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

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

Les Cleverly, formerly of Grand Forks Fire/Rescue, is suing the city as well as current and former city firefighters over alleged workplace bullying and defamation. File photo.
Former Grand Forks firefighter suing department, city over alleged conspiracy, wrongful dismissal

Plaintiff Les Cleverly filed a notice of civil claim with the Supreme Court of BC in last week

The court will fix a date for sentencing on Feb. 9. File photo
Powell River man pleads guilty to sexual interference of a minor in Grand Forks

The man is awaiting sentencing pending a psychological assessment

Interior Health update. File photo.
86 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

The new deaths are from Heritage Square, a long-term care facility in Vernon

Summit Ski Hill had a delayed start to the season because of warm temperatures. Photo: Summit Ski Hill
Late season start frustrating for Nakusp ski hill

Summit Ski Hill only just opened Jan. 14

Four friends were heading to their home on Highway 6 just south of Silverton on the evening of Dec. 25, 2020, when the people in the front of the vehicle saw what looked like a “huge, man-like figure” on the side of the road. (Pixabay.com)
Possible Bigfoot sighting shocks, excites Silverton residents

‘I didn’t see the creature myself, I saw the prints’

Keith the curious kitten is seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 is Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 17 to 23

Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day, Pie Day and International Sweatpants Day are all coming up this week

Terry David Mulligan. (Submitted photo)
Podcast: Interview with longtime actor/broadcaster and B.C. resident Terry David Mulligan

Podcast: Talk includes TDM’s RCMP career, radio, TV, wine, Janis Joplin and much more

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

A COVID-19 outbreak at Vernon's Heritage Square long-term care home has claimed seven people. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Two more COVID-19 deaths at Vernon care home

Heritage Square has now lost seven people due to the outbreak

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
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

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

Most Read