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Frequently asked questions and answers will be posted here. If you don’t see what you are looking for you can send your question to: info@masscasualtycommission.ca


Background: The Commission

  • Why is it called the Mass Casualty Commission?

    The events in April 2020 took the lives of many innocent people and left others with serious physical and emotional injuries. The scale of the loss and trauma caused fear, anger and grief in our communities, province and country. While many people refer to those events as the mass “shooting”, in addition to the gun-related deaths, there were many types of harms. While others refer to those events as the “Portapique shootings”, the impact spanned a wide geographic area of Nova Scotia. This is why we are using the term “mass casualty”.

  • What is a public inquiry?

    A public inquiry is an official independent process designed to examine issues or events that have had a significant impact on the public. It is arm's length from government and it has the power to call witnesses to testify and to subpoena documents (i.e. require relevant information to be produced to the inquiry). The goal of a public inquiry is to gather the facts, to better understand the causes and consequences of the situation, and to make recommendations to government to help protect Canadians in the future.

    The Government of Canada and the Nova Scotia Government established the Joint Federal/Provincial Commission pursuant to the federal and Nova Scotia public inquiry statutes:

    Inquiries Act, Government of Canada

    Public Inquiries Act, Nova Scotia

  • What is this inquiry about?

    The Joint Federal/Provincial Commission into the April 2020 Nova Scotia Mass Casualty is a public inquiry established by the Government of Canada and the Province of Nova Scotia to conduct a full review into the mass casualty of April 18-19, 2020. There are three members of the independent Commission, and they have been provided with Orders in Council (OIC) that clearly identify the mandate of the Inquiry. Within this mandate, the Commissioners will gather the information they need to better understand what happened, and they will make meaningful recommendations to help protect Canadians in the future.

    Both levels of government passed special orders to create the Commission and determine what is to be investigated:

    Government of Nova Scotia

    Government of Canada

  • When was it set up?

    The Government of Canada and the Province of Nova Scotia announced their intention to establish a public inquiry in July 2020. On October 21, 2020 each government issued an Order in Council (OIC) officially establishing the Commission and announcing the appointment of the three Commissioners and the beginning of this important work.

  • What does it hope to achieve?

    The Orders in Council (OICs) set out the Commission’s mandate. The Commissioners will listen, ask questions, and gather information as part of their investigation. At the end of the mandate, in November 2022, they will submit a report containing their findings, lessons learned, and meaningful recommendations to help protect Canadians in the future.

  • What is the difference between a public inquiry and a trial?

    The goal of a public inquiry is to examine an issue or event and to make recommendations to the government in a manner that is open and transparent. A public inquiry is not a criminal trial or a civil lawsuit and the Commission is not a court of law. It cannot determine whether individuals are to be found guilty of a criminal offence or whether damages should be awarded. A public inquiry is not adversarial. Unlike criminal and civil trials, which focus on narrow issues between the parties, a public inquiry is concerned with broader issues. A public inquiry has many purposes including fact-finding and making recommendations for changes in policy and legislation.

  • Who is paying for the Commission?

    The Commission is funded jointly by the Province of Nova Scotia and the Government of Canada.

  • What types of issues will the Commission examine and review?

    In addition to finding out what happened, the Commission will also dig deeper to examine the broader issues that may have contributed to the mass casualty, including firearms access, police and service-provider responses, emergency communications, and the role of gender-based violence and intimate partner violence.

    In general terms, the Commission’s Orders in Council direct us to find out what happened on April 18 and 19, 2020, as well as to examine broader issues including:

    • The causes, context and circumstances giving rise to the mass casualty
    • Responses by police and other service providers
    • Applicable policies and training for the police and other various service providers
    • Communication by the police and other service providers with those most affected and the public generally
    • Communications among all the various service providers
    • The role of intimate partner violence and gender-based violence
    • Access to firearms
    • The disposal of surplus police equipment
  • Why is gender-based violence and intimate partner violence one of the issues the Commission will examine?

    The Commission has been directed to consider some specific topics, like gender-based violence and intimate partner violence, when understanding the causes, context, and circumstances leading up to the events of April 18 and 19. Gender-based and intimate partner violence is one of the many topics the Commission is looking at and this will not detract from other fact-finding work to determine what happened on April 18 and 19, nor will it detract from the examination of other issues like police policies or emergency communications.

