This forum is here for feminist news and articles about the horrific mass murders in Nova Scotia, April 18 & 19, 2020.

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From day one, advocates knew shooting was linked to domestic violence

In the wake of the event, feminist groups and women’s shelters across Canada have been calling for recognition and action.

by Victoria Walton, The Coast, May 2, 2020

Photos of protesters outside of the Nova Scotia Provincial Courthouse in March 2016. - MEGHAN TANSEY WHITTON
  • Meghan Tansey Whitton
  • Photos of protesters outside of the Nova Scotia Provincial Courthouse in March 2016.
Although it took RCMP over a week to address the Nova Scotia massacre’s relation to domestic violence, Canadian feminists and activists say they saw the telltale signs from the start.

“I immediately thought this probably had a domestic violence event that precipitated it or was an element to it,” says Leighann Burns, a founder of the Ottawa-and-Montreal-based Feminist Collective. With her 30 years of experience working in shelters for abused women, Burns is particularly concerned about the lack of discussion around this issue by police and in the media.

“We were watching very closely, and I was really troubled by the fact that the RCMP was not giving accurate information about what was going on, particularly about the domestic violence act,” says Burns.

During the massacre of April 18 and 19, we now know the common-law partner of the gunman was the first victim. She escaped and was forced to hide in the woods in Portapique overnight, only emerging at dawn to call police and warn them the suspect was driving a mock RCMP vehicle.

In the days following the tragedy, police have given contradicting information about the incident, at one point calling the first female victim a “catalyst” for the entire event.

"Even yesterday's press conference, they continue to hedge about who the partner is,” says Burns, who thinks if the woman's privacy is the concern, police should clarify that. "Why not just say it outright? We're concerned about this person's privacy, and therefore, we're not going to speak in a great deal of detail, but this is what we know."

In the wake of the event, feminist groups and women’s shelters across Canada have issued statements about its link to domestic violence.

“Avalon Centre stands in solidarity with feminist and anti-violence organizations in recognizing this act as gender-based and misogynist,” reads a post from Avalon Sexual Assault Centre in Halifax.

Adsum for Women & Children in Halifax says it’s never too soon to talk about the reasons behind the attack and murders. “The hatred of women that leads to violence and eventual homicide is known as ‘femicide’ and must become part of our vocabulary,” says Adsum’s statement.

In the days following the shooting, local feminists also banded together to create a new organization–Nova Scotian Feminists Fighting Femicide (FFF).

“I had been so frustrated after hearing nothing about male violence against women in the mass shooting that I could hardly stand it. I can't tell you how angry I was, I was so upset,” says longtime activist Linda MacDonald.

So MacDonald and six other Maritime women gathered for a Zoom call just days after the incident. “The strategy was that we do a press release, and that's what we did, and it gathered a lot of attention really,” she says.

The release from FFF calls for a public inquiry into the events of April 18 and 19 to include an analysis through a feminist lens.

“We just can't ignore the misogyny and that's why we need an inquiry to start. If the RCMP aren't going to embrace this as one of the elements of the investigation, then it has to be taken to the inquiry,” says MacDonald.

MacDonald says the question shouldn’t be whether misogyny played a role in the shootings, but how much of a role it played.

“We're not saying that this is all a misogynistic act. We're just saying that misogyny and male violence against women is one of the red flags in mass shootings," she says. "That we can prevent mass shootings if we start taking more seriously male violence against women.”

According to the Canadian National Femicide Observatory’s #CallItFemicide report, 148 women and girls across Canada died in 2018 due to violence. Of those cases, 91 percent of suspects were male, and 53 percent were the male partner of the victim.

“Femicide can be prevented. And if we can prevent femicide, then we can also prevent the homicide that flows out around it,” says MacDonald.

MacDonald says a feminist inquiry would examine the red flags that were missed in this case.

“A real investigation into the history of how he treated women in his life, whether they were co-workers or neighbours or clients that he had that were getting their teeth done,” she says.

But Burns says it’s important to remember these relationships don’t always have warning signs.

“Often the private face of an abuser is not the same face that they display publicly. So you may very well know lots of people who are doing this, but not know that they're doing it,” the Ottawa-based advocate explains.

Feminists have studied similar high-profile cases over the decades. In Ontario, two inquests into women’s deaths at the hands of their partners–the Arlene May case of 1996 and Gillian Hadley in 2000–drew national attention.
May’s inquest came with a whopping 214 recommendations for police and the crown to implement. But in the end, those inquests didn’t lead to systemic change.

“Basically the Ontario government came out on the doorsteps of the courthouse who said they had already implemented all these things, which was clearly not true,” says Burns.
In the case of the École Polytechnique massacre, it took three decades for the government to acknowledge the misogyny behind it, finally installing a new plaque in naming the murders as violence against women in December 2019.

“We knew what his intentions were when it happened, but there was this sort of whitewashing of it, and emptying of that meaning that it actually held, and only 30 years later that they put a new plaque,” says Burns.

And despite the national attention, despite naming the problem as domestic violence, and despite the plethora of women and advocates calling for an end to femicide – Burns’ biggest worry is that the problem will continue.

“Studying a problem endlessly without actually doing anything about it is not going to change,” Burns says. “The major systems that are in play here haven’t changed much over the years. Police have to respond properly. When women come forward, police have to get it right every single time. And when they don't get it right, we see tragedy over and over and over again.”

“He was a psychopath”
A former resident of Portapique says she called the RCMP to tell them the future gunman assaulted his domestic partner and that he had illegal weapons. The police took no action.

May 12, 2020 By Joan Baxter, Halifax Examiner

“That son of a bitch is dead.”

That was the first thing Boe thought when she heard on April 19 that the RCMP had killed a man who on gone on a murderous rampage across Nova Scotia, leaving 22 dead.

The murder spree started in the village of Portapique on the Minas Basin, where Boe had once lived.

Boe now lives in western Canada. She granted a telephone interview with the Halifax Examiner, but asked that we identify her only by her nickname, in part because she still fears for her safety. We’ve confirmed her identity and other details of her association with Portapique. We are identifying the gunman as “GW,” except in quotes when Boe identifies him by name.

Boe said that soon after she and her husband met GW when he first came to Portapique, they concluded that he was, in their estimation, a “psychopath.”

And it was because of GW that she and her husband eventually decided to sell their beautiful home in Portapique and move to Halifax. But even there she didn’t feel safe.

“I knew he was looking for me,” she said. “And I was afraid if I go into a store in Halifax, and he showed up, what would I do?”

So after three years in Halifax, she and her husband packed up and moved west.

But the awful experience of GW has never left her. She says she has been interviewed many times by the RCMP Serious Incident Response Team since the mass shooting.

She also reached out to Linda MacDonald and Jeanne Sarson, two nurses in Truro whose self-funded campaign, Persons Against Non-State Torture, aims to combat the torture of women and girls that is driven by misogyny.

MacDonald and Sarson were signatories to a recent statement on the mass shooting by seven Nova Scotia feminists fighting femicide, calling for “an inquiry with a feminist analysis of the violence.”

Boe recounted to MacDonald and Sarson the history of her terrifying interactions with GW, and especially her extreme concern over the way he was able to get away with repeated abuse of his common-law spouse.

After Boe spoke with them, MacDonald asked her if she would share her story with the Halifax Examiner. She agreed.

It began, Boe said, around 2004, not long after GW bought a house in Portapique.

They weren’t even in that house for a year when [GW’s partner] ran over to my house one day saying that Gabriel was beating her up and she was scared. She wanted to hide somewhere because he had blocked her car with his truck so she couldn’t get out. But she managed to get away from the house.

Boe said she told GW’s partner that she needed to get help, that there were “a lot of services” and “a lot of places” that would keep her safe. Boe said she was unable to convince her, because, according to Boe, GW’s partner said that there was no way, because he was going to kill her.

Boe told the Examiner that after that she told some people what GW had done, but had trouble convincing everyone:

I’m going to say that about half of them said, “oh no, he’s such a nice guy, he would never do stuff like that,” and just pshawed me, basically.

She said that GW drank a lot, and often bought alcohol for others.

Boe said she learned GW had again physically abused his partner, this time on a piece of property he owned:

And he had [her] on the ground. He was choking her, screaming at her, telling everybody around… Just screaming at her and stuff … It was bad, bad, bad, bad.

Boe said the assault was witnessed by one of GW’s relatives, who was a good friend of hers when he lived in Portapique and who is now in a long-term care facility, following a stroke. Two other men also watched it happen.

When the relative told her about the incident, Boe called the RCMP. The responding officers asked if any of the three men would testify to witnessing the assault. Boe didn’t know. However, she did tell the responding officers that “he’s got a shit load of illegal weapons. I’ve seen them. My husband has seen them.”

