July 18, 2022

MCC Day 49 – Another Panel Discussion on Mass Casualties, IPV, GBV and Family Violence

After the drama of last week, which concluded with the (unsatisfactory) appearance of Lisa Banfield, the MCC has turned back to the monotony of further discussion panels for the week ahead, with an interlude tomorrow to hear from a police witness and examine Gabriel Wortman’s “financial misdealings”.

The focus of today’s “roundtable” was “Mass Casualties, IPV, GBV and Family Violence: Exploring the Connections”. The speakers were Dr. Wendy Cukier: Professor in Ted Rogers School of Management at Toronto Metropolitan University, Dr. Amanda Dale: Activist, legal scholar, non-profit sector consultant, and former Executive Director of the Barbra Schlifer Clinic, Dr. Myrna Dawson: Professor of Sociology and Research Leadership Chair, College of Social and Applied Human Sciences, University of Guelph, Dr. JaneMaree Maher: Professor in the Centre for Women’s Studies and Gender Research, Sociology, and Associate Dean Graduate Research in the Faculty of Arts at Monash University, Dr. Alison Marganski: Associate Professor and Director of Criminology at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York, USA, Dr. Jude McCulloch: Criminologist and experienced legal practitioner; Inaugural Director of the Monash Gender and Family Violence Prevention Centre, and Dr. Barbara Perry: Professor in the Faculty of Social Science and Humanities at Ontario Tech University, and the Director of the Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism.

Most of what was discussed today has been covered in previous discussions on domestic, gender-based, and family violence. Generally, the panelists support treating this violence as a something akin to a public health response, as opposed to private matters. This leads to recommendations to have more resources dedicated to housing, counseling, and financial supports, as well as a shift in public attitudes towards victims of violence.

As has been the case with other panel discussions and expert witnesses, a viewer who may have somehow stumbled upon this discussion would have had difficulty figuring out that it was being held in the context of an inquiry into a specific mass shooting. Certainly, there was no reference to Gabriel Wortman, Lisa Banfied, or any other individuals involved in the events of the April 18-19, 2020 mass casualty events.

A great deal of work seems to have gone into assembling these panel discussions, which seem to have little resonance in the public, and which seem unlikely to form the basis of the MCC Commissioner’s ultimate recommendations when their report comes out in November. One can expect that the final report will identify that domestic violence is underreported, that bystanders and police officers need to take more responsibility when it comes to identifying situations of violence, and that more resources should be directed to support victims.

It would be interesting to be able to parse out how much time and MCC budget resources have been directed to these discussions. Full time research and policy directors are employed by the MCC, academics from universities and institutes from across Canada, the United States, the UK, and Australia have all been commissioned to prepare reports for the MCC, which has a direct cost. No doubt the research and police people at the MCC have spent time examining each of these experts/academics prior to hiring them to prepare reports, and have perhaps gone beyond that to study other experts who have ultimately not made the cut.

It raises questions as to the role of the Commissioners, and the use of the limited time allotted to the MCC. In a civil trial, where an issue arises that might be beyond the expected knowledge or intuitive abilities of the presiding judge, an expert (or, often, two competing experts) may be brought in to shed some light on the matter, after which the presiding judge uses their analytical skills to make a determination about the specific situation before them.

Here, there have been over a dozen experts who have been speaking about the issues around domestic and intimate partner violence, who have seemingly been trying to cover the entire possible spectrum of issues on those topics, regardless of whether there is a connection to the events of the mass casualty being studied.

The presumption behind the heavy volume of expertise on these issues of domestic violence seems to be that it is so unintuitive that these three Commissioners could not possibly come to their own conclusions, and require this high level of guidance in order to understand what is happening, and what needs to happen. That strikes me as a very low level of expectations to have for the three, supposedly highly qualified, Commissioners.

The other possibility is that the time spent is seen to be somehow valuable in educating the public on issues of domestic and intimate partner violence, and that this will help address the identified issues around public attitudes around such violence. If that is the goal, the low level of public engagement on days were these panels have been featured would suggest it was an ill-conceived objective.

There is limited time for the MCC to do it’s work and prepare a report with persuasive recommendations. Each day that is used for a discussion panel to aid the Commissioners or educate the public is a day that is not used to examine witnesses or deal with issues such as cross-border smuggling or criminal intelligence capabilities. These are all choices that the MCC is making.

Tomorrow will be more relevant. There will be a witness, Cst. Troy Maxwell, who was identified as the officer to whom Brenda Forbes spoke regarding Lisa Banfield and Wortman’s ownership of illegal firearms. There will also be a presentation on Wortman’s financial misdealings. It will be interesting to see if there is a discussion of his connections to illegal activities, or whether it will be limited to cash dealings with denturist clients.