September 26, 2021

Sources and Reliability of Pre-Inquiry Information

In this post, I want to talk to you about how we know what we already know, and how that may change (and perhaps dramatically change) as we approach the start of the Mass Casualty Commission hearings in a month’s time.

The first part of the upcoming Inquiry is going to deal with the question of what happened. In other words, getting all the relevant facts on the table so that the later analysis sections have some foundation on which to base their views and opinions.

The second part of the Inquiry is going to be attempting to answer the ‘why’ questions, and the third section is going to be devoted to recommendations for change. To use an example I expect will become prominent in this Inquiry, when we find out in part one that the gunman had a history of committing domestic violence, in part two we can then expect expert evidence on root causes and common traits of those who commit such abuse, and finally in part three we would expect to see some sensible recommendations on how better to intervene in situations where domestic violence is suspected or observed.

You will notice that I said there ‘when’ we find out, rather than ‘if’, and that is because we have already learned that the gunman was alleged to have committed acts of domestic abuse on his partner on a number of occasions, including the night of April 18th 2020.

We learned that information thanks to media efforts to have our courts order that the RCMP produce documents. I am going to do a separate video on the process involved in unsealing these police documents, called Informations To Obtain, or ITO’s. These ITO’s allow the police to get a search warrant on a property. When such a warrant is requested, to justify it, the police need to tell the justice of the peace all they know about the case, and so often, too often I will say, they also request that the ITO be sealed so that the public cannot see it.

Media organizations have been chipping away at this sealed ITO through successful court applications, and so some information has been coming out through that process.

Another way has been the class action lawsuit filed by the families. This is where we learned, for example, that the only RCMP helicopter in the area was out on routine maintenance the weekend of the shootings. Technically speaking, the lawsuit is only a source of unproven allegations at this stage, but when drafting a statement of claim, a lawyer is incentivized to allege only what you can plausibly prove. Otherwise, you risk your client being hit with a costs award at the end of the trial, which Rob Pineo and Sandra McCulloch from Patterson Law would certainly know. So, I have confidence that there is at least some factual basis for what is in those documents.

The rest of the information we have so far comes from the Serious Incident Response Team reports on the RCMP use of firearms at the Onslow Fire Hall and the Big Stop, though questions are being raised about those reports, and I will talk about them on a future video as well.

The last source of information has been through sources within the police who have been leaking information to a gentleman named Paul Palango, who is an author of several books on the RCMP, and who has been doing an excellent job covering the story since the beginning.

In my view, having all of this information being released prior to the start of the Inquiry proceedings is a good thing from our perspective as members of the public. The last thing we want is for this process to be tightly controlled and have a narrow focus. Every time some plausible new story comes out, or some fresh allegation is made that looks like it might have some merit, it forces the Inquiry to add that to the spectrum of topics it will cover.

So when Global News gives us witness accounts of the Fire Hall shooting, but the police won’t explain their side of it in an interview, the lawyers for the families can ensure that this is a topic covered during the Inquiry when witnesses will be subpoenaed and under oath.

Now, I said I expected more new information to come out in the coming weeks, and here is why. The family members and other participants are just now getting the foundational documents, police files, and other source disclosure that is going to be used and examined during the Inquiry.

In the Desmond Inquiry, this meant thousands of documents and other records, and I would suspect that here there will be even more. So as the lawyers and participants start combing through that heavy volume of material over the next few weeks, we may hear from participants, or perhaps anonymously, new information or new versions of what we thought we knew.

I will be watching for that sort of thing, and as new information comes out, you can count on me to bring it to you here.