Mr. Premier - It’s What the People Want
When something happens that is so egregious that it riles the public sensitivity, you might think a seasoned politician would recognize the signs of danger.
For example, Canada’s worst mass shooting in history has kindled a demand for answers of who, what, and why in the hope that such an event, one that shocked Nova Scotia from Portapique to Enfield, would guide us to ensure such a tragedy never happens again.
From the days that followed the murder spree, family, friends, and community began demanding those answers in a call for a public inquiry. Now, three months later, the federal and provincial governments respond with a watered down version of investigation called a “review panel” without power to compel witnesses or deal with those who are uncooperative or worse, untruthful.
In a world of politics, it is no surprise to see a statement like this, “Victims wanted a public inquiry, the community wanted a public inquiry and the people of this province have asked for a public inquiry. Yet this government has failed all of us and this government has failed to listen. A panel is this government taking the easy way out. It's this government failing the victims; it's this government denying justice to an entire generation of Nova Scotians.”
Sounds like something you might hear from an opposition MLA, and in fact it is. However, the statement is a quote from Stephen McNeil when he was an opposition MLA back in 2013 when the then NDP government called for a review instead of an inquiry into the racially charged issues surrounding the Nova Scotia Home for Coloured Children.
Different issue—same response.
It seems that governments are wary of public inquiries because they do not have control over the narrative. What if the inquiry uncovers something off the beaten path, who can steer them to the preferred conclusion? Of course, that is precisely the point of a public inquiry, it is not supposed to be steered, it is after all public.
The events that erupted in Portapique, April 18 and 19, are disturbing to say the least. If there ever was an issue that deserves to be thoroughly researched in the hope of finding recommendations to avoid even the slightest re-occurrence, Canada’s worst ever mass murder should be it.
As soon as the two Liberal governments, one federal and the other provincial, announced a review, the outrage erupted. Mark Furey, the Attorney General of Nova Scotia and his federal counterpart, Bill Blair, the Minister of Public Safety tried to see their idea by heaping praise on the three people named to conduct the review. But nobody was upset with those highly qualified individuals, they were upset with the process.
People had been clear, just as they were in 2013 when everybody except the government wanted a public inquiry.
Neither Blair nor Furey could defend their position. No matter how many times they repeated the exemplary credentials of the named panelists, they could not replace the need for an open inquiry with authority and guts to ask the tough questions of whomever they thought needed to answer.
Like so many times when government makes an unpopular decision, the bob-and-weave strategy just doesn’t cut it. And just like governments before them who have become so practised at not answering questions, they forget this is not question period in the house, this is real life with real people who more than want to know, they demand and deserve to know.
This latest smoke and mirrors, this blatant obfuscation only leads to more questions. What does government want to hide? The answer should be nothing, they should have nothing to hide and nothing to gain by keeping the public in the dark. Yet, all the fingers now point to the two governments, working in tandem, to deny public access to the truths that tear at the heart of a grieving community.
Only one voice spoke in favour of a review panel, only one group, and that was a spokesperson for the RCMP. The one agency charged with the responsibility of investigating not only the actions of Gabriel Wortman, but also of those who pursued him and killed him after a thirteen hour night of horror, is the one voice that welcomed a review instead of the more powerful public inquiry.
Given the chance, we should add why to that question in the growing list of concerns put before the national police force.
Yes, Mr. Premier, your statement in 2013 was entirely appropriate and it is just as true and appropriate today.
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