Boe said she and her husband know what weapons Canadians are allowed to own with a Firearms Acquisition Certificate, and that they knew GW’s were not legal. So she told the RCMP that, and then in their presence, she called GW’s relative and put him on speakerphone so the Mounties could hear him:

So I called [the relative] and I said… “would you be willing to talk to the RCMP about what happened with [GW’s partner] and the illegal weapons that Gabriel has?” And he said, “no way, because he’s already told me he’ll kill me, because he’s already told me that he’s killed people in the United States.

And I said, “Okay … just chill. Just relax. Don’t worry about it.” I hung up and the RCMP basically said, “the only way that we can actually get the information on this and prove it … like for her being beaten and strangled and stuff like that. She has to say it.” And there’s no way that she would do that. Gabriel had her under his thumb. And I mean, literally. If her family came over, he would be right beside her. So she wouldn’t say anything to them about what happened at all.

According to Boe, at some point, GW pressured his partner to sell her vehicle and to work for him at his denturist office. Boe said that GW would leave his partner working in the city, and come to Portapique in the company of other women. When Boe spoke with his partner about this, she then confronted GW. And that’s when it “got scary” for Boe:

…because he dragged her back up to our house. My husband was downstairs. I was upstairs. I had a little bit of the flu. So I was in bed. It was during the daytime. He pounded on the door. [My husband] opens it. And Gabriel starts screaming …

Boe said that when she heard the obscenities, she went downstairs and told him, in so many words, that she had merely been telling the truth to his partner. GW then “grabbed hold” of his partner and “dragged her back out.”

According to Boe, after that her husband had to go abroad for work and the situation got worse. When Boe came home from work, she would park her car and go inside.

And I noticed him [GW] coming up the road. He stopped his vehicle right in front of my house. He got out of the vehicle, stood there and stared at the house for a good half hour, scaring the shit out of me. And this happened about four days in a row.

When her husband returned home, she said she told him they had to move away from Portapique.

Boe has profound concerns about the well-being of GW’s partner, and believes that people should be aware of “the hell that she lived through,” and what it’s like for a female to be assaulted constantly and to be controlled by a violent male partner. Boe hopes that she will be looked after and that there will something in the estate for her to “make sure she is set.”
Gun control and red flag laws

Boe fully supports the federal government’s May 1 ban on military-grade assault weapons:

I call them weapons of mass destruction. Those ones should not be allowed at all. The only people that use those type of weapons are people that are in the military. When you’re fighting in a war, that’s it, you do not use them anywhere else. They’re not used for hunting. They’re not. You should not be able to get them, period. And gun control, I think right now, because of what’s been happening — and it may get worse with those coronavirus stuff going on — this is my way of thinking: anybody that applies for an FAC* [Firearms Acquisition Certificate] should be psychologically tested first before they get an FAC, and have no criminal charges, no criminal past, nothing like that. It’s just wrong. They don’t do good enough background checks.

Military grade equipment should not be in the hands of civilians at all. And like even retired military guys. There is no reason to have access to any of those type of weapons. None. Because they’re meant to kill.

Boe also supports red flag laws, which Canada’s Public Safety Minister Bill Blair announced the federal government would be bringing in “to allow law enforcement to remove firearms from dangerous situations to make sure they don’t become deadly.”

Said Blair:

We will empower victims, communities, doctors, families. We will empower Canadians to render their situation safe and where there are firearms in a situation that could be dangerous, we know that situation can become deadly and red flag laws will empower us to keep Canadians safe.

Boe said there were lots of red flags about GW:

When I made the first report to the RCMP, I wish they had acted on it. They would have found all his weapons. Because at that time, like he had already been charged with assault before. So there were big red flags going up there.

And she thinks red flag laws that would allow the police to seize weapons from anyone posing a risk to themselves or others would be good.

Right now, if somebody sees somebody assaulting somebody, beating somebody, whether it be a guy or a girl, whatever, and they report it, it should be actioned immediately. Not with the consent of the person that’s being beaten, whether it be a guy or girl. Same with weapons: if you know somebody’s got weapons or has purchased weapons from the States, they didn’t come from Canada, and they don’t have an FAC, that’s a big red flag there. Report them. And the RCMP or whoever is investigating should do it right away — like yesterday.

Boe also said she “really, really” feels for the RCMP, and imagines that they are also “going through hell,” given what they went through and that they also lost a “comrade,” Heidi Stevenson, in the mass shooting.

Her only regret is that they weren’t able to prevent the tragedy by seizing GW’s weapons. Said Boe:

And the one, the only thing that could have been handled differently, is when I reported at first and nothing was done.

* TheFirearms Acquisition Certificate was replaced by the Possession and Acquisition Licence in 1995. Boe was familiar with the older terminology.

Neighbour reported mass shooter’s domestic violence, weapons to police
by Canadian Press, May 12, 2020

HALIFAX — A former neighbour of the gunman behind last month’s mass shooting in Nova Scotia says she reported his domestic violence and cache of firearms to the RCMP years ago and ended up leaving the community herself due to fears of his violence.

Brenda Forbes said that in the summer of 2013, she told police about reports that Gabriel Wortman had held down and beaten his common law spouse behind one of the properties he owned in Portapique, a coastal community west of Truro.

Domestic violence is being examined as a key aspect of the mass shooting, as police have said the rampage began on the night of April 18 after the gunman argued with his common law spouse and restrained and beat her before she managed to escape into the woods.

He went on to kill 22 people and burn a number of homes before police shot and killed him outside a gas station in Enfield, N.S.

Forbes said her first awareness of Wortman’s domestic violence was shortly after he moved to Portapique in the early 2000s, when his partner came to her door and asked for help.

“She ran to my house and said Gabriel was beating on her and she had to get away. She was afraid,” said the 62-year-old veteran of the Canadian Forces.

Forbes said she encouraged her neighbour to seek help but recalled that she was frightened of her partner and of repercussions of going to police due to threats he’d made against her family.

She said that in 2013 she learned Wortman had been seen hitting his partner behind one of his properties.

“He had her on the ground, was strangling her …. He was beating on her,” she said of the account she heard, saying there were three male witnesses.

“On that incident, I called the RCMP and I told them what happened, and I said he has a bunch of illegal weapons, and I know because he showed them to us,” said Forbes, who has since moved outside the province.

She said that in response to her complaint the RCMP interviewed her while she was working at a cadet camp in Debert, N.S., and she retold the story. She said she encouraged one of the three witnesses to give his account to police, but he refused, saying he feared violence from Wortman.

Forbes, who first told her story to the Halifax Examiner, said it upset her that police seemed unable to take firmer action on her complaint.

“From what I got from the RCMP, because (the partner) would not put in a complaint, as she was scared to death, they basically said, ‘There’s not much we can do. We can monitor him but there’s not much else we can do,’ ” she said.

The Canadian Press emailed the RCMP about the prior report of domestic abuse, but a spokesperson wasn’t immediately available for comment.

RCMP Supt. Darren Campbell said during a news conference last month that investigators “have spoken to witnesses who have provided information to us about prior assaults; those are all things that we are dealing with right now.”

He has also said that investigators are speaking to the former common law spouse to gain a better understanding of previous incidents.

However, Forbes said she felt at the time the incident should have been more thoroughly investigated.

“If you tell them that he may have illegal weapons, should you not go and check it out?” she asked.

Her husband, who also served in the Canadian Forces, recalled being shown their neighbour’s weapons cache.

“He knew I had weapons, being in the military, so he was always one of those guys who had to show others that whatever they had, he had something better,” George Forbes said. Wortman showed him firearms, including pistols and a rifle, in the garage, he said.

“We reported that to the police also,” he said. Police have said the gunman didn’t have a licence for his weapons.

Brenda Forbes said that after she reported the abuse incident to the RCMP’s Truro detachment, Wortman became more aggressive towards her.

George Forbes recalled him coming to the front door and threatening his wife. Brenda Forbes said Wortman would drive around their house and park outside the door.

“I was scared. … Even though I’m military and I know how to use a weapon, that man scared the crap out of me,” she said.

She said she and her husband left the area in 2014 out of growing fear and discomfort over Wortman’s behaviour.

Linda MacDonald, a founder of Persons Against Non-State Torture, said in an interview that advocates who are trying to reduce violence against women have long seen a connection between hatred of women and mass shootings.

The Truro-based nurse is among the signatories of a recent statement that called for a deeper look at the role misogyny played in the April 18-19 killings.

“There’s definitely an element of male violence against women in this crime,” she said. “Our main request is an independent public inquiry with a feminist analysis included.”

MacDonald said if male violence against women were considered more seriously in the criminal justice system, it could avoid tragedies such as the one that occurred in Nova Scotia.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 12, 2020.

Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press

Group of Dalhousie faculty members sign letter urging McNeil to call public inquiry into Nova Scotia mass shooting
The Canadian Press, May 15, 2020

More than 30 faculty members at Dalhousie University’s law school have signed a letter urging Nova Scotia’s premier to call an independent public inquiry into the shooting rampage that took 22 lives last month.

On Thursday, Premier Stephen McNeil said a review of the tragedy should be led by Ottawa, with the province providing support and assistance.

However, 33 of the roughly 40 faculty members of the Halifax university’s Schulich School of Law signed a letter on Friday urging McNeil to initiate a public inquiry with broad terms of reference.

They say in the letter the inquiry’s terms must allow for a critical review of the procedures and decisions employed by police during the April 18 and 19 shootings, and in the months and years leading up to the tragedy.

They also want the inquiry to consider broader social and legal issues that may have been contributing factors, including domestic violence.

“An internal investigation will not suffice. Independence, impartiality and transparency are essential components of maintaining public confidence in the administration of justice. Only a public inquiry can satisfy these requirements,” they say in the letter.

The premier again said Friday he believes Ottawa should lead the inquiry into the shooting because the RCMP is a federal police force with national protocols.

“We can only call an inquiry that constitutionally fall under the responsibility of the province of Nova Scotia. While we have the responsibility for policing, it’s clear the RCMP fall under the Constitution with the federal government, as well as the firearms fall under the Constitution with the federal government,” McNeil said.

“With all respect to the law professors, we believe the federal government ... should be the one who would call for whatever they determine for a review.”

However, the professors’ letter says Nova Scotia is responsible for law enforcement and the administration of justice in the province.

“The process that your government sets in motion now must be robust enough to assure Nova Scotians that you are doing all that is in your power to ensure that this will never happen again,” the letter says.

Family members and legal experts have repeatedly called for more information on the police handling of the rampage, which lasted more than 12 hours.

The perpetrator’s prior history of domestic violence has also been raised as a key issue to examine.

The Mounties provided a timeline of the rampage indicating that it began in Portapique, N.S., on April 18 after a domestic assault incident where Gabriel Wortman detained and abused his common law wife.

Police have said she managed to escape into nearby woods where she hid until early in the morning of April 19.

Earlier this week, a former neighbour of Wortman said she reported an account of a 2013 incident of domestic violence by Wortman to the RCMP in Truro.

Brenda Forbes said she reported witnesses telling her that Wortman had strangled and beaten his common law partner, and she said she told police there were guns in the house.

The RCMP said in an email Friday they can’t find a record of the complaint at this point.

The legal scholars say the public inquiry could establish what prior abuse occurred and explore the role it played in Wortman’s evolution into a mass killer.

Amanda Dale, a feminist legal scholar based in Chelsea, Que., said in an email that “the behaviour of the perpetrator in the Nova Scotia mass shooting was classic behaviour for a misogynist.”

She said an inquiry could subpoena documents and bring witnesses forward to “compel a truth-seeking exercise,” where witnesses wouldn’t face repercussions for giving their testimony.

Dale, a member of the advisory committee of the Canadian Centre for Legal Innovation in Sexual Assault Response, said an inquiry could also assemble expert testimony on the links between domestic assault and acts of mass shooting that have occurred in Canada.

She said areas to consider in the Nova Scotia mass shooting include an examination of the adequacy of existing gun control laws and the so-called “red flag” laws that allow people to report imminent risk of gun violence.

There are also unanswered questions about how Wortman managed to obtain replica police vehicles and decorate them with RCMP decals and how he obtained four semi-automatic weapons.

In addition, the Mounties have faced questions about why they relied on social media to advise the public of an active shooter when they could have sent an emergency notification to every phone in the province. Some relatives who lost loved ones have called for the issue to be examined as part of a public inquiry.

New details emerge about N.S. mass shooting as calls for public inquiry grow louder
by Heidi Petracek, CTV News, Atlantic Reporter, May 15, 2020

PORTAPIQUE, N.S. -- CTV News has learned the girlfriend of the perpetrator of Canada’s worst mass shooting ran to a resident’s home for help, emerging from the woods after escaping the gunman the night of Saturday, April 18.

Multiple sources tell CTV News the woman came to the resident’s home in Portapique, N.S., in the early-morning hours that Sunday. The resident then called 911.

That resident tells CTV News police officers surrounded the house, with their guns drawn, and the ensuing chaos put them “through hell.”

The resident didn’t want to be identified, but says the events of that night have left them so traumatized, they haven’t been able to return to their home since.

Several people who live on Portapique Beach Road and Orchard Beach Drive, where the gunman killed 13 residents, have told CTV News they believe a public inquiry is needed.

Author and journalist Paul Palango agrees. The Chester, N.S., resident has written three in-depth books examining the RCMP.

“Right from the outset, things didn’t go right,” says Palango.

He says he has been contacted by various sources in law enforcement who point to communication problems from the very start of the tragic events.

“They knew from the outset that the guy was in a police car,” Palango says. “The fake police cars were burning and the suspect’s house, so they [police] assumed he was still in there. But he’d gotten out.”

Palango says an inquiry could help determine why certain decisions were made by those in command, and why some actions were not taken.

“By the next morning, they didn’t have a secondary perimeter,” he adds. “They didn’t lock down any roads, they didn’t call Truro or Amherst municipal police.”

The gunman went on to kill nine other people during his rampage, claiming the lives of 22 people in total.

Nova Scotia’s Serious Incident Response Team confirms to CTV News that a resident of Portapique recently called to make a complaint over how police responded in the area the night of April 18. But, because the resident wasn’t injured, the complaint falls outside of SiRT’s mandate.

CTV News asked the Nova Scotia RCMP for an update on the investigation, but was told there would not be any new information released Friday or over the weekend.

Meanwhile, 33 professors and staff at the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University have written an open letter to Nova Scotia’s premier, calling for a public inquiry.

“From the earliest days following these acts of violence it was clear that a public inquiry would be necessary in order to promote public confidence in the Nova Scotia legal system,” the letter states.

“The families of the victims, Nova Scotians, and Canadians deserve a transparent, impartial, and independent assessment of why and how this incident occurred,” it adds.

One of the signatories on the letter is Archie Kaiser, a law professor and expert in criminal procedural law.

“How could you not have an inquiry?” Kaiser asks. “It would just be unthinkable.”

On Thursday, Premier Stephen McNeil indicated Ottawa would have to take the lead on any examination of what happened, as the RCMP is governed by federal protocols.

But Kaiser dismisses that, saying the province has the authority to trigger a public inquiry under both the provincial Public Inquiries Act and the Fatality Investigations Act. Kaiser believes a review under the Public Inquiries Act would be more appropriate in this matter.

“I don’t understand the premier’s deflection of responsibility,” he adds. “I think he should commit immediately to an inquiry in principle, and I think after that, the federal government and the province of Nova Scotia can collaborate if there are areas of discreet federal interest."

Kaiser says government does not have to wait for the RCMP and SiRT investigations to be completed before beginning the inquiry process.

In a statement Friday the Department of Justice writes, in part: “This matter is complex and involves matters of both federal and provincial jurisdiction. We want to ensure that whatever mechanism is used, there is the necessary authority to consider all of the relevant issues.”

Cracks are forming in the RCMP cone of silence

By Paul Palango, Halifax Examiner, May 21, 2020

It has been about five weeks since the Nova Scotia massacre, five long weeks during which the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have cowered inside a cone of silence.

Compare its approach to how police forces around the world have typically handled similar events. From Paris to Toronto to just about Anywhere USA, the police are quick to inform the public about what has transpired and about key information about the perpetrator or perpetrators. Little, if anything, is hidden.

So what’s the problem here?

From the outset the RCMP right up to Commissioner Brenda Lucki seems determined to stall for time and control the narrative of this story. They have forced the media to go to court to find out what was in the applications for search warrants executed after the shootings. The law states that such information should be readily available to the public.

The Mounties have also taken refuge behind its claim that it has commissioned a psychological profile of the gunman and can’t say anything at this time. It kind of sounds like then candidate Donald Trump’s claim in 2016 that he couldn‘t reveal his tax filings because they were under audit.

In my long experience of writing about the RCMP, now into its fourth decade, I’ve become accustomed to the typical response I receive after something is published. Some are praiseworthy, many are castigating, including current and former members of the RCMP.

What I’ve learned and described is that RCMP culture is cult-like. There is an almost mindless commitment to the force. “There is no such thing as an ex-Mountie,” I once wrote, because even retired Mounties seem compelled to protect the image of the force.

Since publishing an opinion piece last week on, I’ve witnessed the typical gamut of comment. Among them, Philip Black wrote:

The RCMP are not perfect, but does that justify the rampant jumping to conclusions and the widespread RCMP bashing.

