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Nova Scotia senators have questions at the ready for Nova Scotia mass shooting inquiry

A memorial to three of the victims of last week’s mass shooting has been erected at the Sydney Memorial Chapel on the corner of Welton Sand Gorman streets. The oval-shaped flower bed, which includes pictures, flowers, written tributes and a Nova Scotia Strong map, pays tribute to Jolene Oliver, her husband Aaron Tuck and their daughter Emily, 17, who were among the tragedy’s 22 fatalities. The Tuck family moved to Portapique about two years ago after living in Sydney for a number of years. Similar memorials have popped up around Nova Scotia, especially at or near the some 17 crime scenes associated with the mass shooting. DAVID JALA/CAPE BRETON POST
A memorial to three of the victims of April’s mass shooting at the Sydney Memorial Chapel in Sydney, N.S. The oval-shaped flower bed, which includes pictures, flowers, written tributes and a Nova Scotia Strong map, pays tribute to Jolene Oliver, her husband Aaron Tuck and their daughter Emily, 17, who were among the tragedy’s 22 fatalities. - David Jala

Three of Nova Scotia’s newest senators are calling on the federal and provincial governments to immediately launch a joint inquiry into the mass shooting of 22 people in April.

Senators Mary Coyle, Colin Deacon and Stan Kutcher, all members of the Independent Senators Group, issued a letter to both federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair and Nova Scotia Justice Minister Mark Furey outlining the importance of a joint review.

“As independent Nova Scotia senators, we understand the need to tackle all issues surrounding this tragedy in an objective, unbiased and nonpartisan manner,” the letter states. “A joint inquiry would help everyone better understand what transpired and to learn from this tragedy. If properly conducted, the joint inquiry could lead to changes to policies, practices and procedures and hopefully give us the tools to prevent future tragedies of this nature.”

The senators go on to list 11 questions they would like to see addressed by such an inquiry.

Report shouldn't just focus on the details: senators

Some of those questions centre around police response, such as why the provincial emergency alert system was not initiated, why there was a delay in sharing the information regarding the shooter’s impersonation of an RCMP officer, what caused a breakdown in communication between federal and provincial jurisdictions, and whether or not there was an effective response to previous reports of domestic violence, threats and weapon acquisition that involved the perpetrator.

Some questions are more general, such as how the perpetrator acquired his weapons, and the role, if any, of the COVID-19 pandemic in the incident.

Other questions are more systemic, such as what changes in law are required to have multiple reports of violent, misogynistic behaviour addressed by not just police, but by mental-health experts, and how Canada can better conduct threat assessments in communities to avoid these kinds of tragedies.

In the letter, the senators stress the inquiry must address the social and public safety issues that are related to the tragedy, and not just focus on the details of how the RCMP responded to the events as they unfolded.

Feminist factor

“A feminist lens will be critical to the inquiry’s success. Transition House Association of Nova Scotia, Women’s Shelters Canada, Feminists Fighting Femicide and the Canadian Women’s Foundation point out that chronic spousal abuse and misogyny are often linked to larger violent acts in our society,” the letter says.

“We must seek to change how the current system addresses this violence. Following a tragedy, the warning signs become abundantly clear, but law enforcement and other responders must be equipped to intervene before harm is inflicted.”

The senators say they look forward to an “immediate announcement of a comprehensive, thorough and fulsome public inquiry, jointly and equally led by the federal and provincial government” that addresses the details of the shooting as well as the complex social and structural issues that are related to it.

The shooting has been followed by weeks of political controversy over the jurisdiction of an inquiry. Nova Scotia has been adamant that any inquiry would need to be jointly led by the federal government, as it would involve a number of federal bodies such as the RCMP, the firearm registry and the Department Public Safety, and without leadership by the federal government, no recommendations would be binding.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau committed last week to working with the province on a larger review, and Furey told reporters the same day that the province is in the final stages of talking to the federal government and he is hopeful they will be able to share something as soon as this week about what the process will look like.

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