Workers with the medical examiner’s office remove a body from a gas bar in Enfield, N.S. on Sunday, April 19, 2020. A coalition of groups devoted to reducing or eradicating gender based violence across Canada is urging Ottawa and Nova Scotia to refrain from using a restorative justice approach for a promised inquiry into the mass killing that claimed the lives of 22 people in the Maritime province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Groups ‘shocked’ by minister’s approach to inquiry into Nova Scotia mass murder

Several groups and individuals have come forward to call for a public inquiry that includes a feminist lens

A coalition of groups devoted to eliminating gender-based violence across Canada is urging Ottawa and Nova Scotia to refrain from using a restorative justice approach for a promised inquiry into the mass killing that claimed 22 lives in the Maritime province.

In a letter addressed to the prime minister, Nova Scotia’s premier and several cabinet ministers, the group insists such an approach would undermine the need for an independent, fully transparent public inquiry.

“We were shocked to see media reports that the launch of an inquiry into the April 2020 massacre in Nova Scotia was being held up by an attempt to graft a ‘restorative approach’ onto the traditional federal-provincial public inquiry,” says the letter, signed by more than two dozen groups and obtained by The Canadian Press.

Restorative justice is a process that focuses on addressing the harm caused by crime by offering those involved — victims, offenders and public officials — the opportunity to meet and discuss healing and reparation outside the regular criminal justice system.

The letter says the group, which includes Women’s Shelters Canada and the National Association of Women and the Law, is opposed to using the restorative justice process in this case because hearings are typically held in private and there is no mechanism to compel witnesses to testify.

“The public outcry for an inquiry was not a demand to have discrete groups of affected individuals participate in a series of private meetings,” the letter says.

“The families and individuals who lost loved ones as a result of this massacre, the women and children who are subjected to misogynistic violence every day in Canada, and the Canadian public traumatized by …(the) mass killing are entitled to the full and public justice of an inquiry that ensures public accessibility … public accountability and transparency.”

Public hearings are central to the concept of a public inquiry, said Deepa Mattoo, executive director of the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic in Toronto, a specialized counselling and legal clinic for women experiencing violence.

“Unfortunately, a restorative approach without a proper … transparent approach would mean lack of accountability from the system,” Mattoo said in an email.

“I think any process that can delay a thorough, transparent public inquiry should be put on hold and not considered at this point. Canadians deserve a clear process for accountability at this stage.”

On another front, the letter points out that Nova Scotia has imposed a moratorium on the use of the restorative justice model to deal with offences involving domestic or sexual violence.

“We question whether the use of a restorative approach in this instance is a breach of this moratorium,” the letter says.

Last week, Nova Scotia Justice Minister Mark Furey said the provincial and federal governments were ironing out details of how the inquiry would work, but he said there were delays because of “technicalities and legalities.”

Furey has said the inquiry or review must have certain features common to public inquiries, including judicial leadership, the power to compel witnesses to testify and the ability to make recommendations to hold public agencies accountable for their actions. And he has said the investigation could take the form of a traditional federal-provincial public inquiry led by an independent commissioner.

However, Furey indicated last week that some sort of hybrid was in the works.

“We want to take a different approach to sourcing the questions that individuals would have, particularly the family members,” he said on July 2. ”We’re taking a human-centred and trauma-informed approach consistent with some of the principles of restorative methodologies.”

Furey said he wants people to come forward to tell what they know about the circumstances before, during and after Gabriel Wortman’s murderous, 13-hour rampage through northern and central Nova Scotia on April 18-19.

In recent weeks, several groups and individuals have come forward to call for a public inquiry that includes a feminist lens, partly because the carnage the gunman unleashed started with a violent assault on his longtime common law partner.

In 2015, Nova Scotia created an innovative ”restorative inquiry” when it appointed a committee to look into allegations of long-term abuse at a former orphanage in the Halifax area, known as the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children.

Its collaborative approach featured “sharing circles” with former residents, black youth and community organizations.

