Many families of people killed in N.S. mass shooting boycott public hearings

Lawyers representing more than half of the people killed in the April 2020 mass shooting in Nova Scotia say they are boycotting four days of public inquiry proceedings in response to a ruling that three key Mounties will not have to testify in person.

Patterson Law, which represents families of 14 people, says top Mounties should be questioned directly

Lawyers representing more than half of the people killed in the April 2020 mass shooting in Nova Scotia say they are boycotting four days of public inquiry proceedings in response to a ruling that three key Mounties will not have to testify in person.

Rob Pineo, a lawyer with Patterson Law, said that his clients asked their legal team not to attend Mass Casualty Commission hearings for the rest of this week and the two days of hearings scheduled for next week. His firm represents families of 14 people that were killed and several other individuals who have been deeply affected by the shooting rampage that left 22 people dead in April of 2020.

"Our clients are disheartened and further traumatized by the commissioners' decision to not allow their own lawyers to be present and participate in the questioning of whom they view to be amongst the most crucial RCMP 'in command' members, Staff Sgt. Brian Rehill and Sgt. Andy O' Brien," Pineo's statement said.

The post went on to say the group wants to send a "clear message that they will not be associated with this restricted fact-finding process for such critical evidence."

Tara Miller, who represents relatives of Aaron Tuck and Kristen Beaton, who was pregnant when she was killed, confirmed to CBC News that she will also be boycotting the proceedings.

Commission granted accommodations

The National Police Federation and Canada's attorney general had requested that O'Brien and Rehill provide their evidence by sworn affidavit, and that Staff Sgt. Al Carroll testify in person but only have commission counsel ask questions.

The Mass Casualty Commission leading the inquiry released its response to these requests on Tuesday, ruling that Rehill and O'Brien will testify via pre-recorded video interviews on May 30 and 31.

Only lawyers for the commission, or the commissioners themselves, will ask the officers direct questions. Lawyers for the victims' families can submit questions.

Carroll will testify live on Thursday via Zoom, and can be questioned by all lawyers.

The commission's decision said it took into account the officers' health information, which is private, and "settled on what we believe is the appropriate balance that allows the public to hear and understand this evidence in a meaningful way while minimizing potential harm to the witnesses."

Wednesday another Mountie, Staff Sgt. Bruce Briers, who was risk manager at RCMP dispatch centre morning of April 19, is scheduled to testifying in person in Truro, the first day hearings will be held in Colchester County.

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