Nick Beaton, the widower of Kristen Beaton, one of those killed during the mass murders of April 2022, is suing the RCMP for breach of privacy.
Kristen Beaton was the mother of a toddler and pregnant; she was a VON worker with clients in the Masstown and Debert areas. On Sunday morning, Apr. 19, 2020, Kristen was aware of the murders in Portapique the night before; she and Nick discussed the situation via text and phone calls, and she followed various social media groups discussing the murders. But Kristen had no indication that the killer was driving a fake police car, and went about her appointments. She pulled off Plains Road, apparently to check her phone, when the killer pulled in alongside her in the fake police car and shot her dead.
Nick Beaton was left widowed with the couple’s young son.
Beaton was and remains angry about the RCMP’s actions before and during the murders, and about the investigation after.
Beaton was particularly upset with Wayne “Skipper” Bent, the family liaison officer assigned to the families of 21 of the 22 victims (two family liaison officers were assigned to the family of the 22nd victim, Cst. Heidi Stephenson.
Through the investigation, the RCMP obtained about two dozen search warrants to examine properties, cell phones, and computer equipment.
One of those warrants was for Kristen Beaton’s cell phone, which besides the texts of Apr. 20 included family photos that Nick Beaton wanted to keep. When there was considerable delay in returning the phone to Beaton, Bent told Beaton that the delay may have been because investigators were determining if Kristen had a prior “relationship” with the killer (there is zero evidence that Kristen knew the killer). This angered Nick Beaton.
Search warrants are obtained via an application to a court called an “Information to Obtain” (ITO). The ITOs written after the mass murders were sealed by the court, but given the public interest in the murders, a consortium of media companies, including the Halifax Examiner, took legal action to have the ITOs unsealed. As well, lawyers for the families of the victims asked for the ITOs.
On Sept. 21, 2020, Beaton spoke with Bent, with “questions about Lisa Banfield not knowing more as per the ITO.” Banfield was the common-law spouse of the killer.
But it wasn’t until Mar. 8, 2021 that one of the ITOs — numbered 20-0743 — was released to the families of the victims and to the media consortium. According to a letter faxed to the court that day by Beaton’s lawyer, Mark Pineo, the civic address of Kristen and Nick Beaton was included in the copy of the ITO given to the families.
“Mr. Beaton, Kristen’s widower and their 3 year old son continue to reside at that residence,” wrote Pineo. “Mr. Beaton has tried very diligently to keep his address where his son resides out of the media. Accordingly, I ask the court to exercise its discretion and put an immediate stop to the provision in the ITO being republished… I would like to impress on the Court that this has and will cause great upset to this already victimized family.”
That afternoon, Pineo’s letter was forwarded to the media consortium, including myself. I never had any interest in publishing Beaton’s address — it was not relevant to the events of April 2020 — but that wasn’t an issue anyway: the copy of the ITO provided to the media consortium had the address redacted. Via the consortium’s lawyer, I told the court as much.
It’s curious that on the same day, the ITO was provided to victims’ families and to the media consortium, but the latter copy was redacted while the former wasn’t.
It’s not clear if Lisa Banfield received the redacted or un-redacted version of the ITO.
According to Beaton’s lawsuit, which was filed with the court on Dec. 21, 2022, Skipper Bent provided the unredacted copy of the ITO to the families.
Update, Jan. 6: On Jan. 4, Pineo filed an amended motion on Jan. 4, stating that “Bent provided a partially redacted version of ITO Number 2–0743 to all survivors of the murdered victims and others, including persons charged criminally for proving ammunition” to the killer. This suggests that Banfield did receive a copy of the ITO that included Beaton’s address.
“The applicant [Beaton] went to great lengths to keep his address from being released publicly to preserve his home for his remaining family and for his own well-being,” wrote Pineo in the lawsuit. “The applicant pleads that the release of his home address breached his privacy and intruded upon his seclusion. This caused great upset and inconvenience to him and his family.”
“The applicant pleads the actions of Bent in disclosing the applicant’s home address were deliberate and intentional,” continued Pineo.
“The applicant pleads that the actions of the RCMP in appointing only one liaison officer for all of the victims’ surviving family members and others was deliberately designed to control information and was completely inadequate to properly handle the volume of information and numbers of receivers of the information.”
“The client also pleads that the actions of Bent and the RCMP were callous, deliberately calculated to provide inadequate service to the applicant and deserving of punishment,” continued Pineo.
Beaton is asking for unspecified damages for “the loss of seclusion and enjoyment of his home,” “the upset, inconvenience and stress caused by the actions” of Bent and the RCMP, and for punitive damages and costs.
The allegations contained in the lawsuit have not been tested in court, and the RCMP has not yet filed a defence.