And Brenda Carr, a 911 dispatcher had this to say:

… people who do not work in this profession can only surmise what it is like and what it takes to do this job. And no one is looking for praise. And on the same note, no one is looking for criticism. They did their best. And you do not know nor will you ever know what these men and women did to stop this monster. This is a time for healing. This article is not helping, it is only hurting.

But to my surprise, many others have contacted me who don’t fit the normal profile in that a number of them were current or retired RCMP and other law enforcement officials.

“I’ve read everything you’ve written over the years and while I agreed with some of it, a lot of it just made me mad,” said one former high-ranking RCMP executive. “But now, I have to admit that I agree with you. The RCMP is broken. It’s not ready. It’s a danger to the public and its own members.”

That Mounties sentiments were echoed by another former Mountie, Calvin Lawrence, who first served in the Halifax police department before joining the RCMP, where he had a long career. He is the author of a book, Black Cop. He amplified the comment about readiness.

After the murder of three Mounties in Moncton in 2017, the RCMP changed its policies and all police officers were given long guns.

Lawrence says that while the Mounties carry the guns, they don’t likely know how to use them in a desperate situation. He says that while the RCMP talks a good game about its training, in reality a lot is left to be desired.

I suggested to him that the first Mounties to respond to the scene, particularly the supervisor, a corporal, may have been frozen in place, not knowing what action to take.

“That doesn’t surprise me at all,” Lawrence said. “You would think they had something in place to respond to crazies,” Lawrence said. “They probably put something in writing but didn’t practice it…. Tactical training costs money. The officers had the guns but didn’t know how to use them.”

But the most interesting call of all arrived with a cryptic description on the cell phone call display that I had never seen before.

The caller, who could best be described as a Deep Throat whistleblower, was obviously nervous. I will call him “he” from now on because there are more hes than shes in the law enforcement world.

“This is the first time I’ve ever done something like this,” he said. “But I felt I have to do something.”

He said he was calling me to encourage the media to keep asking questions: “Don’t give up.”

When I told him that I and others who are pursuing the story have a thousand questions about what went wrong, from the indecision at Portapique Beach Road, the apparent communications debacle where not only the RCMP brass was not alerted to the seriousness of the situation but also the public.

I asked him why the premier of Nova Scotia and the province’s Attorney General were reluctant to call a public inquiry.

“Is it because Premier McNeil has relatives in policing, that the Attorney General is an ex-RCMP and that there are ex-RCMP in the police services branch?”

“That’s not it,” he said. “It’s about the money.”

So I switched to events.

“Why was Heidi Stevenson alone in her car?”

“I know what happened to Heidi,” he said. “It was just bad luck. But, you’re right, she shouldn’t have been there.”

But that wasn’t why he called.

“All that stuff will eventually come out,” he said.

The real issue, he said, was what the police are hiding about their previous knowledge about the gunman.

“Make requests about Wortman and what the police knew about him.”

“RCMP or Halifax?”

“Just keep asking questions and filing access requests.”

I tried to push him. I pointed out that while the COVID-19 epidemic has hampered the news gathering abilities of the major media, there was a lot of good work being done by an array of organizations from the on-line Halifax Examiner to Canadian Press and even the notorious Frank Magazine. To date the various entities have reported on everything from the gunman’s quirks, threats to others, illegal guns, replica Mountie cars, possible cigarette smuggling and even the murder of someone in the United States, among other things. The man killed 22 people, including a police officer in cold blood, so he doesn’t have a reputation to besmirch. In the absence of the RCMP’s official story about him, speculation becomes rampant.

“It seemed to me from the outset that he may have killed other people in the past,” I said.

The whistleblower just hmmmed.

“There’s something they are hiding that will blow the lid right off this thing,” the whistleblower reiterated. “I can’t tell you what it is. I shouldn’t even be telling you this. Just keep pushing.”

When I ran all this by Maclean’s writer Stephen Maher, he immediately added another possibility. “Maybe he was a CI.”

A confidential informant? With a licence to kill?

It’s a crazy idea but in the absence of facts from the RCMP people will talk.

That’s the situation we are in.

This week the RCMP and its government lawyers have continued to obstruct the information process, insisting upon redacting information contained in the applications for its search warrants.

And then there is the psychological assessment or “autopsy” of the gunman. Well here’s my independent analysis.

He likely wet the bed when he was young. He had a fascination with fire. He tortured little animals. He likely had an accident and sustained a seemingly minor head injury in his youth. He suffered from undetected frontal lobe brain damage. He had low self-esteem but masked that with a superficial outward face. He grew into a malignant narcissist. Like many serial killers and mass murderers, he had a fascination with policing but becoming a security guard was beneath his station. He was a misogynist, largely because he had sexual orientation issues. He had no empathy for anyone and was controlling. I could go on, but….

That’s it. Send the cheque to a charity of your choice.

That being done, Commissioner Lucki, what’s the BIG SECRET?

Paul Palango is a former senior editor at the Globe and Mail and author of three books on the RCMP. He lives in Chester Basin.

What’s a misogynist? It’s the choice to be a hater of women!
By Jeanne Sarson and Linda MacDonald - Nova Scotia Advocate, May 27, 2020

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – When I, Jeanne, was teaching 12-year-olds about human rights and equality of girls and boys, a male student spoke up. In a flash the hammer of misogyny—of the hatred, objectification, and dismissal of girls and women as equal persons became glaringly visible. The student explained that, “My father said all you have to do is put a bag over her head and they are all the same.” Illustrating how misogyny was being passed on to the next generation of males. Keeping this misogynistic attitude will be expressed in his behaviours as he grows into manhood—but—he will have a choice. Hear this—being a misogynistic adult male is a choice!

Likewise, the misogynistic violent serial spousal assaulter began his mass killing in Portapique, Nova Scotia. He killed twelve 12 women, one female youth, nine men, and two dogs—he had a choice.

Likewise, it was up to the RCMP and others to listen and to act on prior warnings that this man was violent and possessed guns—they too had a choice.

Likewise, Brenda Forbes, living a five-minute-walk from the killer’s home, she too had a choice. When speaking with us, Brenda explained how in 2013 she had called the RCMP and spoke to community members attempting to expose that the killer was a dangerous violent man who assaulted his female partner. Her fears grew intense when the killer began stalking her at her home. Brenda and her partner moved away from the Portapique neighbourhood. She said, “He scared the crap out of me.” Now it’s 2020 and Brenda is repeating and re-explaining her choices made in 2013, restating her fears in a Global National TV video interview.

Have we as Nova Scotians considered that violent domestic assaulters and domestic torturers are serial perpetrators? The killer’s uncle said he witnessed the killer repeatedly assault his female partner. This means this man was a violent serial assaulter.

In 2014 researchers in Wales and England found that between 4 and 20 percent of spousal assaulters are serial perpetrators. Prior to this, back in 2006, researchers wrote in their book, Snakes in Suits, that one in five or 20 percent of persistent or serial spousal assaulters may commit “sadistic crimes” on those they choose to victimize. This acknowledges the reality there are perpetrators who commit acts of serial domestic torture which has been the focus of our work for the past 27 years. This work began in Nova Scotia.

Following Brenda Forbes’ public disclosure of the killer’s repetitive victimization of his female partner, a woman recently spoke to us of the serial spousal assaults she suffered, including being strangled once. She made reference to Jane Hurshman’s Life with Billy. A few snapshots into Jane’s life reveals she suffered years of serial torture victimizations committed by Billy her husband. Besides ongoing beatings and inflicting sleep deprivation, Billy repetitively forced a piece of solid plastic plumbing pipe into Jane’s anus, he tied her to a chair naked then ‘plucked’ out her pubic hair, he urinated in a glass then grabbed Jane by her hair forcing her to swallow his urine, he dragged her by her breast, and shoved soiled panties into her mouth to silence her screams of pain. Jane described watching Billy kick and bite their dog. Like the violent NS mass murderer who spoke about killing people in the U.S., Billy said he killed a fisherman by throwing him off a fishing boat. Jane described that “Bill took everything from me, a bit at a time, until there was nothing left but a shell.”

Jane stood trial for the first-degree murder of Billy; in 1982 on appeal the jury’s verdict was– “Not guilty.” During the trial RCMP Staff Sergeant Williamson testified he chose to exclude Jane’s description of the brutalities she described suffering from his investigative statement “because he felt they had nothing to do with the event.” Illustrating in the 80s the impact misogyny had on dismissing violent serial spousal victimization. It is important to take a herstorical perspective because as everyday persons we insist that misogynistic-based attitudes and actions continue and must now be transparently and honestly addressed in a public Nova Scotia inquiry. Otherwise children, women, and men of all ages, and animals, in any Nova Scotian community are at serious, even life-threatening risks.

