I hadn’t planned to write this. It was a long weekend. We had family visiting. In fact, on Friday, I’d written to my editors, Tim Bousquet and Suzanne Rent, to tell them not to expect me to be my usual shocked and appalled this weekend.
“Good plan,” Tim replied. “Enjoy the weekend.”
I should have known.
After all, the week before I’d written a column about another incident that had happened in the where-news-goes-to-die pit on a late Friday afternoon before a long weekend in summer. On that occasion, grocery store magnate Donald Sobey managed to plead guilty to a sexual assault on the Friday eve of a long weekend in August 1991 without anyone appearing to ask what really happened for another 30 years.
Late on the Friday afternoon before this current long Labour Day weekend —late enough to miss most of the supper hour TV news deadlines — the Nova Scotia Mass Casualty Commission issued a bland-sounding “Decision Regarding Rule 43 Application on Behalf of Cst. Greg Wiley.”
Wiley is perhaps the most consequential boots-on-the-ground Mountie identified thus far in documents released by the mass casualty commission.
Wiley told the commission’s investigators he had a good rapport with [the man who would become the mass murderer] and that they often had brief “chinwags” at the killer’s residence. Wiley estimated he visited [GW] in the “ballpark” of 15 occasions over the years, but he said he hadn’t noticed anything unusual…
… The document states that Wiley, who worked out of the Bible Hill detachment near Portapique, had struck up a rapport with the killer after responding to a report of a tool theft from his cottage around 2007 or 2008.
In 2010, after GW was accused of threatening to murder his parents, Halifax police asked Wiley to visit the man who would become the Nova Scotia mass murderer to “check for firearms and to determine if a search warrant was needed.”
Note that a Halifax police sergeant asked Wiley to do the checking because — and not despite the fact — he was a friend of the man accused of wanting to murder his parents.
In any event, “the inquiry said Wiley told the inquiry’s investigators he couldn’t recall speaking with Poirier in 2010, and RCMP lawyers later advised that Wiley couldn’t find relevant notes after a search of his home following the mass shooting.”
On the other hand, Lisa Banfield, the killer’s common-law spouse, testified Wiley did, in fact, come to their house, was shown some antique guns and left after 10 minutes.
That’s definitely an issue worth asking Wiley to clarify in sworn, and broadcast public testimony — especially given that GW’s father told the commission’s investigators after the mass murders that police had failed to properly investigate the 2010 threats. “I believe that if a judge had issued a search warrant,” the father said, “he would have been arrested and his weapons would have been seized.”
But there’s more.
An RCMP officer who investigated the 2020 Nova Scotia mass shooter has been linked to the alleged mishandling of a 2017 murder case that is under federal review.
Cst. Greg Wiley is among three officers named in a 2018 police review of the gaps in the RCMP’s response to the murder case of Susie Butlin. The report was released with officer names unredacted this week by the public inquiry investigating the 2020 mass shooting.
In August 2017, Butlin complained to the RCMP she was being sexually assaulted and harassed by Ernest Ross Duggan. Wiley, the lead investigator, “determined there was no basis for charges” and simply suggested Butlin block Duggan on Facebook.
A month later, Duggan murdered Butlin.
My colleague, Tim Bousquet, details what happened in this chilling report.
That disastrously botched investigation is under a federal civilian review examining the RCMP’s response to Butlin’s complaints and, more broadly, the force’s handling of sexual assault investigations.
The names of the officers involved in the Butlin case were redacted when the internal report was first turned over to the mass casualty commission. The commission has since unredacted those redactions.
Commission lawyer Jennifer Cox publicly complained that withholding the names “impacted our ability to do the work… We might have missed opportunities to question witnesses when they appeared before the commission.” (The commission would do well to call senior department of justice officials to explain why they appear to have gone out of their way to impede the work of the commission in many ways.)
The mass casualty commission has known since at least June that it intended to call Wiley as a witness. And that they had plenty to ask him.
The federal attorney general department of justice, which — see above — didn’t initially name the RCMP officers involved in the Butlin case, then applied for “special arrangements” on behalf of Cst. Wiley in advance of his testimony.
We don’t know the specifics of the accommodation they initially requested, but we do know that, at some point, commission counsel recommended Wiley not have to testify publicly at all but “provide his evidence in a sworn affidavit.”
Other participants’ lawyers were then “given the opportunity to provide submissions about the accommodation recommended by Commission counsel.” They clearly did. Following that, the commission itself “directed that a subpoena be issued requiring Cst. Wiley to provide testimony on September 6, 2022, at 1:00 pm.”
The commissioners then granted Wiley a unique accommodation offered to no one else who has testified so far — the one that was announced late Friday afternoon just as the commissioners were turning out the lights for the long weekend.
The accommodation seems at first to be straightforward. Wiley will testify virtually — as will all witnesses this week for some reason — so he won’t be present for questioning. And…
Cst. Wiley, like all witnesses, will give his evidence under oath. Cst. Wiley will first be questioned by commission counsel and then, after a caucus, any remaining questions may be asked by participant counsel in the normal course. Cst. Wiley’s evidence will be part of public proceedings (meaning participants, media and the public can attend)…
But then there were these two paragraphs, which the CBC rightly described as “a surprise decision just before the long weekend to block the testimony of a key witness from public broadcast.”
In order to receive the best information possible from Cst. Wiley, we have directed that Cst. Wiley’s testimony not be webcast and a transcript be posted on the website.
Pursuant to Rule 8 of the Commission’s Rules of Practice and Procedure, the Commission orders that the audio and video of the testimony of Cst. Wiley shall not be disseminated, released, published, or shared and shall not be audio or video recorded for the purpose of being disseminated, released, published, or shared. Any breach of this order of the Commission could result in a charge pursuant to s. 127 of the Criminal Code.
To make it obvious that the commission knew its decision would be controversial, it released it late on a Friday afternoon. And then commission lawyers refused even to answer questions from the media about it. Instead, the commission issued a control-the-narrative video:
Senior commission counsel Emily Hill told CTV News the move comes following an accommodation request — a process outlined in the commission’s rules.
“Accommodations are granted to ensure the commission receives the best information from witnesses,” said Hill.
Because the request concerns “personal health information” its details cannot be made public, she said.
Hill’s comments were part of a pre-written statement and CTV News was not allowed to ask her any questions.
Is this really a case of being “trauma-informed,” as the commission likes to claim? Or something else?
Wiley will testify under oath. He will be asked questions by both the commission’s lawyers and those representing family members and other participants. Those who have the time and the inclination will be able to watch the questioning live. Later, anyone will be able to read a transcript of what was said. But most of us will never have the opportunity to see and hear Wiley try to explain himself.
Is the purpose to protect him from trauma? Or protect him from embarrassment?
That isn’t trauma-informed. It isn’t transparent. And it’s far from accountable.