February 21, 2022

Developments Over the Weekend, as the MCC is Poised to Begin

The Mass Casualty Commission begins their proceedings tomorrow morning at 9:30 a.m. I will be watching the livestream and giving some live commentary on twitter (@adamrodgersNS) as things unfold. I will be very interested to watch the opening statement from the Commissioners, to see how, or indeed whether, they address any of the controversy that has been circulating in the media over the past few weeks.

Since my last piece, which I posted before the weekend, and which was designed as an introductory setup piece to get people up to speed on the issues, there have been some new developments. There was a new article questioning the narrative on the gunman’s spouse, we learned that one of the Commissioners has a book on inquiries coming out, family members continue to speak out, and the police want to ensure their trauma is taken into account.

Investigative journalist, Paul Palango has published an article which dives into some of the background on the gunman’s spouse, Lisa Banfield. The article describes her role in two Small Claims Court matters, as well as reminding us of significant inconsistencies in the narrative that has been built up around Ms. Banfield. The piece raises serious questions about the victim/hero narrative that has been built up around her, and which has informed significant parts of the Commission mandate.

In week two of the proceedings, when Foundational Documents are released which deal with the initial few hours in Portapique, we will see how the Commission deals with these apparent inconsistencies.

Another thing I discovered over the weekend, with the assistance of citizens from Colchester who are doing their own digging into these matters, is that Commissioner Kim Stanton, a Toronto-based lawyer, has a book on inquiries coming out. The book is called Reconciling Truths – Reimagining Public Inquiries in Canada, and is available for $90 through the University of British Columbia Press.

The fact that Ms. Stanton has a book on inquiries coming out just as she is about to help preside over one may not end up being a problem, per se. It may be true that her idea of how an inquiry should operate on a trauma-informed basis, with principles of reconciliation at the forefront, will be seen to be an effective way of addressing these major public issues.

The problem is we now know that she has a personal interest at stake in the outcome. That may mean she works that much harder to ensure that her approach ‘works’, or else it could lead to a situation where she unreasonably sticks to this planned methodology regardless of whether it fits the circumstances, or seems to be effective as the proceedings unfold.

On Saturday, Nick Beaton, husband of Kristin Beaton, one of the victims of the shooting, and a leading advocate for the establishment of this Commission, was on Facebook Live, offering his criticism of the proceedings to date, and his frustration with the Commission. What he expressed in the video echoed the complaints publicized by Patterson Law in their open letter to the Commission.

My impression from watching Mr. Beaton express his frustration is that if the first few weeks of the Commission go poorly, from the families’ perspective, we could see them take action, such as threatening to walk out on proceedings, or applying other political pressure.

Finally, this morning there was an op-ed in the Chronicle Herald from Brian Sauve, President of the National Police Federation. In the piece, Mr. Sauve discusses the trauma experienced by RCMP members, and notes that this must be taken into account during the Commission proceedings. No doubt that is the case, and certainly those following the Desmond Inquiry will be familiar with how little mental preparation was provided for soldiers before going into battle. It appears that the same is true for RCMP members and other first responders.

Some will view this piece as an attempt by the Police Federation to pressure the Commission into refraining from any attempts to place RCMP members on the witness stand or make them available for cross-examination, or generally to be critical of any police actions during the mass shooting. If that was the intention, the Commission must resist that pressure. There are ways to support witnesses through these difficult circumstances, and part of the job of a police officer is answering for your actions under oath in court when called upon.

The days prior to the start of an inquiry can be frantic times for all involved. Many will be watching the start of the MCC proceedings tomorrow morning. I will be watching as well, providing context and analysis, as well as daily summaries of the key points raised and discussions held. Some of what came out this weekend will have an impact on those discussions, and how the evidence presented in the MCC is perceived by those most affected, and the public at large.