Guns and serial assaulters and torturers

As Nova Scotians we need to rethink the realities of domestic assaulters, torturers, and mass shooters because they have a history of being serially violent to their female partner. Billy had a gun which he used to shoot at Jane threatening to kill her. If perpetrators have a gun this increases the risks for femicide. But guns are also used as a tool to terrorize and to rape with.

Often women may first cope to tell us their stories with a drawing because the emotional terror they felt at the time returns silencing or freezing them from telling. Drawing can initially help them tell what they wanted to speak aloud. Such as this drawing by Sara, when a young woman she wanted us to “see” how she was terrorized, raped with a gun, and humiliated when laughed at and demeaned when put down as “cry baby.”

Women who have survived serial torture within family relationships tell us guns were the main weapon the perpetrators used to terrify them. Just a few weeks ago I, Jeanne, reviewed 77 responses sent to us by women listing the forms of domestic torture they survived. Selecting just four items from the 48 listed, 79 percent of the women said they were raped with a gun, knife, and other objects; 61 percent indicated they were forced to watch pets being harmed or killed; 90 percent said they were threatened to be killed, and 99 percent said they were treated as non-human.

Such misogynistic hatred, threats, and guns keep women terrified never knowing when they will be killed. Such serial violence is serious because mass killers frequently have a history of misogyny and spousal assaults. U.S. studies inform that the majority (61%) of mass shootings occurred entirely in the home.

An independent provincial public inquiry: Examining misogynistic violence with a feminist analysis

With colleagues—NS Feminists Fighting Femicide (FFF)—we called for an inquiry in our media release. Seeking the inclusion of a feminist analysis as one part of a public provincial inquiry requires (a) identifying the impact misogyny had on the RCMP failing to investigate Brenda Forbes’ complaints to them that the killer had guns and assaulted and strangled his female partner, (b) examine how misogyny leads to the dismissal of warnings signs suggestive of femicidal risks and the potential for mass killings, and (c) hear how Nova Scotians want men’s violence against women to be addressed including understanding the impact of misogyny and serial perpetrations.

A feminist analysis is essential to prevent an inquiry that contains a patriarchal bias. Admitting that both men and women are born into a patriarchal society means we are all impacted by this bias. Actually worldwide research tells us that 91 percent of men and 86 percent of women show at least one clear bias against equality including when considering intimate partner violence. In only six of the 75 countries studied did the majority of people hold no inequality bias towards women. Patriarchy grants men a position of privilege, of domination, and power and control over women who were/are socially considered and treated as inferior. This bias of being socially oppressed conditions women to accept their inequality ignoring their right not to be subjected to male violence. Therefore, a feminist analysis must be included to eliminate this patriarchal bias.

Acknowledging the existence of a patriarchal discriminatory bias one just needs to briefly examine women’s herstorical struggles against misogynistic oppression. For instance, Canadian women had to fight for the right to vote—Nova Scotian Suffragettes gained this right in 1918; it meant Indigenous women did not gain the right to vote until 1960; it meant the famous five women had to travel to the Privy Council in London, England to win that women be declared “persons” in 1929 thus able to become senators; and an everyday example of women overcoming oppression was in 1964 when they gained the right to open a bank account without obtaining their husband’s signature. The list of overcoming subordination and oppression continues in this push for a Nova Scotian inquiry. We must engage in a truth-seeking transparent and no doubt painful deliberation to achieve recommendations that will work towards eliminating misogynistic bias. A bias that ignores or minimizes violence against women—ignores serial assaults and torture. We must work to catch and report warning signs in our efforts as Nova Scotians to disrupt and prevent the risks of further femicides and mass shootings.

A feminist analysis supports a Nova Scotian public inquiry that cares. The opportunity needs to be provided for children, adults, and families who have been victimized and traumatized by the mass killer’s rampage with the right to speak.

Feminicide occurs when a government fails to take action to prevent or intervene to hold men accountable for acts of violence perpetrated against women and girls. Misogynistic violence takes many forms, including emotional and psychological abuse, verbal abuse, assaults, stalking, strangulation, torture, rape, other forms of sexualized violence and exploitations, and forms of femicide plus evolving forms such as suicidal femicidal conditioning for example. Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland states, “Feminicide has long been a scourge in our society. It remains a scourge, we must stop it.”A Nova Scotian public inquiry needs to make its recommendations to the national government for updating amendments to the Criminal Code of Canada.

Upholding a culture where misogyny thrives within individuals, within relationships, within our institutions such as the RCMP is no longer a choice. And the warning signs are detectable and not senseless. Femicides and mass shooting can be prevented. The choices made by violent men who inflict misogynistic-based terrorization, femicides, and homicides must no longer be silenced, must no longer be ignored, dismissed, or trivialized. Nor can we remain accepting of the 12-year-old’s “put a bag over her head” intergenerational misogynistic harms inflicted onto children. It is time to insist on our caring wisdom—our choice to become a province focused on eliminating decades—no centuries—of relational misogyny and misogyny within our institutions.

Son of 2 Portapique victims says 2011 warning on gunman should have prevented attack
by Anjuli Patil, May 30, 2020

The son of two people killed in last month's mass shooting in Nova Scotia believes a 2011 warning to police that gunman Gabriel Wortman had a stash of guns and wanted "to kill a cop" should have prevented the tragedy from ever happening.

The tip, according to records recently obtained by CBC News, was sent to police agencies across Nova Scotia, but RCMP can't say what, if anything, was done with it.

"I'm angry more than anything. I'm angry that 22 people lost their lives and I really, truly believe that this could have been prevented," said Ryan Farrington, whose mother and stepfather, Dawn Madsen and Frank Gulenchyn, were killed in the April 18-19 massacre.

Farrington's parents lived in Portapique, N.S., and moved from Oshawa, Ont., 10 years ago. Farrington's mother was originally from Nova Scotia and always wanted to move back. The couple loved living by the ocean.

Farrington said there are still a lot of unanswered questions about the tragedy, as well as the 2011 tip.

An RCMP spokesperson said the force typically keeps warnings like that for only two years.

"We can't speak about specifics of the follow-up to the 2011 bulletin because our database records have been purged as per our retention policies," Cpl. Jennifer Clarke said in an email.

"Preliminary indications are that we were aware and at minimum provided assistance to [Halifax Regional Police], which aligns with the RCMP's approach for such enquiries (sic)."

The tip was initially sent to the Truro Police Service, who then shared it with Criminal Intelligence Service of Nova Scotia, a network of policing agencies that share information.

Halifax Regional Police did investigate the tip at the time because Wortman has a home in Dartmouth, but determined any information about weapons was related to his cottage property in Portapique, which was outside its jurisdiction. Halifax Regional Police said that information was shared with the RCMP.
a car parked on a dirt road: Police say Gabriel Wortman torched several homes, including his own in Portapique, in the midst of a shooting rampage in April. Nine years earlier, police agencies across the province were warned he had a stash of guns and wanted 'to kill a cop,' according to documents obtained by CBC News. © Steve Lawrence/CBC Police say Gabriel Wortman torched several homes, including his own in Portapique, in the midst of a shooting rampage in April. Nine years earlier, police agencies across the province were warned he had a stash of guns and wanted 'to kill a cop,' according to documents obtained by CBC News.

"I don't understand why [the 2011 bulletin] would be erased after two years, knowing that there is a highly volatile person in the area, especially mainly with the weapons being at his Portapique addresses," Farrington said.

He said he was told by RCMP that the Truro police had information that could have prevented the massacre, but that it wasn't shared with them.

"There's just so much we need to know and we're not getting answers," Farrington said.

He hopes the federal government calls a public inquiry that would address questions such as what the RCMP knew and when, how Wortman was able to bring in weapons illegally across the Canada-U.S. border, how he was able to get a police uniform and outfit his vehicle to look like an RCMP cruiser.
Federal inquiry

Nova Scotia Justice Minister Mark Furey told CBC's Mainstreet on Friday that an inquiry into the shooting should be handled by the federal government because there are limits to what the province could do.

Furey, who is a retired Mountie, said many of the major players involved in the situation are federal agents, including the RCMP, the Canada Border Services Agency and the firearms registry.

He said an inquiry should be collaborative so the agencies that answer to different levels of government would be compelled to answer questions and implement any recommendations made.

a man wearing a suit and tie: Nova Scotia Justice Minister Mark Furey would not say whether Nova Scotia would launch a provincial inquiry if the federal government decides not to launch an inquiry into the mass shooting. © Craig Paisley/CBC Nova Scotia Justice Minister Mark Furey would not say whether Nova Scotia would launch a provincial inquiry if the federal government decides not to launch an inquiry into the mass shooting.

Furey would not say if Nova Scotia would seek an inquiry if the federal government doesn't.

"Those would be circumstances I would address at the time," he said.

If you are seeking mental health support during this time, here are resources available to Nova Scotians.

