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Call for a public inquiry into the mass shooting and other acts of violence in Nova Scotia on April 18-19, 2020

May 15, 2020 

Premier Stephen McNeil , Office of the Premier of Nova Scotia

Dear Premier McNeil, 

Re Call for a Public Inquiry into the Mass Shooting and Other Acts of Violence in Nova Scotia on April 18-19, 2020 

We write to you in our capacity as Law Professors at the Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University to urge a public inquiry into the horrifying events in Portapique and elsewhere in central Nova Scotia on April 18 and 19, 2020. In a modern democracy committed to state accountability, an internal investigation will not suffice. Independence, impartiality and transparency are essential components of maintaining public confidence in the administration of justice. Only a public inquiry can satisfy these requirements. 

From the earliest days following these acts of violence, it was clear that a public inquiry would be necessary in order to promote public confidence in the Nova Scotia legal system. We appreciate the initial hesitancy of provincial authorities to initiate such a process while the RCMP conducted its preliminary investigations. However, in light of recent accounts that reports had been made to the RCMP about the shooter’s violence against his intimate partner and his possession of illegal firearms years prior to the April 2020 murders, and growing calls for the province to treat this matter with the public seriousness it requires, we believe that the time has come to act. Nova Scotia is responsible for law enforcement and the administration of justice in our province. This is as true in rural Nova Scotia, where the province relies on the RCMP, as it is in Halifax, where a local police force is used. Nova Scotia should launch a public inquiry. 

The families of the victims, Nova Scotians and Canadians deserve a transparent, impartial and independent assessment of why and how this incident occurred. We urge you to launch a public inquiry with terms of reference that are broad enough to allow for a critical review of the policies, procedures and decisions employed by police on the days in question and in the months and years leading up to these tragic events, as well as elements of the broader social and legal context that may have been contributing factors. The process that your government sets in motion now must be robust enough to assure Nova Scotians that you are doing all that is in your power to ensure that this will never happen again. 


Richard Devlin, Professor 

Elaine Craig, Associate Professor 

Sheila Wildeman, Associate Professor 

Jocelyn Downie, Professor 

Adelina Iftene – Assistant Professor 

Aldo Chircop – Professor 

Andrew Martin – Assistant Professor 

Anne Matthewman – Chief Law Librarian 

Archie Kaiser – Professor 

Colin Jackson – Assistant Professor 

Constance MacIntosh- Associate Professor 

David VanderZwaag – Professor 

Donna Franey – Executive Director, Dalhousie Legal Aid Service 

David H. Michels – Public Services Librarian 

Elaine Gibson – Professor 

Hannah Steeves – Instruction & Reference Librarian 

Joanna Erdman – Associate Professor 

Jodi Lazare – Assistant Professor 

Jon Shapiro – Senior Instructor 

Jon Penney – Associate Professor 

Lucie Guibault – Associate Professor 

Maria Dugas – Assistant Professor 

Matthew Herder – Associate Professor, Law and Medicine 

Michael Hadskis – University Teaching Fellow 

Michelle Williams – Professor – Director, Indigenous Blacks & Mi’kmaq Initiative 

Nayha Acharya – Assistant Professor 

Naiomi Metallic – Assistant Professor 

Olabisi Akinkugbe – Assistant Professor 

Phillip Saunders – Professor 

Robert Currie – Professor 

Sarah Seck – Associate Professor 

Sherry Pictou – Assistant Professor Law and Management (July 2020) 

Stephen Coughlan – Professor 

Wayne Mackay – Professor Emeritus 

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