    Although gender and intimate partner violence may or may not have played a role leading up to or during the events of April 18 and 19, we will not know until we look into it. Our Orders in Council direct us to examine many issues, including this one.

Commissioners

  • Who are the Commissioners?

    The three individuals jointly selected to lead the Commission are the Honourable J. Michael MacDonald, Leanne J. Fitch and Dr. Kim Stanton.

    The Honourable J. Michael MacDonald, the Commission’s chair, served as Chief Justice of Nova Scotia until his retirement in 2019. As Chief Justice, he championed judicial outreach initiatives with Nova Scotia’s Mi’kmaw and Black communities.

    Leanne J. Fitch retired from 34 years in municipal policing in 2019. She served seven of those years as Chief of Police for the Fredericton Police Force. She has expertise on intimate partner violence, community safety and wellbeing, policing and organizational change.

    Dr. Kim Stanton is a lawyer at Goldblatt Partners LLP in Toronto. She has extensive experience in social justice, Indigenous and equality rights and constitutional law, and publishes in the areas of constitutional law, transitional justice, and public inquiries.

    Read full biographies of the Commissioners here.

  • Does the Commission have an office?

    The Commission has established two offices: one in Truro and one in Halifax. 

  • To whom do the Commissioners report?

    The Mass Casualty Commission is arm’s length from government, which means it is a separate and independent body. The Commissioners will submit two reports (an interim report and a final report) to the federal and Nova Scotia governments over the course of the next two years, which according to the Orders in Council (OICs) must be made public by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, in coordination with the Attorney General and Minister of Justice of Nova Scotia. The reports will contain their findings, lessons learned, and meaningful recommendations to help protect Canadians in the future.

  • What is the role of Commission Counsel?

    Commission Counsel are the lawyers who provide advice to the Commissioners. Commission Counsel, like the Commissioners, are objective and impartial. However, they report to and act under the direction of Commissioners. The Commission must serve the public interest in achieving its mandate and the primary role of Commission Counsel is to represent the public interest. They are responsible for ensuring that all issues that bear on the public interest are brought to the attention of the Commissioners.

    Commission Counsel are not adversarial nor are they partisan. They are not criminal prosecutors nor is their role similar to lawyers who represent plaintiffs or defendants in civil proceedings. Commission Counsel will assist the Commissioners throughout the public inquiry in discharging their mandate and will ensure the orderly conduct of the inquiry process.

Inquiry Process

  • What will the process look like?

    We are advancing our work through a series of key phases over the two-year duration of the Commission. First, we will focus on establishing the factual foundations, that is, what happened on April 18-19, 2020. Next, we will focus on learning and understanding why and how it happened. Finally, we will focus on shaping and sharing findings and recommendations to help protect Canadians in the future. The Commission’s final report is scheduled to be completed in November 2022. Learn more about what to expect.

  • What are the terms of reference for the Commission?

    The Government of Canada and the Province of Nova Scotia established the Commission’s mandate. The purpose of the terms of reference is to establish guidelines and boundaries for the work of the Commission. They identify the areas for investigation and establish timelines.

    Read more about the mandate here.

  • Who will the Commission be speaking with?

    The Commission has the authority to speak with as many people as they require to fully understand the impact and events surrounding the April 2020 mass casualty. This could include conversations with and/ testimony from victims and victims’ families as well as community members, witnesses and first responders, government and non-government organizations.

  • What principles will guide the Commissioners?

    The Commission will be operating under principles specifically designed to minimize the impact on survivors and victims of the traumatic events in Nova Scotia. The Commissioners will carry out their duties in a way that is sensitive to the needs of those most affected by the April 2020 mass casualty.

  • How long will the inquiry take?

    The public inquiry will take approximately two years, with a release date for the final report set for November 2022.

  • When can we expect to see the report and recommendations?

    An interim report will be made available by the Commission in May 2022, and a final report will be released in November 2022.

  • How does the Commission intend to share information about the proceedings?

    In honouring our principles of independence, respect, and transparency, we will regularly post information on the website. This will include the rules that govern our work, expert reports, our schedule of proceedings (including community engagement events), transcripts of the public hearings (in both official languages), the schedule and content of the roundtables, and other policy meetings. We invite everyone to consult our website and social channels which will be updated regularly and will provide timely information on the work of the Commission.

