N.S. shooting victims’ families seek to sue RCMP, province over response

N.S. shooting victims’ families seek to sue RCMP, province over response

N.S. shooting victims’ families seek to sue RCMP, province over response

HALIFAX — Family members of those killed during the mass shooting in central Nova Scotia in April are seeking to launch a class action against the RCMP and the province, arguing police failed to adequately protect and inform the public during the attacks.

In documents filed in Nova Scotia Supreme Court, the plaintiffs allege the RCMP failed to send timely and appropriate warnings to members of the communities where a gunman killed 22 people in five communities on April 18 and 19.

The allegations in the June 16 document have not been proven in court and neither the RCMP nor the province — which had contracted out policing services to the national force — have filed a statement of defence.

The representative plaintiffs are Andrew O’Brien, the widower of nurse Heather O’Brien, and Tyler Blair, the son of Greg Blair and stepson of Jamie Blair.

Lawyer Sandra McCulloch says the “majority” of family members of the victims are participating in the effort to certify the class action.

The plaintiffs also include people injured by the gunman — who was killed by police on April 19 outside a gas station in Enfield, N.S. — and others who suffered property damage when the killer burned houses in several communities.

The provincial justice minister, Mark Furey, declined comment on the potential lawsuit, while the RCMP said it hadn’t yet been served and “will review and consider any such claim once served.

“We do not anticipate having any further comment on this matter. Our primary focus continues to be on the ongoing criminal investigation, and supporting the victims of this tragedy as well as our members and employees,” wrote Cpl. Jennifer Clarke, the force’s spokeswoman, in an email.

The suit further alleges that the federal police force failed to investigate reports that Gabriel Wortman possessed illegal guns, and had physically abused his domestic partner.

The Mounties had said they are still searching for records of a 2013 complaint by Brenda Forbes, but have confirmed they found two officers who had contact with Forbes in 2013, and they were reviewing their notes and files of her report of firearms and domestic abuse.

The plaintiffs also claim police didn’t properly secure the perimeter of the crime scene in and around Portapique, N.S., where the attack began.

The RCMP have said during news conferences that Wortman was able to elude police shortly after the arrival of the first officers on the scene by driving his replica police vehicle across a field in the small community.

The plaintiffs also say the RCMP’s sending of an alert by Twitter was inadequate because many people don’t use the social media, there was inadequate internet coverage and the information in the Twitter notices wasn’t sufficient to allow people to protect themselves.

They argue the police should have used the “Alert Ready” system to send an emergency alert to the province that the killer was on the loose.

The national Alert Ready system can be used to send alerts through television, radio and wireless devices, including cellphones.

The Nova Scotia RCMP’s criminal operations officer has said during a recent news conference that the system had been used for the first time in the province only a few weeks earlier to provide information about the COVID-19 pandemic.

He also said he was not aware that Alert Ready has ever been used by police in Canada for an active shooter situation.

The lawsuit seeks punitive damages against the RCMP for how it has handled the investigation into the tragedy.

The claim states the RCMP released the automobile of a deceased family member “after the investigation with gun casings and body parts still in the automobile. The family members were left to clean the automobiles themselves.”

While the documents have been filed, the lawsuit must still be certified by the courts.

This is the second proposed class-action lawsuit filed by the families in Nova Scotia, as the same law firm earlier commenced a suit seeking damages on behalf of victims’ families against Wortman’s estate, which has been assessed as having a value of over $1.2 million.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 17, 2020.

Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press

Mass shootings

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, which causes COVID-19, emerge from the surface of cells isolated from a patient in the U.S. and cultured in a lab in a 2020 electron microscope image. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-HO, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories
Alberta now has 17,743 active cases of COVID-19

Province now has 17,743 active cases

File Photo
Sylvan Lake Community Christmas Eve Dinner cancelled

The 20th anniversary of the Community Christmas Eve dinner is cancelled amidst COVID-19 concerns

The consensus around the Sylvan Lake council chamber Wednesday was the town does not have the ability to properly enforce a proposed mandatory indoor mask bylaw. File Photo
Sylvan Lake town council squashes mask bylaw

The bylaw did not make it past first reading, after a 4-3 vote defeated the motion

Sylvan Lake RCMP are looking for the identity of the suspect who stole from over 40 resident mail boxes. (Photo Courtesy of Sylvan Lake RCMP)
Over 40 mailboxes broken into at Sylvan Lake apartment building

Sylvan Lake RCMP are investigating the incident and searching for the identity of the suspect

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

People line up at a COVID-19 assessment centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Wednesday, December 2, 2020. Toronto and Peel region continue to be in lockdown. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19 vaccine approval could be days away as pressures mount on health-care system

Many health officials in regions across the country have reported increasing pressures on hospitals

A logo for Netflix on a remote control is seen in Portland, Ore.,Aug. 13, 2020. Experts in taxation and media say a plan announced Monday by the government will ultimately add to the cost of digital services and goods sold by foreign companies. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jenny Kane
‘Netflix tax’ for digital media likely to raise prices for consumers, experts say

The government says Canadian companies already collect those taxes when they make digital sales

Gaming content was big on YouTube in 2020. (Black Press Media files)
What did Canadians watch on Youtube during isolation? Workouts, bird feeders

Whether it was getting fit or ‘speaking moistly,’ Canadians had time to spare this year

A teacher places the finishing touches on the welcome sign at Hunter’s Glen Junior Public School which is part of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Sept. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Hindsight 2020: How do you preserve a year many Canadians would rather forget?

Figuring out how to preserve the story of the pandemic poses a series of challenges

Team Manitoba celebrate after defeating Team Ontario to win the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Moose Jaw, Sask., Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020. Curling Canada wants Calgary’s Canada Olympic Park to be a curling hub for the season’s top events. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Calgary facility set to become curling hub during pandemic

Curling Canada has provisional approval for Calgary’s hub-city concept from Alberta Health

Ash and Lisa Van carry a freshly cut Christmas tree while wearing personal protective masks at a Christmas Tree Farm in Egbert, Ontario, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Cole Burston
‘Everyone wants a tree and they want it now’: Christmas tree sales on pace for record

Anticipated demand for Christmas trees has sparked a rush by some to purchase more trees wholesale

Most Read