KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – There was a telling moment in the July 22 news conference held by Nova Scotia Justice Minister Mark Furey and federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, to announce a review into the mass shooting in April that left 22 people dead and one million Nova Scotians grieving.
Furey, who served for 36 years as an RCMP officer himself, effectively said to Nova Scotians and Canadians, “Minister Blair and I will do this for you.”
In other words, the two former police officers were asking Canadians to trust them to do the right thing.
The group Nova Scotia Feminists Fighting Femicide (NSFFF) summarized the two ministers’ decision this way, “By not listening and responding to the public, our government is causing a loss of trust and undermining our democracy. As feminists we are infuriated with this ‘father knows best’ patronizing process of proceeding with a review versus an inquiry.
“We are asking that you as MP’s either retract your statement that the review includes a ‘feminist analysis’ or provide us with the written evidence that a ‘feminist analysis’ is included in the federal-provincial review mandate.”
So just how far off the mark was Furey and Blair’s decision to have a closed-door review? As Brian Hill with Global News put it, “The independent review panel will have no power to compel witnesses or testimony, no power to subpoena evidence, no power to challenge any agency or organization that refuses to provide info, and no power to make binding recommendations to government.”
In a desperate effort to sell his watered-down review, Furey took to the airwaves to defend his decision. On CBC Nova Scotia’s Information Morning show, host Portia Clark prodded Furey, “The families haven’t asked for this. They don’t want this. Who asked for this?” Furey’s response? “We have engaged the legal community. We have engaged academia.”
This certainly flies in the face of a letter sent to him by 33 law professors from Dalhousie’s Schulich School of Law, where these legal scholars said to Stephen McNeil in a May letter that, “a public inquiry would be necessary in order to promote public confidence in the Nova Scotia legal system.”
Further explaining himself to Clark, Furey said, “The RCMP yesterday committed to fully cooperating with the review.” Yet if, as he insists, both he and Bill Blair have the power as ministers to compel these agencies to act, why would we even need the RCMP’s “commitment”?
Pushing Furey on the matter of the RCMP fully cooperating, Clark continued, “The Glen Assoun case raises questions about full RCMP cooperation. There’s Minister Blair’s connection to the RCMP, your connection to the RCMP. There may be a perception that you’re blocking an inquiry into this matter.”
Clark’s CBC colleague Yvonne Colbert, meanwhile, was asking Premier Stephen McNeil many of the same questions.
“On June 4 you were asked about an inquiry into the April mass murders. At the time, you said you’d made it very clear to Ottawa what you were looking for. You said, “The process needs to be able to compel witnesses to come forward, and it needs to have binding recommendations. The review your government announced yesterday does neither.
“So how can you support a review that you said needed to be done just last month?
McNeil trotted out the same talking points as his justice minister, “These are three distinguished Canadians,” he replied.
During that same news conference, Canadian Press reporter Michael Tutton asked the premier, “Are you saying that the federal government would not agree to a public inquiry that compelled witnesses to testify, but your government was willing to do this?
McNeil, “These are three distinguished Canadians.”
Schulich Law School Professor Archie Kaiser – one of Nova Scotia’s preeminent legal minds – may have had the most scathing description of Furey and Blair’s ‘review’, “This is the antithesis of transparency.
“Instead of reassuring the public, the behaviour of governments. has been opaque, tardy, uncertain, avoidant and condescending. It’s hard to make sense of why there have been so many bungles and missed opportunities in the aftermath of Canada’s worst mass killing,” said Kaiser.
The Chronicle-Herald’s Gail Lethbridge suggested, “This review contravenes its own terms of reference before it’s out of the gates because the humans who are left behind needed a full inquiry, not a review. This review is what will hurt them.
“Let them please notify the public right now that the provincial government took too long to announce this thing, and when they did, they failed to co-operate with the wishes of families and most Nova Scotians.
“What are they hiding? What needs to be confidential? Whom are they protecting?”
Her Herald colleague, veteran columnist Jim Vibert, also pulled no punches in condemning the decision, “The chosen process, Furey said, won’t retraumatize the killer’s still-living victims and the families of those he killed. That’s a paternalistic, we know best, perspective, given the families he’s claiming to protect neither want nor asked for his protection.”
When Maclean’s magazine’s Paul Wells asked Furey the pointed question, “Who asked for this review?”, the justice minister was remarkably candid, “No one asked for this review.”
“The rickety claptrap Furey and Blair announced will be backed by stern letters from both ministers ordering organizations they’re responsible for to cooperate with the review. That list includes RCMP, the Canada Firearms Program, the Canada Border Services Agency, the Criminal Intelligence Service and the national Alert Ready Program.”
As for Nova Scotians who have been united in their support for the families of the victims, hours after the announcement, Dawn Parke became an administrator of a newly created Facebook group called ‘Nova Scotians for a Public Inquiry.’ Within 12 hours, they had more than 3,600 members. As of Monday, July 27, the page’s membership had jumped to just under 14,000.
The good people of Nova Scotia, as it turns out, can smell a cover up from a mile away.
John McCracken is a retired CUPE Communications Rep. and former Broadcast Journalist who worked for the union for 26 years in three provinces, 10 years in ON, and 16 in NS and NL.
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