HALIFAX — Protesters gathered at two Nova Scotia locations Monday as family members of mass shooting victims vowed to maintain pressure on Ottawa and the province to hold a full public inquiry into the rampage.
About 100 people gathered in Bridgewater, N.S., for a march to the office of the province’s justice minister, while a similar number gathered for a rally organized by women’s centres and feminist groups at a Halifax park.
The protests followed last week’s announcement by the provincial and federal governments of an independent review, which has been criticized by relatives of the 22 victims as lacking transparency and legal heft.
Emily Stewart, executive director of Third Place Transition House — a women’s shelter that serves several counties where killings occurred on April 18 and 19 — told the Halifax gathering that a public inquiry could reveal the role that domestic violence played in the mass shooting.
She said there were many signs of the 51-year-old gunman’s potential for violence that an open inquiry could explore.
“There were too many red flags,” she said during her address.
She cited past reports to police of death threats made by the gunman, his coercion and control of his common law spouse and his possession of illegal weapons.
These are all well-known signals of potential violence against women that the public should hear about through testimony in a public setting, Stewart said. The gunman was killed by police on April 19.
Meanwhile, in Bridgewater, N.S., co-organizer Desiree Gordon estimated about 100 people marched to the riding office of Justice Minister Mark Furey, joined by the provincial Progressive Conservative and NDP leaders.
She said 22 people and a child lay down during the protest to symbolize the lost lives.
Harry Bond, whose parents Peter and Joy Bond were killed in the mass shooting, drove to the Bridgewater event, and he says he will continue attending such events until a public inquiry is announced.
“I don’t plan on stopping,” he said during a telephone interview.
“It’s not something we want to do, but with them wanting to do a review instead of a public inquiry, it’s something we’re forced to do.”
Bond and his brother attended a march last Wednesday of close to 300 relatives of victims and their supporters in Bible Hill, N.S., and they will attend a family march planned for Wednesday morning in front of the legislature.
He said he’s encouraged to see citizens who have no direct connection to the tragedy marching alongside family groups.
“We have a new family … They have our back, plain and simple. Probably 80 per cent of the people there this morning, I don’t know who they are,” he said.
Activists, lawyers, Nova Scotia opposition parties and senators from across Canada have joined the call for an inquiry in recent months, expressing disappointment in the governments’ chosen format.
The federal and Nova Scotia governments said last week that a three-person panel would be established to review the killings and the police response.
That review body will be led by Michael MacDonald, a former chief justice of Nova Scotia, and includes former federal Liberal cabinet minister Anne McLellan, and Leanne Fitch, the former chief of police in Fredericton.
The terms of reference announced last week say “all documents and information collected” by the review panel during its work or in preparation of its report “shall be kept confidential.”
The review panel is to complete an interim report by Feb. 28, 2021 and a final report by Aug. 31, 2021.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 27, 2020.
Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press