Inquiry Format

  • Will there be hearings or public meetings?

    There will be a variety of proceedings including public hearings, community meetings, and roundtables. These will provide opportunities to learn about what happened, why it happened and what lessons can be learned to help protect Canadians in the future.

    Our Fall public proceedings are scheduled to take place between October 26, 2021, and December 10, 2021, at the Halifax Convention Centre with webcast locations in Truro where community members can view the proceedings virtually.

  • What are foundational documents?

    The Commission is creating foundational documents that will include the key facts and events leading up to and during the April 2020 mass casualty in Nova Scotia. Foundational documents summarize large volumes of documents to allow facts to be placed in evidence without requiring each document to be presented orally by a witness during the public hearing. They are intended to promote efficiency in the inquiry process. We expect to share these foundational documents this fall (2021). This factual record will form the basis for our work on understanding how and why the mass casualty happened, and to develop findings and recommendations to help protect Canadians in the future.

  • Why can’t the Commission release information more quickly?

    We are committed to doing our work responsibly and respectfully. This approach takes time, rigour and care. Consistent with the Commission's independence and commitment to create a thorough, evidence-based record, we must conduct our own investigation of what happened on April 18-19, 2020. To that end, our team is steadily and diligently making progress:

    • Understanding the perspectives of those most affected, participants, first responders, service providers and community members;
    • Obtaining documents, analyzing information and conducting research;
    • Carrying out investigations and speaking with witnesses;
    • Holding public proceedings including activities such as hearings and roundtables, about the facts, existing policies and other issues.
  • What are proceedings?

    These are Commission activities such as public hearings, community meetings, and roundtables that will provide opportunities to learn about what happened on April 18-19, 2020, why it happened and what lessons can be drawn from it. Proceedings will include:

    • Hearings: These are public sessions where Commission Counsel present evidence to the Commissioners and to the public.
    • Community Meetings: The Commission will seek input on different aspects of its work from various groups and members of the public in affected communities.
    • Roundtables: These are sessions where experts and others with helpful knowledge are invited to share their perspective, experience and/or research on a specific theme, issue or topic.
  • What do you hope to learn during the proceedings?

    The proceedings contribute to our fact-finding, research, policy, and analytical work as we learn what happened leading up to and during the April 2020 mass casualty. The information gathered will inform our findings and recommendations.

  • Who can take part in proceedings?

    Who can take part will vary depending on the type of proceeding. For example, public hearings may involve Participants and witnesses, whereas roundtables may involve experts, policy makers and community members. We will also be seeking input from community members and the public in various ways. Many of the proceedings, including the public hearings, will be broadcast on the website for public access.

  • Will the hearings be open to the public?

    Yes. Subject to certain exceptions where individual privacy rights must be protected, all hearings will be open to the public. Parties with particular interests will have standing to participate in the Inquiry.

  • What do I do if I have information about the events that may be relevant?

    If you have information that you think may be helpful or relevant, please reach out directly to the Commission.

    See contact information here.

  • How does the Commission ensure those with knowledge about the April 2020 mass casualty share their information or evidence with the Commission?

    The Mass Casualty Commission has the authority to issue subpoenas as needed to support its work in finding out what happened on and leading up to April 18 and 19, 2020, how and why it happened, and to inform recommendations to keep communities safer in the future.

    The Commission is in the process of identifying individuals and organizations that have documents relevant to its work, issuing subpoenas, and receiving and reviewing documents. We will also receive relevant documents from participants.

    A subpoena is a legal document that orders a named individual or organization to produce documents and/or to appear before the Commission to provide evidence or testimony.

  • Will transcripts, documents, and commissioned reports be made available to the public?

    Yes. Subject to certain exceptions where individual privacy rights must be protected, transcripts documents and commissioned reports will be made available to the public on the Commission’s website.

  • I am a member of the public who is interested in following the Commission’s work. How do I do that?

    Members of the public interested in following the Commission’s work are welcome to follow the work of the inquiry. We ask that you please check the Commission website and social media channels regularly for information on activities that will be open to the public, such as meetings, roundtables, and proceedings.

  • How are persons or groups who have been differentially impacted by the mass casualty being considered in the proceedings?

