, as well as the firearms fall under the Constitution with the federal government,” McNeil said.

“With all respect to the law professors, we believe the federal government … should be the one who would call for whatever they determine for a review.”

However, the professors’ letter says Nova Scotia is responsible for law enforcement and the administration of justice in the province.

“The process that your government sets in motion now must be robust enough to assure Nova Scotians that you are doing all that is in your power to ensure that this will never happen again,” the letter says.

Family members and legal experts have repeatedly called for more information on the police handling of the rampage, which lasted more than 12 hours.

The perpetrator’s prior history of domestic violence has also been raised as a key issue to examine.

The Mounties provided a timeline of the rampage indicating that it began in Portapique, N.S., on April 18 after a domestic assault incident where Gabriel Wortman detained and abused his common law wife.

Police have said she managed to escape into nearby woods where she hid until early in the morning of April 19.

Earlier this week, a former neighbour of Wortman said she reported an account of a 2013 incident of domestic violence by Wortman to the RCMP in Truro.

Brenda Forbes said she reported witnesses telling her that Wortman had strangled and beaten his common law partner, and she said she told police there were guns in the house.

The RCMP said in an email Friday they can’t find a record of the complaint at this point.

The legal scholars say the public inquiry could establish what prior abuse occurred and explore the role it played in Wortman’s evolution into a mass killer.

Amanda Dale, a feminist legal scholar based in Chelsea, Que., said in an email that “the behaviour of the perpetrator in the Nova Scotia mass shooting was classic behaviour for a misogynist.”

She said an inquiry could subpoena documents and bring witnesses forward to “compel a truth-seeking exercise,” where witnesses wouldn’t face repercussions for giving their testimony.

Dale, a member of the advisory committee of the Canadian Centre for Legal Innovation in Sexual Assault Response, said an inquiry could also assemble expert testimony on the links between domestic assault and acts of mass shooting that have occurred in Canada.

She said areas to consider in the Nova Scotia mass shooting include an examination of the adequacy of existing gun control laws and the so-called “red flag” laws that allow people to report imminent risk of gun violence.

There are also unanswered questions about how Wortman managed to obtain replica police vehicles and decorate them with RCMP decals and how he obtained four semi-automatic weapons.

In addition, the Mounties have faced questions about why they relied on social media to advise the public of an active shooter when they could have sent an emergency notification to every phone in the province. Some relatives who lost loved ones have called for the issue to be examined as part of a public inquiry.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 15, 2020.

Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press

Mass shootings

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Shaela Dansereau/ The Pipestone Flyer
City of Wetaskiwin cases rapidly climbing

City of Wetaskiwin reporting 11 active cases of COVID-19

Photo submitted/ Rita-anne Fuss
Distancing Diamond Project in Millet for mental health

Distancing Diamonds allow for social distancing community gathering.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, confirmed more than 1,000 cases over the weekend Monday afternoon. File photo
COVID-19: Central zone active cases up Monday

‘We’ve now crossed the tipping point,’ says Hinshaw

The death of 19-year-old Jacob Michael Chitze of Edmonton has now been ruled a homicide following an ongoing RCMP investigation.
UPDATE: RCMP arrest youth for second degree murder of 19-year-old Jacob Chitze

Arrest made for the murder of Jacob Michael Chitze, 19.

Pumpkins for the 46th Annual WDACS Pumpkin Ball on display at Vision Credit Union Wetaskiwin. Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer.
46th Annual Pumpkin Ball held virtually this year

This year the pumpkins were sold over a six-day online auction.

Wetaskiwin Hospital staff join AUPE walk outs across the province Monday Oct. 26, 2020. Shaela Dansereau/ The Pipestone Flyer.
City of Wetaskiwin health-care workers strike in protest of province-wide cuts

Wetaskiwin Hospital staff join other front line hospital workers across the province in walk-outs.

Cases in Ponoka (East Ponoka County) as of Oct. 27. (alberta.ca)
Diagnosed cases of COVID-19 at three Ponoka businesses

Town ‘strongly encouraging’ residents to wear non-medical masks in public

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau says pandemic ‘really sucks,’ and that Christmas gatherings are up in the air

The prime minister encouraged residents to continue to follow the advice of local health authorities

The Williams Lake Indian Band is stipulating no-go zones for mushroom picking in areas burned by last summer’s wildfires. 100 Mile Free Press photo
Who controls mushroom harvesting on Indigenous lands?

‘We don’t necessarily know where the mushrooms grow, how old the stands need to be, those types of things.’

Canadian and American flags fly near the Ambassador Bridge at the Canada/USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont. on Saturday, March 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke
U.S. election results one factor that could impact immigration to Canada next year

The survey polled 1,523 Canadians between Oct. 23 and Oct. 25

Alberta’s provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Monday July 6, 2020. The Alberta government is hoping to get more Albertans employed by moving to limit the number and type of temporary foreign workers it allows into the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Alberta to limit temporary foreign worker program to save jobs for Albertans

Temporary foreign workers already in the province won’t be affected

(Emily Jaycox/Bashaw Star)
Wreath laying ceremony held in Manfred, Alta.

Ceremony marks 64th anniversary of Hungarian revolution, honours settlers

Submitted
Montana First Nations councillor gives back to youth

By Chevi Rabbit For Ponoka News Reggie Rabbit is a newly elected… Continue reading

Royal Alexandra Hospital front-line workers walk a picket line after walking off the job in a wildcat strike in Edmonton, on Monday, October 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta labour board orders health-care staff who walked off the job to go back to work

Finance Minister Travis Toews said in a news release that he was pleased with the labour board’s decision

Most Read