Calls for public inquiry into Canada’s worst mass shooting grow in Nova Scotia

As Nova Scotia’s police watch dog continues to investigate the deadliest mass shooting in Canadian history, pressure is mounting on the province’s premier to commit to a public inquiry.

The horrific attack between April 18 and 19 left 23 people dead, including the shooter. Without the perpetrator’s testimony, experts say an inquiry may be the only way to get the answers sought by victims’ families and the general public.

“From my perspective, it’s beyond question that there’s a compelling need for an inquiry into this complex range of events,” said Dalhousie University law professor Archie Kaiser on Saturday.

“It’s an unprecedented crime in Canadian history… it’s obvious results mean the public is going to require an earnest, thorough, independent examination.”

At his daily briefing on Friday, Premier Stephen McNeil fell short of promising to order an inquiry, but said he has asked Attorney General and Justice Minister Mark Furey to “look at what are the possibilities as he works with his national partners.”

A provincial public inquiry can be launched under either the Public Inquiries Act or the Fatality Investigations Act. Kaiser said the former may be more appropriate.

“I think that the issues involved in these crimes and the public response to them are so complicated, that the focus on death that’s mandated under the Fatality Investigations Act might not be broad enough,” Kaiser explained, “whereas the Public Inquiries Act permits virtually unlimited scope to the terms of reference.”

Kaiser said it would take time for the province to create the terms of reference for a public inquiry, but there’s no reason McNeil couldn’t commit to one now in order to soothe the public.

An online book of condolences for the victims of the shooting is available on the provincial government’s website. 

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