Nova Scotia shooting: RCMP reluctant to talk about emergency alert OCN News

Much has been made of the failure to issue an emergency alert during the mass shooting in Nova Scotia in April 2020.

Now, Mass Casualty Commission documents show how frustrated RCMP leaders were with the constant questioning of the decision.

“Why the RCMP didn’t ask the question would be a question for them, not for us,” former Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said on April 21, 2020.

Two days after the shooting, McNeil said that while the province was prepared to send an alert, the RCMP did not provide the message.

Nova Scotia RCMP communications officer Lia Scanlan later told the Mass Casualty Commission in a February 2022 transcribed interview:

“…the implication that had been made by the province — ah, that pisses me off to no end.

“Because…he changed the narrative. He did.”

Shortly after the shooting, which claimed the lives of 22 Nova Scotians, some RCMP members were tired of being questioned about it.

In an April 21 email, made public by the investigation, an RCMP inspector expressed frustration with the “incessant questioning” by the media.

Insp. Rob Bell offers to call the Chief Superintendent. Chris Leather for providing “a perspective to help close that line of questioning”.

On the same day, the force’s communications team was working on their messaging on this for Leather’s April 22 statement.

“We were preparing an alert when the shooter was shot by RCMP,” he said.

An earlier version of his comments mentioned that the RCMP was conducting a “thorough review of all RCMP actions during this incident”, including with respect to the public alert, but this was not included in the final version intended for the public.

“Maybe they thought they didn’t want to suggest something was wrong,” says Wayne MacKay, professor emeritus of law at Dalhousie University.

It took almost two years after the murders for the RCMP to put in place a national alert policy.

“It’s very upsetting and disappointing for our clients,” said attorney Robert Pineo, who represents the victims’ relatives.

Pineo adds that families still want to know why this policy was not put in place sooner.

“We want to fully explore the decision not to use the ready alert as a matter of policy.”

That’s one of many questions Pineo hopes to find answered when senior RCMP officials testify in the coming weeks before the Mass Casualty Commission.

Public hearings resume next Tuesday in Halifax.