KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – On May 9, 1992, an underground explosion at Westray Mine in Plymouth, Nova Scotia killed 26 miners working at the site. Within six days the Nova Scotian government ordered a public inquiry into the disaster. Within 5 months charges were pressed against the operators of Westray.
On April 18, 2020, a gunman went on a thirteen hour rampage across Nova Scotia, killing 22 people and perpetrating the deadliest mass shooting in Canadian history. As of today there is no public inquiry and this is the foreseeable reality so long as the Liberal federal and provincial governments have their way.
On July 23rd, 3 months and 4 days after the mass shooting, provincial Minister of Justice Mark Furey, Premier Stephen McNeil, and federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair announced that they had decided to ignore families and communities that lost someone to the mass shooting and concerned Nova Scotians, and announced a toothless “judicial review” that Mark Furey admits, “no one has asked for.”
What justification do Mark Furey and Premier McNeil have for denying the victims’ families the only thing they have asked of the provincial government? They claim that their process is better, less traumatic, and will give all the desired answers. They seem to believe that they know better than Nova Scotians and people directly impacted by tragedy. They are wrong.
The contrast with the response to the Westray mine explosion could not be more stark. The investigation into Westray began days after the disaster and was given the full powers available. In the end, Justice Peter Richard found “The Westray story is a complex mosaic of actions, omissions, mistakes, incompetence, apathy, cynicism, stupidity and neglect.”
In calling a review instead of an inquiry, is Minister Furey trying to head off this level of criticism? What would a public inquiry conclude about his former employer, the RCMP? Questions abound about how he’s responded to other justice issues. Why did he ignore the reality of racist street checks until Dr. Wortley released his report? Why hasn’t he issued an apology to Glen Assoun for his wrongful conviction? Why is he so determined to protect the police? People are asking whether Minister Furey’s allegiance to RCMP outweighs his loyalty to justice.
The judicial review into the Portapique shooting is not what Nova Scotians want, it is what Mark Furey wants, and that is exactly the problem. It is time we hold Mark Furey, the RCMP, and the McNeil government accountable. Having grown up in Lunenburg West, we are keenly aware that it is the votes of our district that keep Minister Furey in power.
In solidarity with the victims’ families, members of our community have organized a protest outside Mark Furey’s constituency office at 11 am this Monday, July 27.. We’ll be there. The victims, the families of the victims, and all Nova Scotians deserve a full public inquiry into the Portapique shooting.
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