HALIFAX — The RCMP has yet to provide a substantive response about its widely criticized handling of Nova Scotia’s April 2020 mass shooting, says a lawyer whose firm represents a majority of the families affected by the tragedy.
In an interview Thursday, Michael Scott said there had been little contact with the national police force since an inquiry report released on March 30 detailed widespread failures in how the Mounties responded to Canada's worst mass shooting.
The Globe and Mail first reported earlier this week on an internal RCMP memo distributed in April by assistant commissioner Sorab Rupa, who called for a “timely and decisive” acknowledgment of those failures.
But since the inquiry wrapped up, Scott said the more than 14 families represented by his firm had only received what he described as a “form letter” sent by police earlier this summer.
“It wasn’t substantive,” he said. “It simply acknowledged that they were continuing to look into the mass casualty commission’s report and would be working on it going forward.”
Scott added that the families are still waiting for a meaningful apology that accepts that mistakes were made in the police response to the rampage that left 22 people murdered.
“We are aware of the memo that made that recommendation and it appears that the RCMP has decided not to accept that recommendation,” said Scott. “As far as making a formal apology, our thought has been there’s no point in the RCMP making some sort of formal statement or apology unless it’s sincere.”
In an emailed response, an RCMP spokeswoman said the force is working on the inquiry’s recommendations in order to address “gaps in our approach.” The RCMP are planning to publish an initial inquiry response update on their website next month to be followed by a “more significant” public update later in the fall, along with the release of a strategy and action plan, Robin Percival said.
She said the letter sent to families this summer by RCMP Commissioner Mike Duheme committed to “engage with impacted families before this update to ensure that they are informed of the scope of the effort underway.”
“Efforts are currently focused on advancing key priority areas by documenting the implementation efforts already underway across the organization, and identifying what else needs to be done to fully implement the spirit of the (inquiry) recommendations,” Percival said.
The Mass Casualty Commission found significant shortcomings in the RCMP response to the tragedy, from a failure to quickly issue public alerts to a disregard of evidence provided by witnesses.
According to the RCMP's website, the force has taken a number of steps to address the commission's findings: it now uses the Ready Alert system to issue public emergency alerts, and it requires officers to take mandatory training on the trunked mobile radio system, which provides communications throughout the Maritimes. The force says it has also provided officers in Nova Scotia with new thermal imaging equipment and has equipped specialized vehicles with mobile workstations.
The commission’s more than 3,000-page report concluded that the Mounties were ill-trained and ill-equipped to deal with the situation as it unfolded over a 13-hour period April 18-19, 2020, in central and northern Nova Scotia. The murderer, who was disguised as an RCMP officer and drove a replica police vehicle, was eventually shot and killed by police at a gas station in Enfield, N.S.
Commissioners also said that the aftermath of the mass shooting caused families and communities “to question their former trust in the police,” and they said the RCMP lacked the capacity to improve on and analyze its errors.
“The best way to build trust in the community and to move the matter forward is to bring something substantive,” Scott said. “If they (RCMP) do change course … the family members will be the first ones to support it."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 31, 2023.
Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press