But the hearings involving former residents were held in private. And instead of providing a list or recommendations, the inquiry’s final report offered a less specific ”road map” for change.

Over the past two months, the provincial and federal governments have faced a growing number of calls for a traditional, public commission of inquiry.

Among those demanding this approach are relatives of victims, about 30 professors at Dalhousie University in Halifax and opposition politicians.

As well, the daughter of Heather O’Brien — a nurse who was killed by the gunman on April 19 — has urged the federal and Nova Scotia governments to work together. In early June, Darcy Dobson said ”the back and forth about who’s responsible for an inquiry is unreal.”

Last week, five Nova Scotia senators renewed a call for the province to join with Ottawa to launch a joint inquiry. They said delays in announcing an inquiry have led to increased speculation about the shootings and the assailant, which could be eroding public trust in law enforcement.

Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press

Mass shootingsNova Scotia

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Campbell River Gun Club outdoor range is located on Argonaut Road west of Campbell River. CRGC/Facebook photo
Campbell River Gun Club range shutdown after complaints of stray bullets

The Campbell River Gun Club has shut down its rifle and pistol… Continue reading

RCMP display some of the fish seized from three suspects who pleaded guilty to violating the Fisheries Act in 2019, in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - RCMP
3 banned from fishing, holding licences after overfishing violations in Gold River area

Mounties seized the group’s 30-foot fishing vessel and all equipment on board at the time

Students at a previous NICBot Camp at the Campbell River campus show off what kind of tasks they’ve programmed their robot to do. Mirror File Photo
Youth camps are back at NIC this summer

Camps offered ‘with full health and safety plans in place to ensure the safety of all our students’

A 3.0-magnitude earthquake occurred off Ucluelet just after 12:30 a.m. on April 10 and was reportedly felt as far south as Oregon. (Map via United States Geological Survey)
Quake off Ucluelet reportedly felt as far south as Oregon

Magnitude 1.5 earthquake also reported off Vancouver Island’s west coast hours earlier

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
O’Toole to vote against Conservative MP’s private bill on ‘sex-selective abortion’

Erin O’Toole said he supports a woman’s right to choose and will personally vote against the private member’s bill

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Part of the massive mess left behind in a Spallumcheen rental home owned by Wes Burden, whose tenants bolted from the property in the middle of the night. Burden is now facing a hefty cleaning and repair bill as a result. (Photo submitted)
Tenants disappear in the night leaving Okanagan home trashed with junk, feces

Spallumcheen rental rooms filled with junk, human and animal feces; landlord scared to rent again

Dr. E. Kwok administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a recipient at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to register people ages 40+ for COVID-19 vaccines in April

Appointments are currently being booked for people ages 66 and up

A volunteer disinfects a historical Mohabat Khan mosque ahead of the upcoming Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, in Peshawar, Pakistan, Friday, April 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Muhammad Sajjad)
For Canadian Muslims, second pandemic Ramadan is a time of hope and sadness

Many members of the association are trying to find ways ‘to help people stay connected to one another’

South Surrey farmland, March 2020. The province’s crackdown on secondary residences sparked protests that have the NDP government engaged in a lengthy rewrite of its legislation. (Tracy Holmes/Peace Arch News)
B.C. NDP now wants to keep even ‘non-farmers’ on the land

‘Grandfathering’ of second residences extended again

Photos of Vancouver Canucks players are pictured outside the closed box office of Rogers Arena in downtown Vancouver Thursday, April 8, 2021. The Vancouver Canucks say 25 players and coaches have tested positive during a COVID-19 outbreak that involves a variant of the virus. It is now the biggest reported outbreak in the NHL this season. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canucks’ return to practice pushed back as player added to COVID protocol list

COVID outbreak has led to eight games being cancelled

People walk past the Olympic rings in Whistler, B.C., Friday, May 15, 2020. Whistler which is a travel destination for tourists around the world is seeing the effects of travel bans due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Adults living, working in Whistler, B.C., eligible for COVID-19 vaccine on Monday

The move comes as the province deals with a rush of COVID-19 and variant cases in the community

Most Read