Lawyer says ‘small feud’ between RCMP, municipal police may have cost lives in NS shooting TBEN News

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A lawyer for the family of the last person killed in the Nova Scotia shooting says it appears that the “little feud” between RCMP and municipal authorities influenced how the tragedy unfolded and how many lives were lost.

Jane Lenehan, who represents the family of Gina Goulet — the latest victim murdered late in the morning of April 19 at her home in Shubenacadie, NS — gave a final oral submission to the Mass Casualty Commission in Truro, NS, on Wednesday. with other lawyers.

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“We don’t care who started it,” Lenehan said. “It was amazing to learn that this little feud between the RCMP and the municipal forces – who does what better, who is better educated, who is better resourced – could have tragically impacted Nova Scotians on April 18-19.”

The commission is leading the investigation into the mass shootings of April 18-19, 2020, in which 22 people were killed across the province by a gunman driving a counterfeit RCMP cruiser and stolen vehicles. Their final report is expected by March 31, 2023.

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Lenehan said it was discouraging for her clients to learn during the investigation that the poor relationship between RCMP and municipal services has only gotten worse over the past two years.

The investigation found that tensions have escalated over disagreements over response to mass shootings, police standards, tracking of special services, funding and the emergency alert system.

Two examples that “could have changed the outcome of April 19 if relations between our police forces had been better” include emails between the RCMP and Truro Police that morning, Lenehan said.

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Documents released by the commission show Chief Supt. Chris Leather emailed Chief David MacNeil in Truro at 10am to say that the Mounties had “pinned down” the gunman in Wentworth – which was not true.

During his testimony, Leather later agreed that the information was incorrect, but he never contacted MacNeil because he was busy. RCMP did not update MacNeil until the shooter drove through Truro about 15 minutes after that exchange.

Attorney Jane Lenehan, who represents relatives of victim Gina Goulet, will speak on Wednesday about the Mass Casualty Commission investigation. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Lenehan said it was “inexcusable” that Truro police were not told that the gunman’s fake cruiser had been spotted heading south from Lillian Campbell’s crime scene around 9:40 a.m.

“It left the police in the dark about the danger coming their way,” Lenehan said.

She added that if both agencies had worked together better, Truro might have been in RCMP briefings and would have known he was looking for the gunman.

The second example was the RCMP’s decision not to call in the Halifax Regional Police’s Emergency Response Team, Lenehan said, and station them in a key area like Truro.

The committee has already heard about the frustration ERT members had on April 18 when they were denied a request to call more members and sent proactively to respond.

Friends remembered Gina Goulet as a devoted mother, two-time cancer survivor, and a lover of music and dance. She was murdered in her home on April 19, 2020. (Mass Accident Commission)

Although the Halifax chief testified that they needed a call from RCMP to send their ERT members into RCMP territory, Lenehan said it was distressing to Goulet’s family to see highly trained officers being taken out in this way with “management bickering” that seems to play a role.

Lenehan said one of her clients told the committee in a recent group session “she really hopes that the police in Nova Scotia can put their egos aside in the future” and better protect the public.

Lenehan’s proposed recommendations to the committee include the creation of one provincial ERT group with sufficient members and resources to protect the entire province.

Both Lenehan and other family lawyers said on Wednesday that the committee should recommend that the RCMP get involved in an education program around the Alert Ready system.

While the RCMP and Halifax City Police can now send out alerts themselves, Lenehan noted that there still seems to be a mistrust on the part of the police that an alert would flood 911 call centers or result in vigilantes.

She said an education program by the Mounties and governments would address this.

Lenehan also expressed concern about Sgt. Andy O’Brien Wednesday, echoing comments from attorneys this week.

O’Brien testified that he drank four to five glasses of rum for four hours before committing himself to assist with the Portapique reaction, but he was unaffected, which Lenehan called “ridiculous.”

The “only thing more shocking” than O’Brien’s self-fulfillment that night is the way the RCMP handled the situation, Lenehan said, as the fact that his conduct violates RCMP policy had to be specifically withdrawn from high-ranking members. through direct discussion.

