Protest Changes to Public Thanks After N.S. Victims’ Families Obtain Inquiry

July 29, 2020 Updated: July 29, 2020

HALIFAX—The announcement Tuesday of a public inquiry into the April mass shooting in Nova Scotia has transformed a protest march planned for today into an event to thank the public for its support.

Victims’ families originally planned a march to the legislature to condemn last week’s decision by Ottawa and the province to hold a joint review of the circumstances surrounding the rampage that killed 22 people.

The review originally announced would have been held behind closed doors, and its terms of reference said only the findings and recommendations would be made public.

The decision drew widespread condemnation from women’s groups, opposition parties, federal senators and legal scholars, and some Liberal MPs in the province broke ranks with the government to call for a full inquiry.

On Tuesday, provincial Justice Minister Mark Furey said his government would support a full public inquiry if Ottawa agreed, and within hours federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair announced a public inquiry with the power to compel witnesses to testify.

Nick Beaton, whose pregnant wife Kristen Beaton was murdered during the April 18-19 shootings, said today’s march to the legislature in Halifax will go forward, but the goal of the event has shifted.

He said it will now be a march to thank Nova Scotians who joined the families in their push for an inquiry.

“I’m not saying thank you, because it’s something we should have had all along. But I’m happy,” Beaton said in a telephone interview.

“This is what we’ve been asking for: transparency and truth. … We want to know everything, so we can finally start to grieve.”

The past week has seen a series of protests and mounting public pressure calling for the two levels of government to shift course.

About 100 people gathered in Bridgewater, N.S., on Monday for a march to Furey’s office, while a similar number gathered for a rally organized by women’s centres and feminist groups in Halifax.

The families have said it is important that witnesses testify under oath to obtain answers about the RCMP’s response during the shootings and prior police knowledge of the gunman’s criminal behaviour.

Advocacy groups have called for a look at the issue of domestic abuse, as the killer exhibited well-known signals of potential violence against women before the rampage.