We can do this! Eliminating systemic sexism, misogyny, men’s violence and femicide
By Jeanne Sarson and Linda MacDonald - June 8, 2020, Nova Scotia Advocate

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – On April 19th the largest mass shootings in Canadian history ended. Before the violent misogynistic man was shot and killed by the RCMP, he had committed 13 femicides and 9 homicides.

Seven weeks later Minister of Justice Mark Furey stated a joint federal-provincial inquiry or review into this horrendous mass killing will happen. He described this developing process as broad in scope, needing judicial leadership with the ability to compel witnesses to testify, so recommendations made are binding on agencies.

A critical piece in a federal-provincial broad in scope inquiry, or review, requires the inclusion of a feminist analysis addressing male violence against women or “gender-based violence” as Minister Furey named it. This framework is absolutely essential to examine how the RCMP understands and responds to complaints of male violence against women.

For instance, Brenda Forbes reported that this killer was a dangerous man who had guns, who assaulted and strangled his female partner. Why were her reports of the killer’s serial assaults and strangulation of his female partner not acted upon by the RCMP? Was the potential of a femicidal risk ignored by the RCMP? Acting to intervene when men commit intimate partner violence can help prevent femicides. Mass killings are frequently associated with male violence against female partners.

What did the RCMP do with this knowledge?

Viewing the “RCMP update about the Nova Scotia mass shooting investigation” covered live on CBC News, June 4, left us distressed and outraged. Stating the mass killer was an ‘injustice collector’ according to the psychological autopsy, ignored that men injustice-blame women they assault or torture. Instead, why were the killer’s misogynistic serial assaulting, his strangulation of his female partner, plus his possession of guns not suggested as the potential reasons for his mass femicidal and homicidal rampage?

Does a culture of sexism and misogyny regarding male violence against women exist in Nova Scotia?

A federal-provincial inquiry or review must answer this question. To do otherwise would mean intentionally ignoring that systemic sexism exists in Canada and in Nova Scotia as it does globally. To do otherwise would mean willful federal-provincial silencing of the misogynistic violence male assaulters and torturers inflict against women and girls. It would mean deliberate federal-provincial dismissal of the research that male violence against women can lead to femicide and mass shootings. Therefore, there is no other choice.

A feminist analysis on how systemic sexism and misogyny impact on reports of male violence against women and girls is essential in a broad scope federal-provincial inquiry or review. Asking the RCMP to address these questions is not being destructive. Speaking openly and transparently to answer these difficult questions is necessary to transform our culture, agencies, and relationships.
Systemic sexism and misogyny: Herstorical political and judicial realities

To slip back in time to show how sexism and misogyny are Canadian realities, let’s drop in and visit Margaret Mitchell. In 1979 she was elected to the House of Commons. On May 12, 1982, during question period, she stood up to address Judy Erola, Minister of the Status of Women. Margaret began her statement with “one in 10 Canadian husbands beat their wives regularly.” Misogynistic laughter, heckling, and “vulgar jokes” were unsuccessful in silencing her. Persevering she said, “Madame Speaker, this is no laughing matter.” Supporting Margaret, Judy Erola said she did not find the men’s derision amusing “and neither do the women of Canada”—not then nor now.

When Barbara Greene submitted “The War Against Women” report to the Canadian government 1991, it included Ann Sharp’s example of this sexist misogynistic judicial judgement:

A woman whose ex-partner was convicted of aggravated assault against her….was hung by ropes, naked, from the beam of a barn and whipped to…unconsciousness….in front of the male’s three children….[H]e received…a $200 fine and three years’ unsupervised probation. The woman sat, disbelieving, as he was…fined $500 for an unrelated charge of possessing illegal venison. Based on this sentence, one could argue that in the future moose and deer would be safer from this man than the woman he tortured.

This man’s torture of his spouse takes us back to the year 2000 and our two and half years of supporting Lynn recover from the torture she survived. In brief, Lynn said:

I was called bitch, slut, whore and “piece of meat.” Stripped naked and raped – “broken in” – by three goons who, along with my husband, held me captive in a windowless room handcuffed to a radiator. Their laugher humiliated me….Raped and tortured…I was choked or almost drowned when they held me underwater…in the tub….I was whipped with the looped wires of clothes hangers, ropes and electric cords; I was drugged, pulled around by my hair and forced to cut myself with razor blades for men’s sadistic pleasure. Guns threatened my life….Starved, beaten with a baseball bat, kicked, and left cold and dirty, I suffered five pregnancies and violent…abortions….I saw my blood everywhere when I was ganged raped with a knife. Every time [my husband’s] torturing created terror in my eyes, he’d say, ‘Look at me bitch; I like to see the terror in your eyes.’ I never stopped fearing I was going to die.

Lynn lived in Bible Hill where the RCMP detachment is located. For over 20 years Lynn had not told of the torture she suffered because when she tried, she said, no one believed her. Despite this long lapse of years, late one night Lynn received a threatening phone call from a man who told her to “shut up”—to stop working with us. We witnessed Lynn call the Bible Hill RCMP detachment, leaving a message that was never returned.

The depths of misogynistic violence that men inflict against Nova Scotian women and girls must be appropriately named so their victimization reports can be understood. For instance, distinguishing an assaulter from a torturer is significant. Misogynistic attitudes feed the male assaulter’s exertion of power and control and violent behaviours; as well, misogynistic attitudes feed the torturer’s organization of their dehumanizing torture acts as Lynn briefly described. To illustrate these two levels of violence against women and girls we have listed the behaviours in the accompanying chart.
Systemic sexism and misogyny: Policing realities

This question of whether sexism and misogyny exists within the RCMP is justified. RCMP Deputy Commissioner Kevin Brosseau stated there is a culture of misogyny within the RCMP. Such a culture must be examined to understand how misogynistic attitudes influence how the RCMP as an agency responds to reports of male violence against women, or even think about women and girls as persons. A former female RCMP officer told us she often heard male officers use misogynistic put-downs by referring to pregnant female officers as “cunt guts.” Given that men’s violence can begin when their female partner is pregnant and the risks for femicide can increase, such language ought to raise red flags that sexist misogynistic attitudes exist in the day-to-day culture of the RCMP? How do such attitudes influence investigations of men’s violence against women and girls?

In the 1995 article on the book entitled, Police Wife: The Secret Epidemic of Police Domestic Violence, only the Halifax Regional Police department and another municipal police department offered information about officers assaulting their partners. Based on American research 40 percent of male police officers admitted during a six month period they inflicted violent behaviours against their spouse and children. How this translates into Canadian reality is unsure. Perpetrators apply whatever efforts they can to prevent being exposed; we assume complaints can be circumvented with the same tactics used by non-police perpetrators. Such as applying pressure on a spouse not to file a complaint or maybe the Blue Wall of Silence shelters another officer’s actions that are criminal, corrupt, or brutal.

One female police officer who had several intimate relationships with other police officers told us she endured violence. She described being shoved very hard, being physically battered when hit in the face, having blackened eyes, bloody lips, broken ribs, being brutally forcedly anally raped, and being strangled once.

Lynn, introduced previously, spoke of the police officers who came to rape and torture her when she was held captive by her husband and three of his male friends.

Besides the reality that male police officers do commit violence within their ‘intimate’ relationships, a report by Pam Palmater highlighted that an RCMP investigation found their own involved in corruption—perjury, falsifying evidence, and organized crime. Additionally, Palmater references physical and sexualized assaults perpetrated by numerous RCMP officers, plus a culture of “bullying, sexual abuse and harassment.”

This month Sara phoned to described being at the Bible Hill RCMP station. While there she explained she was born into a family that tortured and trafficked her all her life. And that she was in her early 30s before she got out, offering, she said, to help others if needed. Sara said the RCMP officer replied with, “We don’t deal with that.” Sara was the first Nova Scotian woman to ask us for support in her efforts to recover from decades of torture, trafficking, and other forms of victimizations including suicide-femicide conditioning. The mass killer’s female partner feared for her life which calls attention to the potential of femicide. One of our graphic writings about femicide in Canada was translated by Russian women into their Russian language. Women in Greece are uprising about the torture and femicide of Eleni Topaloudi. We are all angry, fighting back against systemic sexism, misogyny, and femicide that devalues and dehumanizes all women and girls and even degrades a woman’s normal pregnant physical form as a “cunt gut.”

There is hope. This week a woman called us. She cared about her friend who had suffered serial physical assaults, including being awakened at night by the pain of being strangled by a violent male partner. This violent man made this threat: “You better get your daughters on birth control pills because I have plans for them.” Her daughters are pre-teens. This bystander friend felt responsible to speak of her concerns for her friend and daughters, and to offer her friend new knowledge about the risks of strangulation that can cause femicide.

