Portapique: an independent panel isn’t good enough [UPDATE: a public inquiry will proceed.]

After three months, there will finally be an investigation into the April mass shooting which started in Portapique, NS. Unfortunately, it likely won’t go far enough.

Despite the specific requests of victims and victims’ families, it will be an independent panel and not a public inquiry. The panel will have no ability to compel testimony, and will lack the transparency of an inquiry.

Paul Wells has been echoing the societal frustration well in Macleans all along, and summed it up after the panel announcement.

We might as well give it a name, this odd feeling of having been heard, understood—and ignored—by government.

It’s a familiar enough sensation, after all. It’s not that the lines of communication have broken down. It’s not that the message isn’t getting through. It’s not even that governments are inert or inactive. On the contrary, they’re whirlwinds of action. They’re just doing… something else… besides what circumstances warrant and populations demand.

This odd feeling is all I have after Mark Furey, Nova Scotia’s justice minister, and Bill Blair, the federal minister of public safety, announced the end of three months of confusion about how governments would respond to the April mass murder around Portapique, N.S. They’re convening a review. It’s like a public inquiry, only toothless and secretive.

Before the ministers’ announcement, I asked Dalhousie University law professor Archibald Kaiser for some comment on the delay in announcing any sort of inquiry. Kaiser sent me a long, thoughtful essay. “Instead of reassuring the public, the behaviour of governments has been opaque, tardy, uncertain, avoidant and condescending,” he wrote. “It is hard to make sense of why there have been so many bungles and missed opportunities in the aftermath of Canada’s worst mass killing.”

Paul Wells, Macleans, July 2020

The news of the government’s decision was met with protests this past weekend. Despite the CVs of the appointed panel, I fear their output will be met with disappointment. And the families and loved ones will be left to deal with the questions and doubts.

UPDATE: bowing to public pressure, the federal government has announced a public inquiry.

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