Victims' families boycott Nova Scotia mass shooting inquiry over questioning of Mounties

Families boycott inquiry

Family members of victims of the 2020 Nova Scotia mass shooting have told their lawyers to boycott a public inquiry after a decision preventing cross-examination of key Mountie witnesses.

The law firm representing 14 of 22 families issued a statement saying it's been instructed not to attend at least the next four hearings, beginning today.

The post from Patterson Law says the families are "disheartened and further traumatized" by a decision from the commission Monday that prevents their lawyers from directly questioning Staff Sgt. Brian Rehill and Sgt. Andy O’Brien.

Rehill was the RCMP's risk manager at its Operational Communications Centre in Truro, N.S., when the rampage that claimed 22 lives over two days began in nearby Portapique on April 18, 2020.

When the centre received reports of an active shooter, Rehill assumed command while O'Brien assisted in overseeing the early response.

Josh Bryson, a lawyer who represents the family of victims Peter and Joy Bond, attended hearings today but said his clients have instructed him not to attend the hearings involving Rehill and O'Brien.

The federal-provincial commission of inquiry agreed Monday to provide special accommodations for three senior Mounties when they testify about command decisions they made as the tragedy unfolded.

Rehill and O'Brien will face questions from commission lawyers via Zoom calls that will be recorded and broadcast at a later date. Participants and lawyers who wish to observe their testimony would have to remain off screen with their microphones muted while each Mountie is speaking.

No reasons were given for the special arrangements as this information is considered private information that typically deals with physical or psychological health needs, the commission said.

Participating lawyers were told to submit questions for Rehill and O'Brien to commission lawyers in advance of the questioning, which is expected to take place on Monday and Tuesday, beginning with Rehill

Meanwhile, Staff Sgt. Al Carroll — former district commander for Colchester County — is expected to testify Thursday via a live Zoom call. He will be provided with breaks during his appearance, the commission said Tuesday. He could face direct cross-examination.

The National Police Federation and the federal Department of Justice had requested that O'Brien and Rehill be allowed to provide their information by sworn affidavit and that Carroll testify in person with questions asked only by commission counsel.

The commission confirmed Tuesday it received a total of six requests for accommodations. One request was rejected and the commission agreed that two other witnesses could testify as part of a panel. Those witnesses were not named.

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