There is hope. Honest and painful Nova Scotian conversations are needed. Insights into types of misogynistic male violence domestically committed in Nova Scotia need to be understood so when men’s violence against women or girls are reported to the RCMP and spoken of in communities they will be taken seriously and not dismissed. What will it mean when we remove the abuses of power that systemic sexism has afforded male assaulters and torturers? What will it mean when the weights of oppression, shame and blame no longer exist to break the silence of getting honest about what male violence against women and girls means?

What is the life and value of a woman or girl worth? Almost nothing if these hard and painful realities of systemic sexism, misogyny, men’s assaults, torture, and femicides are not laid bare on Nova Scotian soil in a federal-provincial inquiry or review.

We can do this.

MP for Nova Scotia riding where mass shooting took place says inquiry should examine domestic violence
by Janice Dickson, Globe and Mail, June 11, 2020

The member of Parliament who represents the region in Nova Scotia where Canada’s deadliest mass killing took place says an inquiry into the shooting that claimed 22 lives should include a feminist analysis that examines the role of domestic violence.

Police have said that the gunman’s rampage started with an assault on his common-law wife.

Cumberland-Colchester MP Lenore Zann said she would like to see an independent inquiry that probes the link between domestic violence and the violence that transpired in April.

“I would like it include a feminist analysis that looks at the domestic violence aspect of this man’s life and the fact that there is a connection, experts say, between private violence and public violence,” said Ms. Zann.

Nova Scotia Justice Minister Mark Furey said last week that there will be a joint federal-provincial inquiry or review into the mass killing and that, while the details are still taking shape, it must include judicial leadership, the power to call witnesses to testify and the ability to make binding recommendations.

This is a “very difficult time for family, and they want answers,” Mr. Furey said in a statement. He said he expects an announcement will be made in the near future and details about the inquiry or the review will be shared at that time.

Mary-Liz Power, a spokesperson for federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, did not comment directly on the inquiry, instead saying that Mr. Blair has been in “close contact” with Mr. Furey regarding the RCMP’s continuing investigation.

“The terrible tragedy that took place in Nova Scotia has left Canadians with many questions. We ... join Nova Scotians in the search for those important answers," Ms. Power said.

The RCMP have been criticized over how they responded to the shooting and for not warning residents about the gunman through the province’s public-alert system. They’re also facing questions about why earlier complaints against the 51-year-old denturist did not result in charges.

Nova Scotia RCMP have said they are re-examining a 2013 domestic abuse and weapons complaint against the gunman to try and understand what, if any, action was taken at the time.

Last week, RCMP Superintendent Darren Campbell called the gunman an “injustice collector,” in a briefing with reporters, saying that his grudges ultimately exploded in violence.

Ms. Zann said she would like to hear more about his behaviour toward women.

“Right now all the RCMP is saying is that he was a grievance collector. I’m sorry, that’s lame. That’s not addressing the issue of the violence against women, of the domestic violence,” she said.

Ms. Zann said she would like to see a woman take the helm of the investigation, someone who understands the dynamics of domestic violence, control and coercion.

She would also like to see changes in law, such as the adoption of a red flag law that would give people the opportunity to report “red flags” they see in someone’s behaviour, such as if they pose a danger to themselves or others, and that would compel law enforcement to investigate.

Linda MacDonald and Jeanne Sarson, two former nurses in Truro, N.S., who run the advocacy campaign Persons Against Non-State Torture, say the inquiry needs to consider violence against women.

“We want the inquiry to have a feminist lens, and we feel that the chair needs to have knowledge of feminism to be able to understand that lens, to examine all the aspects of male violence against women in relation to the shooter, what his history was like, and have a knowledge of femicide and a knowledge that mass shootings and male violence against women are connected,” said Ms. MacDonald.

Ms. Sarson added that the inquiry also needs to look at how police agencies respond to male violence.

Portapique Cemetery: we won’t accept the body of the mass murderer

June 12, 2020 By Jennifer Henderson, Halifax Examiner

The Portapique Cemetery has been the final resting place for family members of the Davison, Knight, Fletcher, and Fulton clans and other Colchester County families for nearly 250 years. Mature trees surround the three-acre graveyard, which is a mix of modern markers and scarred, weathered stones dating back as far as the 1770s.

The historic cemetery was also the ideal next-door neighbour for a denturist from Dartmouth who had previously been involved in boundary disputes with his neighbours, was abusive to his common-law spouse, and stored illegal guns in his Portapique mansion.

On the night of April 18, the denturist whom The Examiner is referring to as GW, began a nearly 13-hour rampage that left 22 victims shot or burned to death. As he fled towards Halifax, GW was eventually shot and killed by police while he was gassing up in Enfield.

According to at least two acquaintances, GW intended to be buried in the Portapique Cemetery. But the locals who maintain it insist there is no room for a mass murderer who has brought shame and outrage to their area.

The Undertakers

Donald K. Walker is an undertaker who operated seven funeral homes and employed 50 people when GW came to work for him in Dartmouth in the mid-1990s. GW had graduated from the funeral director’s program at the Community College in Kentville.

Walker says he didn’t know him well but remembers the reason GW left to become a denturist.

“He didn’t like embalming; that’s why he quit,” recalls Walker, who has since sold his funeral homes and now runs a cremation service. “Very weird, considering he had completed the training.” Walker told the Halifax Examiner he became reacquainted with GW over the past few years, when the denturist started referring clients to him for cremation services.

The funeral director says GW told him he owned a police car and that “the RCMP knew about it.” Walker insists GW “never mentioned anything about a gun and if he had, I would have been shocked. I thought he was a gentleman.”

The Burial Plan

All that remains today of the $600,000 home in Portapique the gunman burned to the ground are two stone pillars at the entrance to the treed lot with its panoramic view of the Bay of Fundy.

After the denturist was killed by police, Walker says he telephoned a man in his late 80s who looks after the Portapique Cemetery to find out if GW had purchased a plot. Walker says this man told him GW had not paid for one, but had met with him and discussed his intention to be buried, “in a crypt or a vault” in the graveyard beside his house.

“He’s not there; there’s no plot for him,” said the son of the man Donald Walker spoke with on the telephone. (The Examiner is not naming the Portapique-area family because of the father’s serious health issues.) The son was adamant no such burial would ever take place, regardless of what probate court documents may eventually reveal about GW’s will and instructions.

“He’s not there because we don’t want him there,” said the son, who is familiar with his father’s involvement and maintenance of the Cemetery. “We don’t want people down there digging him up and terrorizing us. My grandfather is buried there.”

The RCMP have told reporters an autopsy of GW’s body by the Medical Examiner could take at least six months. It also remains to be seen what legal issues could come into play regarding the Nova Scotia mass killer’s remains.

In the United States, for instance, Congress passed a law in 1997 which addressed the issue raised when the Oklahoma City Bomber — a veteran of the Gulf War — was executed. The law now forbids anyone convicted of a capital crime from being buried in a National Cemetery.

In many cases, family members of a murderer opt to have the body cremated, either with the ashes dispersed privately or buried in an unmarked grave, to avoid the possibility of an identified site being desecrated or attracting the morbidly curious.

The Nova Scotia killer had ties to criminals and withdrew a huge sum of cash before the shooting
New evidence including a video of the killer raises questions about his activities prior to the Portapique shooting and RCMP transparency around the case
By Paul Palango, Stephen Maher, Shannon Gormley, McLeans, June 17, 2020

The man who murdered 22 people in a two-day shooting rampage in Nova Scotia in late April withdrew $475,000 in cash 19 days before he donned an RCMP uniform and started gunning down his neighbours, contacts and random strangers.

Gabriel Wortman withdrew the money from the Brink’s office at 19 Ilsley Ave. in Dartmouth, N.S., on March 30, according to a source close to the police investigation, who provided Maclean’s with two videos.

The first video shows Wortman driving what appears to be one of his decommissioned white police cruisers into the fenced yard of the security facility. He is wearing a baseball cap and leather jacket. In the second video, taken inside, he conducts a transaction, then walks back to his cruiser with a carryall apparently filled with 100-dollar bills, according to the source, and stashes the bag in the trunk of his vehicle.

A uniformed Brink’s employee at the Dartmouth location said recently: “People are always surprised by how much money like that takes up so little space.”

That amount of hundreds would weigh less than five kilograms.

Wortman, a 51-year-old denturist, is said to have arranged the withdrawal from Brink’s after transferring the cash from an account at a major Canadian bank.

In Wortman’s last will and testament, a handwritten document he wrote in 2011, which was published last week, Wortman declared a number of properties assessed for about $700,000. The true real estate market value would likely be higher. He also declared about $500,000 in personal property, RRSPs and insurance policies.

The withdrawal of $475,000 suggests Wortman may have converted all of his liquid assets into cash or that he had a hidden stash of cash.

