Civil liberties groups

Two participants in the public inquiry into the Nova Scotia mass casualty — the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) and the East Coast Prison Justice Society (ECPJS) — welcome the release of the final report of the Mass Casualty Commission. 

The groups issued this response through a news release:

The Commission’s final report calls for a community-focused approach to public safety and a strengthening of police governance and accountability that are badly needed in Nova Scotia and across Canada. The BCCLA and ECPJS participated as a coalition at the Inquiry, drawing attention to the systemic nature of policing failures and stressing that current oversight mechanisms are ineffective. The final report accepted many of these submissions, including calling for community-focused approaches to public safety and greater democratic accountability and oversight of police.

The two groups say that while they are encouraged by the report, they remain concerned that the MCC maintained the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission in which the RCMP investigates itself, because many people impacted by poor policing will be unlikely to file a complaint knowing it may be investigated internally.

“We share the commissioners’ conclusion that responding to gender-based violence requires non-police alternatives to public safety and that enhanced police governance is required to address the many policing failures identified in the final report,” said Harry Critchley, co-chair of the East Coast Prison Justice Society.

Montreal Massacre survivors 

The group representing survivors and family of victims associated with the 1989 mass shooting at the École Polytechnique in Montreal also applauded the recommendations of the Mass Casualty Commission, which reiterate many of the demands they have made over the years.

 “We hope this extraordinarily comprehensive report and its specific recommendations on gun control will convince Canadian legislators to multiply their efforts to reintroduce amendments to Bill C-21 in order to permanently ban all assault weapons,” said Nathalie Provost, survivor and spokesperson for the group PolySeSouvient. 

Gender-based violence 

Advocates for the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre, Wellness Within, and the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) are also happy to see recommendations put forward by the Mass Casualty Commission.

A news release issued by the coalition reads:

 The report crucially emphasizes the role of gender-based violence in mass casualties, and the need to address this violence to make communities safer. 

The report characterizes gender-based, intimate partner, and family violence as a ‘public health emergency that warrants a meaningful, whole of society response’. It highlights the need for new, community-based systems that reflect the needs of marginalized survivors. 

“We support the Commission’s call for governments to prioritize prevention and paths to safety for survivors,” said Erin Breen, counsel for the coalition. 

The coalition additionally says it is “pleased” the report has rejected a focus on incarcerating those who engage in gender-based violence — primarily men — which the coalition says “simply has not worked”. 

The coalition is referring to a recommendation from the commission to amend provincial laws to make it no longer mandatory for police to lay criminal charges each time they respond to a complaint of intimate partner violence. 

 “The report also acknowledges the victim-blaming faced by Lisa Banfield, and the harms caused by that revictimization,” said Breen. “Throughout their relationship, the perpetrator of the mass casualty controlled, emotionally abused, and violently assaulted Ms. Banfield. Despite this, Ms. Banfield often wrongly faced blame for the perpetrator’s violent acts.  

“Moving forward,” Breen continued, “it will be critical for all institutions, governments, and groups named in the report to take meaningful steps to implement the recommendations. Gender-based violence and community-grounded organizations have a key role to play in this process, and in improving community safety.”

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

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