Nova Scotia should hold a public inquiry into the mass shooting that left 22 people dead last month, members of the provincial Progressive Conservatives and NDP said Wednesday.
Karla MacFarlane is the PC critic for the Advisory Council on the Status of Women and Claudia Chender holds the same position for the NDP. Speaking on CBC’s Mainstreet, both MLAs said they were “shocked” that Premier Stephen McNeil would leave a public inquiry into the Portapique massacre up to the federal government.
“I’m afraid perhaps the premier is isolating himself from the thousands of voices of his own people here in Nova Scotia that are calling on a public inquiry to happen here in this province,” said MacFarlane, the MLA for Pictou West.
Chender agreed. The Dartmouth South MLA said the premier can only control what happens provincially, so he should start an inquiry here. She said the open letter from 30 law professors calling for such an inquiry shows Nova Scotia can and should hold an inquiry.
“If you listen to the constitutional lawyers, whose job it is to define jurisdiction, they disagree [with the premier],” Chender said. She added the inquiry doesn’t need to happen right away, but the premier should now make it clear he will hold one.
McNeil has said he wants the federal government to hold a public inquiry because two of the key issues are federal in scope: how the RCMP handled the incident, and how the gunman got his weapons.
“We have never said we don’t want an inquiry. That’s the irony here. We’ve never once said we don’t. What we said is the national government needs to lead so the recommendations that come out can be enforced, and the ones that … reflect on what’s happening in Nova Scotia, then we will implement them,” McNeil said earlier Wednesday.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would not commit to a federal inquiry when asked about it Friday.
MacFarlane noted the Westray inquiry into the mining disaster happened in Nova Scotia, but led to federal changes. “It’s important for it to happen here.”
Chender said it seemed neither level of government wanted to take the lead. Many of the findings would be implemented provincially, she said. “I think law enforcement is one aspect and I think gender-based violence is another,” she said.
The killer attacked his girlfriend before going on a rampage that left nine men and 13 women dead.
Chender said intimate-partner violence is a global issue with specific causes in Nova Scotia. “That can have to do with the supports that exist, with cultures that exist within policing or within communities, and how to combat them,” she said. “We need to pull back the curtain on these very difficult conversations and I don’t think this can happen from a national level.”
MacFarland agreed that it could lead to a deep public conversation about violence against women. She said it could reveal more about the killer’s history, including past complaints against him, and why those did not stop the massacre from happening.
“It would lead to understanding our issues around domestic violence better and making sure we come out of this not finger pointing, but recognizing what went down, how it went down, so that we have a toolbox to prevent this from ever happening again in Nova Scotia,” MacFarland said. “It’s a bigger cost if we abandon this opportunity.”
Chender said a public inquiry would let people who heard “troubling” things from the killer’s house, but did not act, speak out. “I do think we have a moral imperative [to conduct an inquiry],” she said.
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