Family and friends of victims attend a march demanding an inquiry into the April mass shooting in Nova Scotia that killed 22 people, in Bible Hill, N.S. on Wednesday, July 22, 2020. (Andrew Vaughan/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Independent panel to review Nova Scotia mass killing

An independent panel will review the shooting rampage in Nova Scotia, the worst mass murder in Canadian history that claimed the lives of 22 victims and that of the gunman in April, federal Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair and Nova Scotia Minister of Justice Mark Furey announced Thursday.

The joint review of the April 18 and 19 events will consider the causes, context and circumstances that led to the tragedy, the response of police, and steps taken to inform, support and engage victims, families and affected citizens, Blair and Furey said in a joint statement.

The three-member panel, which has been jointly appointed by both levels of government, will be chaired by former Nova Scotia chief justice Michael MacDonald and include former federal deputy prime minister Anne McLellan and Leanne Fitch, a former chief of the Fredericton Police Force in neighbouring New Brunswick.

Their report, which is due at the end of August next year and will be made public, will look into a wide range of topics, including the involvement of gender-based and intimate-partner violence; the gunman’s access to firearms; police response and their communications with the public during the two-day rampage among others.

The panel has a mandate to investigate, identify lessons learned and make recommendations on actions that should be taken at both the provincial and federal levels to address what happened and improve public safety in the future, officials said in a statement.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers stand in line for a procession as a hearse carrying the body of Constable Heidi Stevenson leaves the Dr. William D. Finn Centre for Forensic Medicine and heads to the RCMP Nova Scotia Headquarters, in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada on Apr. 20, 2020. (John Morris/REUTERS)

On April 18 and 19, a lone gunman went on a 13-hour shooting rampage that began in the small community of Portapique and ended at a gas station in Enfield, 150 kilometres away. Twenty-two people were killed, and the gunman was shot dead by police.

“The devastating loss of life in Nova Scotia will not soon be forgotten, and all Canadians stand with Nova Scotians as they mourn and search for answers,” Blair said in a statement.

The review by the independent panel will provide a better understanding of what happened and provide recommendations to help prevent such tragedies in the future, he added.

“I know the victims’ families and survivors continue to experience a level of trauma and grief that most of us cannot imagine,” Furey said. “We anticipate this review will generate recommendations that will make our communities safer.”

But the announcement appears to fall short of a public inquiry that victims’ families, some legal experts and the provincial Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats have been calling for over the last three months.

It is up to the panel to decide whether any hearings will be held in public. All documents and information collected as part of the review will also be kept confidential.

With files from CBC News

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