The Laker News logo as created by Liane Rogers. (Healey photo)

The worst mass shooting in modern Canadian history deserves an inquiry.

It is as simple as that. Pretty common sense right? Well, it seems the federal and provincial governments disagree.

What the provincial and federal governments announced on Thursday—an independent review into April’s mass shooting that left 22 dead—will not get the answers needed. It also won’t have the teeth to make the recommendations that can be implemented to make changes to ensure something as senseless as what took place April 18-19 doesn’t ever happen again.

Since the review panel decision was announced, online outrage has poured out from across Canada as people stand alongside the family members. They are upset and disgusted, as they should be, at the provincial and federal governments’ decision. They had been calling for an inquiry and have insisted from the beginning that an inquiry is what they wanted and needed.

Instead, Nova Scotia’s Justice Minister Mark Furey and Federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair gave them an independent review panel made up of three people.

Those three choices—J. Michael MacDonald as chair, a retired judge; Noel Shore native Anne McLellan and retired Fredericton Police Chief Leanne Fitch are knowledgeable and highly respected individuals. Those are great choices. I have no problem with them.

But they would also be great choices for an inquiry, not a review that cannot allow healing to begin when it’s done behind closed doors and only the interim and final reports are made public. That is a complete shame.

Furey has said a review would be the quickest way to get responses, while an inquiry could take upwards of two years. It seems the family members are okay with that time frame. They do not want quick. They want—and they deserve–the truth, and anything less is adding pain to their already overwhelming grief.

While the families and friends of the victims, Nova Scotians and Canadians are at the forefront in demanding and needing a full and independent public inquiry, there is another group that does too. The responding officers who came upon the carnage of April 18 and 19, the boots on the ground officers who did the best they could in the face of horror. They and their families need answers too.

Those who tracked the gunman for 13 hours from Portapique to the Enfield Big Stop where he was shot and killed. The officers who responded for a “shots fired” complaint and were met with fires and seven dead bodies as they arrived in Portapique on that awful, chaotic night. They deserve an inquiry so they won’t find themselves in a similar situation in the future.

There were no doubt mistakes made. I’m almost certain none of us would have wanted to be in the boots of those responding officers–I know I wouldn’t. They were walking into the unknown. They had no idea what exactly was happening, how many shooters were there, was the shooter dead, or still in the vast wooded area?

There are many questions that the higher ups in the RCMP need to answer for—why they did or didn’t instruct those on scene to do certain things. Why local municipal police forces were not utilized. Why was no emergency alert issued, and so much more. Answers are needed for all the families to begin their healing process, and for the province to have faith everything will be done to ensure this won’t happen again.

Many of the officers on scene that night have also been left traumatized and don’t deserve any of the blame for the resulting outcome. They did the best they could with the training, guidance, information and experience they had.

The victims’ families, Nova Scotians, Canadians and those responding officers are owed an inquiry, not a review. We should be outraged and keep the pressure on to demand the decision to hold a review be reversed to a full and independent public inquiry.

An inquiry shouldn’t be viewed as a way to place blame, but rather as the only way to make necessary improvements so that something like this massacre never happens again.

If we are really all in this together, as Premier Stephen McNeil has frequently said, the only way to follow through with that statement is by holding an inquiry. We need to do it for the 22 much loved human beings who died tragically over that 13-hour span.

  • Pat Healey