Much was made over the failure to issue an emergency alert during the Nova Scotia mass shooting two years ago.
Now, Mass Casualty Commission documents show how frustrated RCMP leadership was over constant questioning about the decision.
“The reason why the RCMP didn’t ask would be a question for them, and not for us,” said former Nova Scotia premier Stephen McNeil on April 21, 2020.
Two days after the shootings, McNeil indicated that while the province had been ready to send an alert, the RCMP didn’t provide the message.
The head of communications for the Nova Scotia RCMP, Lia Scanlan, later told the Mass Casualty Commission in a transcribed February 2022 interview:
“…the implication that had been made by the province – ah, it pisses me off to no end.”
“Because…he changed the narrative. He did.”
Soon after the shootings, some in the RCMP were tiring of questions about it.
In an April 21 email, made public by the inquiry, one RCMP inspector shared his frustration over the “incessant questioning” from media.
Inspector Rob Bell offers to call Chief Supt. Chris Leather to provide “perspective to help shut this line of questioning down.”
That same day, the force’s communications team was working out its messaging on the matter for Leather’s statement on April 22.
“We were in the process of preparing an alert when the gunman was shot and killed by the RCMP,” he said.
An earlier draft of his comments mentioned RCMP conducting a “thorough review of all RCMP actions over the course of this incident” including around public alerting, but that wasn’t included the final version for the public.
“Maybe they felt they didn’t want to make any suggestion that perhaps something was wrong,” says Dalhousie University professor emeritus of law, Wayne MacKay.
It took almost two years after the killings for the RCMP to put a national alerting policy in place.
“That’s very upsetting and disappointing to our clients,” says lawyer Robert Pineo, who represents the relatives of victims.
Pineo adds families still want to know why that policy wasn’t put in place sooner.
“We want to fully explore the decision to not employ the ready alert as a matter of policy.”
That’s one question among many Pineo is hoping will be answered when top RCMP officials give evidence in the coming weeks at the Mass Casualty Commission.
Public proceedings resume next Tuesday in Halifax.