She also said her customers want the temporary moratorium on the sale of marked decommissioned RCMP vehicles to the public to be made permanent. Lenehan said any financial gain is not worth the risk, made clear by the gunman’s frenzy, and the Mounties can still recoup some costs by selling the cars for parts and scrap.

Charlene Bagley, whose father Tom Bagley was murdered by the gunman on the morning of April 19, was one of the families attending Wednesday’s hearings.

She told reporters outside of the investigation that she was glad the hearings are coming to an end, but she doubts the final report will answer the lingering questions she has. Bagley said she still doesn’t know how one person could carry out all the murders and actions the commission suggests he did within 13 hours.

Charlene Bagley speaks with reporters outside the Mass Casualty Commission in Truro on Wednesday. Her father, Tom Bagley, was killed in the April 2020 mass shooting. (TBEN)

While the commission is an investigative body charged with issuing recommendations to prevent similar tragedies, not assigning blame, Bagley said there are RCMP members and others who should suffer the consequences.

“It would be healing to see those individuals held accountable for their misdeeds,” Bagley said.

Attorney Tom Macdonald, who represents the victim’s brother Sean McLeod, suggested that the commission make a finding on the allegations of political interference raised around RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki during the investigation.

While Macdonald said he doesn’t believe interference happened in the “traditional sense,” there was still the disturbing impression that the Nova Scotia RCMP thought it could have happened — and that needs to be addressed.

Key recommendations Macdonald suggested included clearer response to critical incidents and a chain of command for RCMP dealing with active gunmen in rural areas, and training incoming officers in local awareness and geography by working with people such as fire chiefs. who know the area.

Attorney Tom MacDonald, who represents a relative of the victim Sean McLeod, will speak on Wednesday about the Mass Casualty Commission investigation. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

He also supported the idea of ​​a committee to ensure the investigation’s findings are actually done, but Macdonald said it should be kept small. He added that final decisions and announcements should go to a “tsar”, ideally a former judge, who would ask whether the report’s recommendations were being implemented.

Several attorneys, including Linda Hupman and Stephen Topshee, counsel to relatives of victims in the Tuck-Oliver family and Lillian Campbell, suggested changes to bereaved reporting and how the role of family liaison is handled.

Hupman said Jolene Oliver’s family in Alberta had a “horrific” experience of waiting hours and leaving calls and messages to many people before the RCMP confirmed that Oliver, her husband Aaron Tuck and their daughter Emily had been murdered on April 18.

In the current age of social media and constant news coverage, Hupman said RCMP and all law enforcement agencies should expect families to call for information about their loved ones near a major incident. She said Nova Scotia forces should follow the lead of the Toronto and Peel agencies, which have mass casualty units with dedicated phone lines and people to handle those calls and relay important information.

Twenty-two people died on April 18-19, 2020. Top row from left: Gina Goulet, Dawn Gulenchyn, Jolene Oliver, Frank Gulenchyn, Sean McLeod, Alanna Jenkins. Second row: John Zahl, Lisa McCully, Joey Webber, Heidi Stevenson, Heather O’Brien and Jamie Blair. Third row from top: Kristen Beaton, Lillian Campbell, Joanne Thomas, Peter Bond, Tom Bagley and Greg Blair. Bottom row: Emily Tuck, Joy Bond, Corrie Ellison and Aaron Tuck. (TBEN)

The family liaison officers should be included within those units, Hupman said, and receive special training to deal sensitively with grieving relatives. The investigation learned that many families had problems with the one liaison officer appointed to deal with the families of most of the victims.

Hupman said her clients’ hope is that the outcome of the study is a report with recommendations that will significantly reduce the potential of something similar in the future — but isn’t optimistic it could “never” happen.

“No community is too small, too remote, too peaceful for another Portapique to take place,” she said.

Hupman and other attorneys also supported the idea of ​​doing away with the RCMP’s six-month depot training and moving to the Finnish model of a multi-year post-secondary police training course, open to those hoping to work in both municipal and the Mounties. .

The committee will hear more submissions from lawyers over the course of the week.

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