It’s been a long three years since a killer went on a rampage claiming 22 victims and damaging the lives of dozens of children, families, neighbours, eyewitnesses, and first responders. 

Brian Comer, the minister with the Office of Mental Health and Addictions, said the province will meet an upcoming deadline to provide help for people who continue to suffer after the mass killings.

In its final report released on March 29, the Mass Casualty Commission recommended the province and Ottawa work together to establish that emergency mental health care be made available by May 1.

Recommendation #30 in the final report says:

(a) By May 1, 2023, the Governments of Canada and Nova Scotia should jointly fund a program to address the public health emergency that exists in Colchester, Cumberland, and Hants counties as a result of an unmet need for mental health, grief, and bereavement supports arising from the April 2020 mass casualty.

(b) This program should be developed and implemented by a local multidisciplinary team of health professionals with the ability to draw on external resources as needed.

(c) The program should provide concerted supports on an urgent basis and transition to long term care over time.

 (d) Mi’kmaw communities should have the opportunity to participate in the program either on a joint or an independent basis.

(e) The program should be funded to carry out needs and impact assessments in 2023, 2025, and 2028. 


A roadside memorial with a pink cross and bouquets of flowers and teddy bears.
Memorial for Heather O’Brien on Plains Road. Photo: Joan Baxter.

The Halifax Examiner asked Comer for the government’s response:

We have a team of Deputy Ministers dedicated to reviewing and advancing the recommendations that include the deputies of Community Services/Status of Women, Justice, Health and Wellness, the Office of Addictions and Mental Health, Emergency Management Office, Communities, Culture, Tourism and Heritage and Intergovernmental Affairs.

They are actively working with associate deputies, numerous government employees and our federal partners to respond. This includes meeting the May 1 deadline for the recommendation you have noted. 

Our hearts go out to the families. I cannot imagine how difficult it has been for them as we mark three years since the tragic events of April 18 and 19. As we move forward, we will do so in a way that honours families, survivors and communities. We will let you know when we have more information to share.

This recommendation is one of several for which the Mass Casualty Commission has established timelines for implementation. The commissioners have given the province and Ottawa six months to establish a working group to review if and how the structure of policing in Nova Scotia should change.

Jennifer Henderson is a freelance journalist and retired CBC News reporter.

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