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Organizations Against Gender-Based Violence Welcome Opportunity to Participate in the Mass Casualty Commission

Ottawa, 14 May 2021

Women’s Shelters Canada (WSC), the Transition House Association of Nova Scotia (THANS) and Be the Peace Institute (BTPI) are pleased to be participating, in coalition, in the important work of the Mass Casualty Commission.

Yesterday, the Commission released its decision granting all three organizations the right to participate in the work of the Inquiry. In its decision, the Commission granted participation rights to individuals, including those most affected, such as the families of the victims, as well as victim advocacy, health-related, firearm, justice, police-related, and other gender-related organizations.

The Mass Casualty Commission was jointly struck by the Federal and Nova Scotia governments in late October 2020 to inquire into the mass casualties that occurred over 13 hours in April 2020 in Nova Scotia. On the evening of April 18, 2020, as the country was under pandemic lockdown from coast to coast, a man set out on a deadly rampage that started with a violent attack on his domestic partner at their cottage in Portapique. By the time he was finally stopped by the RCMP, he had killed 22 people, making it the deadliest attack in recent Canadian history.

The Commission has been given a broad mandate to inquire into what happened and produce findings concerning the causes, context, and circumstances that gave rise to the mass casualties. The Commission will produce a report by November 2022, setting out lessons learned and recommendations to prevent an incident like this from happening again. The Orders in Council establishing the Commission specifically require it to examine issues related to the events, including:

  • The role of gender-based and intimate partner violence;
  • Access to firearms;
  • Prior interactions and relationship of the perpetrator with the police and social services;
  • Police actions;
  • Communications with the public during and after the event;
  • Communications between and within law enforcement agencies and other services;
  • Police policies, procedures, and training.

All three organizations – WSC, THANS, and BPTI – have a direct and substantial interest in many of the issues identified in the Commission’s mandate, including the role of gender-based and intimate partner violence, access to firearms, police actions, and police policies, procedures, and training.

“We welcome the opportunity to draw on our expertise and pan-Canadian perspective to help the Commission make sense of the role of gender-based and intimate partner violence, access to firearms, and police-specific issues in the April 2020 attack,” says Lise Martin, executive director of Women’s Shelters Canada. “We will bring an intersectional feminist lens to our work, in coalition with THANS and Be the Peace Institute. We hope to help shine a light on the important need to address gender-based violence as not just an interpersonal problem, but as an equity issue. It is both a cause and effect of women’s inequality.”

“Today’s announcement regarding Participation in the Mass Casualty Commission signifies an important step toward finding answers for Nova Scotians and Canadians alike following the tragic events of April 18th and 19th, 2020,” says Emily Stewart, Executive Director of Third Place in Nova Scotia, which is a member of THANS. “The inclusion of THANS will lend substantial knowledge around intimate partner and gender-based violence with local context and expertise throughout the Inquiry process. THANS member organizations have decades of experience working directly with victims and service providers in rural communities across the province and are well aware of the barriers and challenges that exist. Working together will provide further opportunity to critically examine the social and systemic factors from an intersectional feminist lens.”

“At Be the Peace Institute, we appreciate the opportunity to bring perspectives, with our esteemed coalition colleagues, about the role of misogyny and gender-based violence as ideologies that often underlie mass killings,” says Sue Bookchin, executive director of Be the Peace Institute. “These ideologies put everyone’s safety at risk.”

Women’s Shelters Canada will be represented by Megan Stephens, an experienced litigator, whose law practice focuses on advocating for the rights of women in the justice system. The Transition House Association of Nova Scotia will be represented by the firm of Hicks LeMoine.

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For media enquiries, contact:

At WSC:
Kaitlin Bardswich, Communications and Development Manager
kbardswich@endvaw.ca

Women’s Shelters Canada brings together 14 provincial and territorial shelter organizations and supports the over 600 shelters across the country for women and children fleeing violence. If you or someone you know is experiencing violence, you can find your nearest women’s shelter and its crisis line on www.sheltersafe.ca.

At THANS:
Shiva Nourpanah, Provincial Coordinator
coordinator@thans.ca

The Transition House Association of Nova Scotia represents 11 member organizations that provide crisis and transitional services to women and their children who are experiencing violence and abuse.

At BTPI:
Sue Bookchin, Executive Director
sue@bethepeace.ca

Be the Peace Institute is a non-profit based in rural Nova Scotia with a mandate to address the roots and consequences of gender-based violence, while working toward the social and systemic change needed to ensure gender equity and social justice.