It is not clear what happened to the money from the moment the killer took it out of the Brink’s location to the time he was shot by RCMP officers during an attempted arrest at a gas station in Enfield, N.S., on April 19.

The lawyer for family members of the killer’s victims said Wednesday that the estate filing at probate court lists a large sum of cash, which he believes was recovered by the RCMP.

“I assume the public trustee has it,” said Robert Pineo, who is suing the estate.

Wortman’s common-law spouse filed a court document May 25 renouncing any claim on the estate, heading off a legal dispute with relatives of the victims.

“The goal is to liquidate his entire estate and have it made available to the family members,” he said.

On Tuesday, Pineo filed a proposed class-action lawsuit against the RCMP and the province, alleging that the force failed to “protect the safety and security of the public.”

Nova Scotia RCMP did not respond to questions on Wednesday about what became of the money or whether Wortman was connected to any organized crime investigations.
A still from a video showing Gabriel Wortman in the Brinks yard on March 30, 2020.

A still from a video showing Gabriel Wortman in the Brink’s yard on March 30, 2020.

The officer who swore the RCMP’s first search warrants was Sgt. Angela Hawryluk. A 28-year veteran of the RCMP, Hawryluk stipulated in the documents that she is experienced in outlaw biker gangs, drug trafficking and confidential informants.

Superintendent Darren Campbell seemed to rule out the possibility that Wortman was a confidential informant for the RCMP at a press briefing on June 4. “The gunman was never associated to the RCMP as a volunteer or auxiliary police officer, nor did the RCMP ever have any special relationship with the gunman of any kind,” he said.

However, according to one law-enforcement source, Wortman often spent time with Hells Angels, and he had at least one associate with links to organized crime.

Sources say he was friendly with Peter Alan Griffon, a Portapique neighbour linked to a Mexican drug cartel. Sources say Griffon printed the decals that Wortman used on the replica RCMP cruiser he used in his murders.

In 2014, Griffon, then 34, was arrested by Edmonton police as part of an operation against a drug trafficking ring operated by the Mexican cartel La Familia and elements of the ruthless multi-national El Salvadoran gang MS-13. He pled guilty and was sentenced to seven years in prison on Dec. 12, 2017, for possession of a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking and weapons charges.

At the time of the arrest police said they had seized from Griffon’s home: four kilograms of cocaine, ecstasy, $30,000 in cash, two .22 calibre rifles, one with a silencer, a .44 calibre Desert Eagle handgun, a sawed-off shotgun, thousands of bullets and body armour.

Police issued a second warrant for Griffon’s arrest in 2015 after he returned to Nova Scotia, in violation of his bail conditions. He is believed to have been living in Portapique with his parents since 2019.

Sources say Griffon, who was friendly with Wortman, was working at a print shop and that he printed the decals without the permission of the business owner. Another law enforcement source says Wortman and Griffon were part of a group of drinking buddies in the Portapique area.

Griffon is no longer working at the print shop. RCMP said in May that the business owner and the person who printed the decals have co-operated with their investigation.

Griffon did not respond to Facebook messages and calls seeking comment on his relationship with Wortman.

Griffon is the second cousin of one of the victims, Sean McLeod, who was murdered along with his partner, Alanna Jenkins, on the morning of April 19 in West Wentworth, N.S.

According to obituaries, Griffon and McLeod’s mothers are sisters.

McLeod was a corrections officer at the Springhill Institution, a federal medium-security prison, while Jenkins worked in a federal corrections institute for women in Truro.

It is not known if Griffon was imprisoned at Springhill.

McLeod and Jenkins were the first two victims of a total of nine in the second day of Wortman’s rampage. The night before he had killed 13 people in Portapique and gave the RCMP the slip, escaping on a dirt road in his replica cruiser while much of the small seaside community was in flames.

Wortman appears to have spent several hours at the home of McLeod and Jenkins. He murdered the couple, set their home on fire and then murdered neighbour Tom Bagley, a volunteer firefighter who is believed to have approached the property to investigate the fire.

Family members of victims and law-enforcement officials have raised questions about the RCMP’s handling of the event. The force failed to contain Wortman, did not block the highway links to Truro and Halifax and did not issue a provincial alert. Two officers also shot up the firehall in Onslow.

A former neighbour of Wortman has expressed frustration that the RCMP did not act earlier. Brenda Forbes, a veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces, told the RCMP in 2013 that he had a stash of illegal weapons, and that she had heard three male witnesses had seen Wortman strangling and hitting his common-law wife. Forbes said the RCMP abandoned their investigation because witnesses were unwilling to come forward. The RCMP have said that privacy law prevents them from commenting on complaints that do not result in charges.

An RCMP officer, speaking off the record because the officer is not authorized to discuss the case, said this week that the RCMP’s inaction on the complaint from Forbes seems odd.

“There’s zero tolerance, if we get called in to a domestic, somebody’s got to go, if there’s enough evidence,” the officer said. “It’s a simple 487, a search warrant to go get those guns. I would have wrote it off the statement from the two military people.”

Forbes’ complaint was not Wortman’s first run-in with police. Two years earlier, a source told a Truro police officer that Wortman was armed and wanted to kill a police officer. This information was sent to police agencies throughout Nova Scotia as a bulletin, but RCMP have not provided information on how they acted on it.

Wortman’s father told Frank magazine that he told police about 10 years ago that he had heard his son was threatening to kill him, but that after his son denied the threat and the existence of firearms to police, police did not investigate further. Years before that, he says, while on vacation in Cuba, without warning Wortman had repeatedly punched him in the head until he was unconscious. And in 2002, Wortman pleaded guilty to assaulting a 15-year old boy, but received a conditional discharge if he completed nine months probation and paid a $50 fine. The boy, now grown, has told Global news reporters that he wishes more had been done.

A number of current and former RCMP members familiar with the way the force handles undercover operations but not privy to details about this investigation have speculated that Wortman’s case has the hallmarks of a police informant operation.

Officers are struck by a speeding ticket the RCMP issued Wortman at 5:58 pm on Feb. 12, 2020, on Portapique Beach Road. Wortman was driving one of the former police vehicles in his collection.

At the time the ticket was issued, the RCMP was in the midst of undertaking multiple arrests of Hell’s Angels and their associates in Halifax and New Brunswick. Officers speculate that if Wortman was a confidential informant that his cover had been blown.

“The ticket stinks” said one current RCMP member. “At 6 o’clock at night in February in rural Nova Scotia nobody is doing radar. But it’s a standard trick used to pass messages to informants or create cover to prove to the targets that the informant and the police are on opposite teams.”

To date, both the federal and provincial governments have deflected calls for a public inquiry into the worst mass shooting in Canadian history.

Last week, Nova Scotia Attorney General Mark Furey indicated that a joint federal-provincial inquiry would be announced, but that has not happened. Furey, a former RCMP Staff-Sergeant, has said in the past that he believes he can be objective in dealing with the force and does not have a conflict of interest.

A number of current and former police officers have told Maclean’s that they are suspicious about the motives behind the delay in calling an inquiry.

A current RCMP member who is aware of the inner operations of the RCMP said the real story about the lead-up to the shootings and what actually happened on the weekend of April 18 and 19 would likely be contained in internal documents within the force. The RCMP member pointed specifically to a digital document called a Form 2315. In those forms the RCMP in any province would typically describe in candid language the status of any ongoing major investigation or project. The information in these forms is emailed to a working group, likely under the Deputy Commissioner in charge of Operations, and then on to the Commissioner.

“In those forms the RCMP will speak freely about what happened,” the Mountie said in one of several interviews. “You have to get your hands on them. That’s where the real story can be found.”

The unwillingness of the RCMP and governments to provide a more detailed account of what happened has frustrated and angered some family members of the deceased.

On May 31, Darcy Dobson, whose mother, Heather O’Brien, was murdered by Wortman on April 19, expressed anger in a Facebook post: “If this is the worst massacre in Canadian history why are we not trying to learn from it? What’s the hold up in the inquiry? Why hasn’t this happened yet? Where are we in the investigation? Was someone else involved? Why can’t we get any answers at all 40 days in?! The fact that anyone of us has to ask these questions is all very concerning and only makes everyone feel inadequate, unimportant and unsafe.”

RCMP say they are still investigating where Wortman got the four illegal guns he used in his rampage, declining to release details because of the ongoing investigation.

An RCMP officer not authorized to comment said investigators appear to be trying to avoid public scrutiny.

“They’re closing shit off as fast as they can. They don’t want to open up everything else.”

CORRECTION, JUNE 17, 2020: An earlier version of this story misidentified where Alanna Jenkins worked. It was a federal corrections institute for women, not a provincial one.

CORRECTION, JUNE 18, 2020: Peter Griffon is the second cousin of one of the victims, Sean McLeod, not a first cousin as stated in an earlier version of this story.

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