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

A health care worker prepares to test a Coastal GasLink field worker for COVID-19. (Coastal GasLink photo)
Coastal GasLink begins COVID screening of pipeline workers

Construction is once again ramping up following Northern Health approval of COVID management plan

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

(Black Press file photo)
Charges laid against two suspects in pre-Christmas home invasion

An 88-year-old woman was hospitalized after being bear-sprayed in the face Dec. 18, 2020

Liam and Tyler Spaans, (L-R), are two of the current lifeguards at the Houston Leisure Facility. (Houston Leisure Services file photo)
Leisure facility anticipates need for lifeguards

Has been challenged in the past

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Doctors and counsellors warn of an increase in panic attacks, anxiety, depression and suicide ideas between ages 10 to 14, in Campbell River. ( Black Press file photo)
Extended pandemic feeding the anxieties of B.C.’s youth

Parents not sure what to do, urged to reach out for help

Kara Sorensen, diagnosed with lung cancer in July, says it’s important for people to view her as healthy and vibrant, rather than sick. (Photo courtesy of Karen Sorensen)
B.C. woman must seek treatment overseas for inoperable lung cancer

Fundraising page launched on Karen Sorensen’s behalf, with a goal of $250,000

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

The first of 11 Dash 8 Q400 aircraft's have arrived in Abbotsford. Conair Group Inc. will soon transform them into firefighting airtankers. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Conair begins airtanker transformation

Aerial firefighting company creating Q400AT airtanker in advance of local forest fire season

Most Read