    Provision e(ii) of the Orders in Council issued by the provincial and federal government have tasked the Commission “to give particular consideration to any persons or groups that may have been differentially impacted by the tragedy.” In assessing communities that have been differentially impacted, the contributing and contextual factors referenced in the mandate include: geographic (such as rural and urban locations); gender (including gender-based and intimate partner violence); experience related to access to firearms; experience related to police actions and police policies; and experience with a public alerting system.

First Responders and Service Providers

  • Is the Commission reaching out to First Responders and service providers?

    Yes, the Commission has started introductory virtual sessions with First Responders and service providers. A variety of these meetings are being offered over the summer months to ensure we can reach anyone interested.

    We know First Responders and service providers directly involved and affected by the events of April 18 and/or 19, 2020 have unique perspectives and experiences. Listening to and understanding those perspectives is necessary for the Commission and the public to understand what happened, and how first responders and service providers have been impacted. Connecting with these First Responders is a critical first step to identify lessons that can be carried forward through meaningful recommendations to keep communities and first responders safe.

  • What should First Responders/service providers involved in the response do if they are interested in participating in this process but haven’t been contacted?

    If you are a first responder or service provider who was directly involved in the events of April 18 and/or 19, 2020 and are interested in participating in this process but haven’t been contacted, please reach out directly to info@masscasualtycommission.ca with your name and role. We will get back to you with additional information about meetings or opportunities to participate.

    If you are not interested in attending one of the virtual introductory sessions but would still like to connect with the Commission, please contact us and we will ensure you have the opportunity to engage in other ways.

  • Will First Responders and service providers have the opportunity to talk about their experience?

    The Commission expects to hear from First Responders and service providers directly involved at different points throughout the Commission process. We know these groups have important information to share about their experiences, and we will ensure there are multiple opportunities for this to happen. We are planning activities where First Responders can reflect on their experiences and tell us more about:

    • What helped during the mass casualty events;
    • What was challenging;
    • And what would have made a difference.

    By engaging with these groups, we hope to gather ideas, solutions, and feedback that could help inform the Commission’s recommendations to help keep communities safe.

    First responders and service providers may also be contacted directly for an interview with one of our investigators to learn about their specific experience on April 18 or 19, 2020.

  • Will First Responders and service providers be contacted directly to participate, and when?

    First Responders with information about the events of April 18 and/or 19 may be contacted directly to participate in interviews with one of the Commission’s investigators. Not everyone who was involved will be contacted because in some cases information will have been gathered from other sources. Some of these First Responders and service providers may also be called to provide evidence in the public hearings being held between Oct 26 – Dec 10, 2021.

    In the second and third phase of the Commission’s work, First Responders and service providers who have information and perspectives will be invited to formally share their information. We are still determining the format and dates of these activities, which may include the same people who provided evidence in the hearings, or different people, depending on how they were involved and what information and insights they have to share. We will share updates on our website and with employers and unions as soon as it is available.

    The Commission is working to engage all First Responders and service providers most affected by using contact information from sources involved in the response. We are aware that not all First Responders and service providers have been contacted yet because we are still collecting all the necessary information from organizations affected. We ask those who were directly involved in the response but have not been contacted to reach out to us directly by email (info@masscasualtycommission.ca) or by phone (902-407-7532).

  • Can the information, testimony, or evidence that the Commission gathers from First Responders/service providers be used for existing or future court proceedings like a criminal trial?

    The Commission is an independent inquiry, which means the evidence we gather can only be used for the Commission’s work. We will not let other legal processes that are happening interfere with our work and we will not interfere with other legal processes.

    If you have concerns about sharing information and would like to discuss further, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us directly to learn more either through email (info@MassCasualtyCommission.ca) or by phone (902-407-7532).

Participation

  • What is the Participation Decision?

    The Participation Decision grants the opportunity for formal participation to individuals or groups with a substantial and direct interest in the subject matter of the inquiry. This decision marks the first public proceeding of the fully independent Commission, whose priority to date has been building the Commission’s team and approach, and engaging with those most affected by the mass casualty.

    The Participation Decision Addendum is a result of more information being required from some Applicants to better assess their potential contribution, along with another group who expressed interest following the initial announcement. Based on the additional submissions received, an addendum to the initial Participation Decision was made.

