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March 4, 2022

This week’s update includes information on what was covered during this week’s proceedings, how to access the webcast and where to find Foundational Documents on the Commission website.

Thank you for your continuing engagement during public proceedings this week. Together we made important progress towards answering the questions about what happened and why – work that will ultimately contribute to well-informed findings and recommendations that can make our communities safer.

Here is a quick recap of what happened this week:

  • Commission Counsel shared the first three Foundational Documents, which focus on the events in Portapique on April 18-19, 2020; first responder actions; and containment points.
    • Through the more than 30 Foundational Documents to come, we will continue to build our understanding of the facts piece by piece, scene by scene, hour by hour – including looking at decisions made by RCMP command and other emergency responders.
    • The Foundational Documents share our understanding of the facts as we understand them at this point in time based on the Commission’s extensive, independent and ongoing investigation – yet they are not being presented as final findings or conclusions.
    • The documents have been developed with the help of the Participants and will continue to be evaluated and tested throughout the public proceedings, during which we are sharing what we have learned to date with the public.
    • Findings and conclusions will be reserved for our final report.
  • This week we also heard from a technical witness about how the 911 system works, learning important context. Several Participants’ counsel asked questions of the witness.
  • Based on just the first three Foundational Documents, Participants’ counsel also made oral submissions about suggested civilian and RCMP witnesses. We will hear the remainder of this round of submissions on Monday.
    • This is very helpful input from Participants and a process that will be repeated regularly as proceedings continue.
    • We will review and respond to all Participant submissions as quickly as possible after carefully considering them in the context of our mandate.
    • In advance of completing this round of submissions, we can reassure you that it is the intent of the Commission to call senior RCMP officers as witnesses. The question to be determined is when it makes the most sense for them to appear in the course of public proceedings. As Senior Counsel, Gillian Hnatiw, shared at the end of proceedings Thursday, five of the six witnesses being discussed on Monday are RCMP officers from whom the Commission expects to hear later in our public proceedings. The Commission is still in early days of proceedings. There are a number of Foundational Documents (at least 30) the Commission will be sharing that contribute to our understanding of what happened, including one that deals specifically with the RCMP command decisions.
    • We will also continue our efforts to interview the perpetrator’s common-law spouse, as both the Commission and Participants are very interested in hearing from her.

You can expect to see much more of this ongoing process of information sharing and collaborative discussion over the coming weeks and months of public proceedings, as we share more Foundational Documents and work with Participants and witnesses to gain additional clarity.

Foundational Documents

Foundational Documents organize the extensive amount of materials produced from subpoenas, witness interviews, and other investigative tools, contributing to our ability to get through our mandate in a timely and effective way. This means public proceedings building a shared understanding of the factual foundation can be more efficient and more time can be spent in Phase 2 proceedings focusing on why and how the mass casualty occurred. It is important not to jump to conclusions based on just one Foundational Document. It is also important to note that some source materials have been redacted or summarized to protect the privacy and dignity of witnesses and victims.

As mentioned, Commission Counsel has shared the first three Foundational Documents, which are available on the Commission’s website along with source materials. Our website also includes a list of Phase 1 and Phase 2 Foundational Documents, so you know what to expect.

Role of Participants during proceedings

During proceedings, through their legal counsel, Participants bring forward their questions, concerns and recommendations concerning the factual record and other areas of focus through regular submission rounds. Participants include those individuals most affected, families, first responders and organizations with substantial and direct interest in our mandate, including representatives for the RCMP. You can expect to hear Participants helping us to identify material gaps or points of difference in the factual record, which witnesses to call, and helping to determine which questions to ask witnesses. All Participant submissions will be carefully considered in the context of our mandate.

Role of witnesses

As we have said, the Commission’s process is iterative – as the factual record is created, important gaps and further questions arise. In addition to making our own assessment of who it would be helpful to hear from, we will continue to hear from Participants where it is helpful to address those gaps and questions by hearing from a witness. Where it is appropriate, Participants’ counsel will also be able to question witnesses. During proceedings, each Friday, we will share a schedule including any witnesses we expect to hear from in the coming week whenever possible.

Proceedings: looking ahead

Looking ahead, we will continue to hear from Participants on Monday, March 7, about the witnesses they suggest we hear from to address important gaps or errors in the first three Foundational Documents. On Wednesday, March 9, Commission Counsel will present the next Foundational Document focused on the perpetrator’s actions overnight in Debert. After that, public proceedings will be paused and will resume on March 28. During this time, the Commission will continue its work on the Foundational Documents and source materials, sharing them with Participants for their input. The Commission’s independent investigation and research and policy work is also continuing. A reminder that the calendar of proceedings is available on the Commission’s website, and will be updated regularly as we continue to advance the Commission’s process.

Attending and watching proceedings
With the lifting of all COVID-19 related public health restrictions in Nova Scotia later this month, we will be able to welcome members of the public to attend public proceedings in person at the Halifax Convention Centre when proceedings resume on March 28. Registrations will still be required in advance. You can register to attend proceedings in person through the homepage of the Commission’s website. For next week, March 7-11, members of the public are welcome to attend the Truro community viewing site at the Inn on Prince in person. Going forward, community viewing options can be arranged for interested community members by reaching out to the Commission directly. As always, everyone is welcome to watch the Commission’s webcast on our 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 also available later, and accessible through the website, so you can watch on your own time.

Other progress
While the current proceedings are focused on what we know at this time about what happened, the Commission continues to conduct its ongoing, independent investigation, and prepare for Phase 2 work focused on why and how the mass casualty occurred. In addition to the many Commissioned Reports, which are being developed, the Commission’s Research and Policy team is working with Phase 2 Participants to determine how they would like to take part in coming proceedings including expert witness panels and roundtable discussions that will consider the broader context and related issues.

Share your Experience

Thank you to everyone who has responded to our Share Your Experience survey. We are approaching the final week of the survey, and encourage everyone to share their perspective of the mass casualty. A reminder that if you have started the survey and plan to go back via the link provided to please do so before the survey closes. Please be assured that we want to hear from people across Nova Scotia, Canada and beyond. No matter who you are or where you are, your experience and perspective matters. There are options if you would rather speak with someone directly to share or the survey will be open until March 8. More information is available on our Share Your Experience page.

Wellness supports

The nature of our work together is hard and doing it right takes time. If at any stage you need help or support, please ask for it. If you are attending proceedings in person, there continue to be dedicated team members available to help you. Details on how to contact many provincial and national support services are also available on the Commission’s website.

If you know others interested in receiving these updates, please point them to the sign-up link on our homepage or email us directly. We also encourage you to pass along how people can take part and prepare to share their experiences and perspectives. We welcome hearing from you anytime via email to info@MassCasualtyCommission.ca or by calling either 902-407-7532 (local) or 1-833-635-2501 (toll-free). We are also constantly sharing updates about how to take part via our website, 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

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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