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March 23, 2022

This update includes information on the proceedings schedule and details on how the Commission will hear from witnesses.

To date, the Commission has shared four Foundational Documents and one Commissioned Report which have been posted on the website along with their source material. There are currently more than 25 additional Foundational Documents remaining to be shared throughout the 2022 proceedings, all of which provide important information about the causes, context and circumstances of what happened on April 18 and 19, 2020. A schedule of when these documents will be presented throughout 2022 is available on the calendar. Please note that the list of Foundational Documents to be presented is not exhaustive and there may be additional Foundational Documents developed as the Commission continues to explore the issues in its mandate.

Proceedings Schedule Updated Regularly

On March 28, 2022, public proceedings will resume at the Halifax Convention Centre. During the week, the Commission will hear from the three RCMP officers who first arrived on the scene in Portapique on April 18, and the Commission will continue to share Foundational Documents and information about what happened.

The nature of witness questioning may result in changes to the proceedings schedule with little notice. Some witnesses may be scheduled to appear for half a day, while others may be scheduled to appear in front of the Commission across multiple days. However, the actual amount of time that questioning will take depends on a range of factors, including the number of questions or the type of information being discussed with any given witness or witness panel, and whether or not further questioning is needed.

The Commission will do its best to communicate if a proceeding day is expected to end early or late. This will be shown on the website calendar and through the Commission’s Facebook and Twitter, though it will not always be possible to predict how long the various proceeding days will be. It will be important for the Commission to remain flexible with its time each day to ensure all material is covered thoroughly.

Participant Submissions

Participants including those most affected, families, first responders, governments, and organizations, through their counsel, can provide submissions on areas in the Foundational Documents that they suggest should be explored further. Participants are invited to provide the names of witnesses they feel should be heard by the Commission to continue to build our understanding of the issues relevant to our mandate. The Commission includes consideration of these submissions in its planning of proceedings and will continue to build more detail into the calendar on the website.

Commissioners’ Decision

On March 9, 2022, we issued a decision about a number of witnesses who will appear during proceedings to provide oral testimony. This decision followed public submissions by Participants about proposed witnesses they would like to hear from to continue to build the factual foundation in the Commission’s first three Foundational Documents shared with the public. The March 9, 2022, decision can be found on the Commission website.

Hearing from Witnesses

The Commission will hear from witnesses when proceedings resume on Monday, March 28, 2022. If a witness is out-of-province, they may attend the proceedings virtually. In most instances, the names of witnesses scheduled will be posted on the website calendar the Friday before.

The restorative principles outlined in the mandate will guide the Commission’s approach to hearing from witnesses. A restorative approach does not mean the Commission will automatically excuse someone from testifying, or that the Commission will avoid asking the hard questions and discussing difficult information. What it does mean is that the Commission must think carefully about how it hears from witnesses. This approach seeks to create conditions where it is more likely for individuals who are experiencing or have experienced trauma to clearly share what they know—resulting in the best and most reliable information. Some examples of how we will accommodate witnesses will include:

  • Setting the tone and standard for a respectful environment
  • Gathering questions for a witness in advance and asking them in an orderly, streamlined way so the same questions are not asked multiple times by different lawyers (this allows the Commission to get the best understanding of what the witness knows)
  • Giving clear direction to Participant counsel in advance about what information the witness has that will supplement the Commission’s understanding of what happened
  • Ensuring mental health and wellness support is available on-site or virtually, if needed
  • Having a dedicated private space for the witness should they like some time alone (i.e. before, for a break, etc.)
  • Hearing from witnesses as part of a witness panel

There may also be accommodations available like:

  • Having a support person accompany the witness throughout the questioning
  • Having a one-way screen so they do not see others in the proceedings room while they are speaking
  • Answering questions outside the main proceedings room in a nearby room on-site, via an audio or video call
  • Pre-recorded video or audio interviews
  • Sworn affidavits (written questions/answers)

The Commission’s independent investigators have been conducting a large number of interviews with witnesses and these are forming a part of the factual record. A large volume of material continues to be collected and not all of it requires follow up with a witness to create the factual foundation necessary to establish an understanding of what happened. As a public inquiry, the Commission will need to make choices about what will help inform meaningful recommendations within a process that is timely, efficient and attentive to the resources dedicated. In some instances, it may be determined that hearing from an individual further through witness questioning in a proceeding is not needed as the information gathered through an interview is sufficient, clear and understood.

Register to Attend Proceedings In-Person

Beginning March 28, 2022, members of the public are welcome to attend proceedings in person. If you would like to attend, please register in advance. Please note that starting the week of April 4, 2022, the venue location for public proceedings will change periodically. The calendar and the registration portal will have different locations depending on the date you wish to attend. For more details about attending proceedings in person, please read the latest community notice.

As always, everyone is welcome to watch the Commission’s webcast on the website, or to listen to live audio from the proceedings by calling 1-877-385-4099 (toll free) and entering code 1742076 followed by the # sign. Recordings of the webcast are available and accessible through the website, so that you may watch the proceedings at a time that works best for you.

Share Your Experience

Thank you to everyone who responded to our Share Your Experience survey. In response to feedback received, the Commission extended the survey so that the public had more time to submit their input. The survey received over 800 unique responses from people across the country. Over the coming weeks, the Commission will be reviewing the responses and using them to inform both upcoming public engagement opportunities and the Commission’s final findings and recommendations.

While the survey may be closed, you are always welcome to share your experience of the mass casualty by reaching out to the Commission directly. The questions and information from the survey will remain on the website to serve as a guide should you need them.

As always, the Commission encourages you to share these updates and let others know about the opportunity to sign-up for these updates via the link on the Commission’s homepage or by contacting the Commission directly. If you have questions about the proceedings or the work of the Commission in general, you can contact the Commission at info@MassCasualtyCommission.ca or by calling either 902-407-7532 (local) or 1-833-635-2501 (toll-free). You can also stay updated through the Commission’s Facebook and Twitter.

Sincerely,

The Mass Casualty Commission

Hon. J. Michael MacDonald, Chair

Leanne J. Fitch (Ret. Police Chief, M.O.M.)

Dr. Kim Stanton

Key Terms

What this means

Commissioner Decisions

These are official decisions from the Commissioners that relate to our process like the Participation Decision or witnessed to be called during a proceeding.

Participant Submissions

Participants will be invited to provide their input in writing and in oral submissions regarding any remaining gaps in the factual record related to the events in the Foundational Documents presented (including witnesses they suggest should be heard by the Commission). Participants will also be invited to make submissions on other matters at other points in the Commission process.

Witness (individual)

Some people will appear individually to provide sworn or affirmed testimony. This may include representatives of institutions, subject matter experts or people with technical expertise who can explain how a particular system works.

Witness panel

When two or more witnesses provide sworn or affirmed testimony at the same time. This format can improve understanding and better assist the inquiry in a professional and respectful manner.

Questioning

Commission Counsel will lead the questioning of witnesses. Commission Counsel will consult with Participant counsel to determine questions and, where the Commissioners decide it is appropriate, Participant counsel may also question witnesses themselves.

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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