Memorial in Portapique, NS, for the 22 victims of the April 2020 mass shooting.
Memorial in Portapique, NS, for the 22 victims of the April 2020 mass shooting. Photo: Joan Baxter Credit: Joan Baxter

Reports from the public inquiry into the Nova Scotia mass shooting are due in 2022, and a third commissioner has been appointed to conduct the inquiry, the federal and provincial governments announced on Thursday.

In a news release, the two levels of government announced Kim Stanton — a lawyer specializing in Indigenous and constitutional issues — would join former Nova Scotia Chief Justice Michael MacDonald and former Fredericton Police Chief Leanne Fitch as the third commissioner.

Stanton replaces former Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan, who withdrew as a commissioner just days after the provincial and federal governments, facing mounting outrage, announced they would be holding a proper inquiry, not the widely-criticized “Independent Review Panel” first announced.

The commissioners into the joint public inquiry (left to right): Michael MacDonald, Leanne Fitch and Kim Stanton. Credit: Contributed

The commissioners must table an interim report “on their findings, lessons learned and recommendations” by May 1, 2022 and a final report by November 1, 2022.

Matching orders of council from each government lay out terms for the inquiry, which will take place in Nova Scotia.

The provincial order in council directs the commissioners “to inquire into and make findings on matters related to the tragedy in Nova Scotia on April 18 and 19, 2020, including

  1. the causes, context and circumstances giving rise to the tragedy,
  2. the responses of police, including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and municipal police forces, and
  3. the steps taken to inform, support and engage victims, families and affected citzens [sic].”

The inquiry, unlike the independent review originally proposed, gives the commissioners “the power to summon witnesses, enforce their attendance and require them to: (a) give evidence, orally or in writing, and on oath or, if they are persons entitled to affirm in civil matters, on solemn affirmation, and (b) produce such documents and things as the commissioners deem requisite to the full investigation of the matters into which they are appointed to examine.”

The commissioners are directed to examine issues “including 

  1. contributing and contextual factors including the role of gender based and intimate partner violence,
  2. access to firearms, 
  3. interactions with police, including any specific relationship between the perpetrator and the RCMP and between the perpetrator and social services, including mental health services, prior to the event and the outcomes of those interactions,
  4. police actions, including operational tactics, response, decision making and supervision, 
  5. communications with the public during and after the event, including the appropriate use of the public alerting system established under the Alert Ready program,
  6. communications between and within the RCMP, municipal police forces, the Canada Border Services Agency, the Criminal Intelligence Service Nova Scotia, the Canadian Firearms Program and the Alert Ready program,
  7. police policies, procedures and training in respect of gender-based and intimate partner violence, 
  8. police policies, procedures and training in respect of active shooter incidents,
  9. policies with respect to the disposal of police vehicles and any associated equipment, kit and clothing,
  10. policies with respect to police response to reports of the possession of prohibited firearms, including communications between law enforcement agencies, and
  11. information and support provided to the families of victims, affected citizens, police personnel and the community;”

In doing the work, the commissioners are “to be guided by restorative principles in order to do no further harm, be trauma-informed and be attentive to the needs of and impacts on those most directly affected and harmed.”

They are not to “jeopardize any ongoing criminal investigation or proceeding or any other investigation,” or disclose personal information “unless the person to whom it relates consents or, in the opinion of the Commissioners, the public interest in the disclosure outweighs any invasion of privacy that could result from the disclosure.”

MacDonald, as the chief commissioner, will be paid $2,000 per day, and Fitch and Stanton $1,800.

“The commissioners’ first task is setting up their secretariat which will be located in Nova Scotia,” the news release says. “This includes hiring support staff, creating their work plan and other tasks.”

The mass shooting of April 18-19, 2020, carried out across Nova Scotia by a gunman the Halifax Examiner calls GW, was the deadliest in Canadian history, killing 22 people.

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Zane Woodford is the Halifax Examiner’s municipal reporter. He covers Halifax City Hall and contributes to our ongoing PRICED OUT housing series. Twitter @zwoodford

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  1. It is good that a person who apparently neither grew up or went to school in the Maritimes ( or worked here) has been added. The tiny interconnected Maritimes Justice industry will likely be investigated as much as GW himself. His life of crime began as a high schooler stealing building supplies etc. We in public very much want to know why his 40 years of crime went undetected & un-checked by the Maritimes justice industry. That is my only complaint against Fitch : both her AND her dad were ‘lifer’ cops —- I sometimes worry she too ‘inside baseball’ to be investigating her family’s friends & colleagues as thoroughly as they should be…