Families of N.S. mass shooting victims transform protest into march of thanks

Families of N.S. mass shooting victims transform protest into march of thanks

HALIFAX — Relatives of victims of the Nova Scotia mass shooting marched through the streets of Halifax on Wednesday to thank their supporters for helping them persuade Ottawa and Nova Scotia to call a full public inquiry into the killings.

“I’m so pleased that we’re here today in celebration rather than in protest,” said Sandra McCulloch, a lawyer who represents the families.

“I’m so proud of the families for their hard work and perseverance. It has been painful for them to have to fight this fight. But knowing it has had such a positive result, it surely takes a bit of the pain out of it.”

The families had originally planned a march to protest last week’s decision by Ottawa and the province to hold a less rigorous joint review of the circumstances surrounding the April 18-19 rampage that killed 22 people.

Scores of experts, academics, politicians, women’s groups, senators and family members had come forward to criticize the review, saying it would lack openness, accountability and legal clout. Three protest marches were held in Nova Scotia in the past week.

On Tuesday, several Liberal MPs in the province broke ranks with the government to call for a full inquiry, and federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair then announced a joint federal-provincial inquiry with the power to compel witnesses to testify and produce documents.

Harry Bond, whose parents Joy and Peter Bond were killed in Portapique, N.S., on April 18, said the decision to establish a public inquiry was overdue.

“But it was a very happy moment when we heard about it,” he said in an interview before the march. “It’s the first time I’ve felt happy since I heard about mom and dad back in April.”

A long line of about 100 marchers gathered under bright sunshine and in sweltering heat on the Halifax waterfront before walking north to the legislature, where they circled the building once and headed back to the harbour.

Some carried Nova Scotia flags. Others held photos of relatives who lost their lives during the 13-hour shooting rampage in northern and central Nova Scotia.

Charlene Bagley, daughter of victim Tom Bagley, said the march marked a day to celebrate a victory for the families. She said a public inquiry was what the families had wanted from the start.

“With a full inquiry, everyone will have to be 100 per cent transparent and, hopefully, the families will get all of the answers they’ve been wanting all along,” she said in an interview before the march. ”In an inquiry, where everyone will be held accountable.”

Bagley made a point of thanking people from across the province who have offered support to her family. She also took the time to talk about her father, who was shot by the gunman as he tried to help other victims.

“The world lost a really great man,” Bagley said as she clutched a large sign showing a photo of her smiling father. “Everybody who met him loved him …. He helped everybody, and it’s what cost him his life.”

The victims’ families have said they want an inquiry to compel testimony about the RCMP’s response during the shootings, which started on the night of April 18 when the gunman killed 13 people and set fire to several homes in Portapique before fleeing in a car that looked exactly like a marked RCMP cruiser.

Another nine people were killed the following day as the killer drove more than 150 kilometres, shooting some people he knew and others at random. He was fatally shot by an RCMP officer when he stopped at a gas station in Enfield, N.S., about 40 kilometres north of Halifax.

The victims’ families and their supporters say they also want to know how much police knew about the killer’s alleged criminal behaviour, which according to witnesses quoted in court documents involved the smuggling of drugs and guns from Maine.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 29, 2020.

Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press

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