This forum will be here for feminist news and articles about the horrific mass murders in Nova Scotia.

Views: 7

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

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.

Reply to Discussion


Violence Prevention List

Click here for violence prevention list

Click on rose


© 2020   Created by ROSE.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service