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March 9, 2022

This update includes information about witnesses to be called, a new Foundational Document and what to expect in the coming weeks.

Participants include a broad and diverse group with different positions and perspectives. They include the families of the victims, first responders, government institutions and various advocacy groups, all represented by their own legal counsel. Our approach to our work is to hear those different perspectives and consider them in the context of our mandate. We want to thank the Participants for their help in identifying witnesses who can assist us in providing more facts, correcting any errors, and filling the gaps in our information. These will not be the only witnesses called during our proceedings. We intend to hear oral evidence throughout the proceedings when it will add to the factual record in a meaningful way.

Witnesses to be called

Lisa Banfield, the perpetrator’s common law spouse, has begun a series of interviews with the Commission starting today. The Commission anticipates that it will hear from her (under subpoena as with all other witnesses) to address remaining questions, or to provide important context, later in our process.

Constables Stuart Beselt, Adam Merchant and Aaron Patton, the first three RCMP officers who arrived on the scene in Portapique on April 18, will be called as witnesses to testify March 28. They will provide testimony together as part of a witness panel. These panels are commonly used in public inquiries as a way to draw out facts and experiences of a group of people who shared a common experience.

Several senior RCMP officers involved in making command decisions – Staff Sergeants, Steve Halliday, Addie MacCallum, Brian Rehill and Jeff West, and Sergeant Andrew O’Brien – will be called as witnesses in the second half of May, at which time the Commission will have presented more of the Foundational Documents, including one focused on RCMP command decisions. This timing will ensure the best-informed questions can be asked of these officers.

In addition to the witnesses proposed by Participants, we also intend to subpoena the following senior RCMP representatives once the factual foundation is established this spring or summer: Commissioner Brenda Lucki, Assistant Commissioner Lee Bergerman, Chief Superintendent Chris Leather and Superintendent Darren Campbell.

All witnesses named in the decision will be called pursuant to a subpoena to provide sworn or affirmed testimony either as individual witnesses or as part of witness panel. It is important to remember that our decision today is not the final or a complete list of witnesses. The Commission’s approach means we will continue to call new witnesses as needed to provide more clarity about what happened and why, and continue to hear submissions from Participants about additional witnesses. Whenever possible, the Commission will release a list of witnesses to expect for the coming week of proceedings each Friday.

New Foundational Document available
Today Commission Counsel presented the next Foundational Document, focused on the perpetrator’s actions overnight in Debert. This document is available for you to review on the Commission’s website, along with source materials and a list of the many Foundational Documents to come. Piece by piece, we are building the big picture of what happened, establishing a strong factual foundation on which to build our understanding of what and how the mass casualty occurred.

During Phase 1 proceedings, we will continue to:

  • Share the Commission’s current understanding of the facts gathered so far through the Foundational Documents
  • Identify material gaps or points of difference about the facts
  • Call witnesses to provide more clarity or context
  • Receive submissions including questions or comments from Participants
  • Build a robust factual foundation to support Phase 2 work focused on why and how the mass casualty happened

As we continue this work, remember wellness supports are available for those people attending in person and through our website.

Coming proceedings and ongoing work

As we have said, the Commission’s schedule of proceedings will move forward in the most efficient and timeliest fashion possible. We will always try to give as much certainty as possible, but also need to be flexible in response to new information, submissions and the availability of witnesses and others. Proceedings will resume on March 28.

Even when public proceedings are paused, the Commission’s work continues, including:

  • Preparing the Foundational Documents and reviewing source materials, including continuing to share them with Participants for their input
  • Continuing to carry out the Commission’s independent investigation
  • Preparing for Phase 2 proceedings, including receiving the Commissioned Reports and working with Participants to shape expert witness panels and roundtable discussions
  • Reviewing and considering submissions from Participants

The same can be said for Participants and their counsel, as they review the ongoing disclosure we provide, prepare written submissions for the Commission and prepare for the upcoming hearings.

When proceedings resume on March 28, the lifting of public health restrictions means we will be able to welcome members of the public to attend in person at the Halifax Convention Centre. If you would like to do that, please register on the Commission’s website. From that date we will also be closing our Truro community viewing site due to low attendance. Other community viewing options are possible for anyone who is interested. As always, everyone is welcome to watch proceedings through the webcast and to review the Foundational Documents and source materials being shared on our website.

Share your Experience

Thank you to everyone who has responded to our Share Your Experience survey. We have heard that people would like more time to submit their input, and so we will keep the survey open until Sunday, March 13. We have heard from a great number of people across Nova Scotia, Canada and beyond who have shared their perspectives of the mass casualty. Over the coming weeks we will be reviewing your submissions and using them to inform both coming public engagement opportunities and progress towards findings and recommendations. Remember we welcome your continuing engagement and encourage you to contact the Commission anytime if you have information to share that can assist the inquiry.

As always, we ask you to share these updates and encourage others to sign-up via the link on our homepage. You can contact the Commission anytime 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 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


Key Term

What this means

Subpoena

These are legal document that order a named individual, institution, or organization to produce documents or to appear before the Commission to provide evidence or testimony. Subpoenas are a typical legal process for obtaining necessary information. The Commission has the same powers as a court in civil matters to compel witnesses to testify. Refusal to do so without a valid reason could result in punishment for contempt of court.

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 of the evidence and reduce the adversarial process to 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.

Other ways to hear from people

In addition to hearing from witnesses, the Commission will use other ways to hear from people during public proceedings, including community panels and expert round tables. These formats are helpful to enable discussions about important context and related issues. Typically, people taking part in these kinds of proceedings do so by invitation rather than subpoena and are not providing sworn testimony.

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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