    Applicants were asked to explain their connection to the events of April 18 and 19, 2020 or their experience and knowledge in areas that relate to the Commission’s mandate. The mandate includes what happened leading up to and during the events of April 18 to 19, 2020; policing; community safety; and violence, specifically intimate partner violence. Applicants with participation represent individuals and groups with experience or expertise in all of these areas.

  • How many individuals and groups were granted Participation?

    In response to the Call for Participants in March 2021, the Commission received applications from more than 60 individuals and groups interested in participating in all or part of the Commission’s work. The majority of individuals and groups that applied were granted Participation in May 2021. In June 2021, additional Applicants were granted participation as part of an addendum to the May 2021 decision. In total, there are 60 individuals and groups granted the opportunity for formal participation in the public proceedings. For a list of the individuals and groups that have been granted Participation status in the Mass Casualty Commission proceedings, please review the Participation Decision and Participation Decision Addendum.

  • What is appropriate Participation?

    If the Commission determines that an Applicant is granted the opportunity for formal, or “appropriate” participation, the Commission is satisfied that the Applicant has a substantial and direct interest in the Commission’s work. Participation can vary from a role involving a particular aspect of the Commission’s mandate to participating more frequently across a range of proceedings. The form of participation can also vary from testifying under oath (or a promise to tell the truth), to taking part in roundtable discussions, to providing expert reports and opinion evidence. Groups of Participants can also contribute in coalitions.

  • Do I need to apply for Participation to be involved in the Commission’s proceedings?

    It is not necessary to have applied to be a Participant in order to be involved in the Commission’s work. For example, members of the public may attend community engagement events and public proceedings. They may also follow our website which will contain updated information on our work, including the Rules of Practice and Procedure, various rulings, expert reports, and proceeding schedules. Updates and opportunities to take part will be regularly posted to the Commission’s website and social media.

  • What is the Applications for Participation process?

    The Applications for Participation (sometimes referred to as “standing”) process is the way that individuals and groups could apply for an opportunity to participate in the Commission’s proceedings and to indicate if they need funding to enable them to participate. To participate in Commission proceedings, individuals and groups must demonstrate they have a substantial and direct interest in the subject matter of the Commission with regard to the Commission’s mandate. This process closed on April 12, 2021. The decisions by Commissioners on applications to participate will be posted on the Commission’s website. Each applicant will be notified when the decisions have been posted. Note that two groups were automatically granted an opportunity to participate: (1) victims and families of victims and (2) the federal and Nova Scotia governments.

The Report

  • What type of recommendations will be in the final report?

    While it is too early to determine the exact nature of the recommendations that will be made in the final report, the Commission intends to review:

    • Contributing and contextual factors, including the role of gender-based and intimate partner violence;
    • Access to firearms;
    • 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;
    • Police actions, including operational tactics, response, decision-making and supervision;
    • Communications with the public during and after the event, including the appropriate use of the public alerting system established under the Alert Ready program;
    • 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;
    • Police policies, procedures and training in respect of gender-based and intimate partner violence;
    • Police policies, procedures and training in respect of active shooter incidents;
    • Policies with respect to the disposal of police vehicles and any associated equipment, kit and clothing;
    • Policies with respect to police response to reports of the possession of prohibited firearms, including communications between law enforcement agencies, and;
    • Information and support provided to the families of victims, affected citizens, police personnel and the community; findings, as appropriate, of previous examinations or investigations.
  • What will the final report contain?

    The final report will contain the Commission's findings, lessons learned, and meaningful recommendations to help protect Canadians in the future.

  • Will there be an interim report?

    Yes. The Commission will deliver an interim report in May 2022.

  • Does the government have to accept the recommendations?

    The Commission is an independent body, tasked by the federal and Nova Scotia Governments to conduct a public Inquiry and provide recommendations, but it does not have the power to require their implementation. Ultimately, it is up to the federal and Nova Scotia Governments and other organizations and institutions to accept and implement these recommendations.

Some of the information within this website may be disturbing or upsetting for some visitors. This website deals with information about events that include gun and other violence, including gender-based violence and intimate partner violence. If you need to leave at any point, there is a “quick exit” button at the top of the website. This website also includes some suggested resources, should you be in need of support.

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