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Nova Scotia shooting: Families say inquiry raises more questions

todaySeptember 21, 2022 1

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A woman and her daughter place a heart on a fence at a growing memorial in front of the Debert School April 20, 2020 in Debert, Nova Scotia, CanadaImage source, Getty Images

Families of the victims in Canada’s deadliest mass shooting say an inquiry into what happened has left them with “more questions than answers”.

The joint provincial and federal inquiry is hearing from family members and their representatives as it wraps up months of public hearings this week.

Twenty-two people died in the April 2020 attack in Nova Scotia.

The inquiry was launched following fierce criticism of the police response to the mass shooting.

Investigators want to know what happened when Gabriel Wortman, a 51-year-old dental technician, went on a 13-hour shooting spree that spanned two days and 100km (62 miles) in rural Nova Scotia. He was eventually shot dead by police.

“After more than two years and millions of dollars spent on this inquiry, I have more questions than answers,” said Tara Long, sister of Aaron Tuck, who was killed alongside his wife Jolene Oliver and daughter Emily in the community of Portapique.

Ms Long praised the heroism of Constable Heidi Stevenson, who died while attempting to stop the gunman, but said she felt frustrated that the force held a procession for their fallen colleague in the days after the attack while “my family was still laying dead at their house”.

She said the inquiry has made her lose faith in the RCMP.

“The police don’t always show up when you need them, especially in rural areas, so we must be able to protect ourselves,” Ms Long said. “If Aaron had a gun that night, this tragedy would’ve stopped at his house.”

Both RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have denied meddling in the investigation.

When testifying before the inquiry in August, Ms Lucki apologised for her force’s failure to meet the expectations of the public during the 2020 shooting.

“I don’t think we were what you wanted us to be or what you needed us to be,” she said.

The inquiry has heard from dozens of witnesses since February, including responding police officers and senior RCMP officials, the gunman’s former spouse and various experts. It has published thousands of pages of documents related to its initial findings.

But families have long held questions about the overall integrity of inquiry after disagreeing with some of its procedures.

Lawyer Sandra McCulloch, who represents most of the victims’ families, said her clients felt “devalued”, and their faith in the process is “dwindling or lost”.

The commission maintains its work is open and independent. The inquiry’s final report is scheduled to be released in March 2023.

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