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Errors and omissions revealed in RCMP statements after Nova Scotia mass shooting

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HALIFAX — In the days following the mass shooting that left 22 people dead in Nova Scotia, the RCMP’s statements to the public were riddled with mistakes, confusion and omissions, a newly released report reveals.

The document, published Tuesday by the inquiry investigating the 2020 tragedy, also asserts that key information about the case, including the victims’ names and the types of weapons used by the killer, was withheld from the public longer than was needed.

The commission of inquiry does not have a mandate to assign blame, but the 126-page document lays out a long list of miscues and delays, some of which attracted the ire of RCMP brass in Ottawa.

“You can see in this summary … that there were discrepancies between the information that the RCMP were sharing with the public and what they knew internally,” Gillian Hnatiw, a commission lawyer, said Tuesday as she presented details from the document.

The summary of evidence confirms that the Mounties knew a great deal about the killer’s firearms early in their investigation but declined comment, citing an investigation by the province’s police watchdog agency — the Serious Incident Response Team.

The RCMP had recovered multiple firearms from the stolen car the gunman was driving when he was shot dead by two Mounties on the second day of his rampage, April 19, 2020. A forensic identification officer had catalogued a list of five weapons, including two semi-automatic rifles, by April 21.

Details about the types of guns used by the shooter, however, were not shared in the five news conferences that took place in the week following the mass shooting.

Internal RCMP documents show that on April 28, 2020, the head of the RCMP, Commissioner Brenda Lucki, convened a meeting of senior RCMP officers, during which she said she was disappointed that details about firearms had been omitted.

According to notes taken by RCMP Supt. Darren Campbell, Lucki said she felt “disobeyed” when those details were not shared.

Campbell’s notes say Lucki had promised the Prime Minister’s Office and the Public Safety Department that the RCMP would release the descriptions, adding that the information “was tied to pending gun control legislation that would make officers and public safer.”

In response, Campbell told Lucki that he was the one who had asked the strategic communications team not to release the firearms details, because doing so could jeopardize the RCMP’s investigation into how the gunman obtained the weapons.

The issue was raised in the House of Commons on Tuesday, where the Conservatives accused the governing Liberals of interfering in an active police investigation. Bill Blair, minister of emergency preparedness, insisted that no one from the government issued directions to Lucki.

“It’s apparent that the Opposition is more interested in drama than in truth,” said Blair, who was public safety minister in April 2020. “The commissioner has confirmed that no direction and no pressure was given by me or by any member of this government to direct her in any way.”

The new report also reveals that on the night of April 19, 2020, when the Mounties held their first news conference about the mass shooting, the RCMP initially chose to understate the number of known victims.

The senior Mountie who led the RCMP’s initial news conferences, Chief Supt. Chris Leather, said after being pressed by a journalist that “in excess of 10 have been killed.” However, before his 6 p.m. news conference in Halifax, Leather knew that victims were still being found and the official number stood at 17, the document says.

Later that night, Lucki, told the CBC that 13 people had been killed. And just before 8 p.m. that night, she told The Canadian Press the death toll was 17.

“This created confusion in the public … and distress for some of the families,” Hnatiw told the inquiry, referring to relatives of the victims.

The ensuing turmoil prompted a flurry of emails among senior RCMP staff. Jolene Bradley, director of strategic communications at RCMP headquarters in Ottawa, sent a message to her counterpart in Nova Scotia, saying, “Doesn’t help that the (commissioner) is giving the number!!!! Am really trying to get that back in the box for you.”

Lia Scanlan, director of strategic communications in Halifax, replied: “Thank you. It looks awful and I’ve had to ask my entire team to turn their phones off …. Lord help me!!”

In a followup interview with inquiry investigators, Scanlan said government officials, including Blair and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, were “weighing in on what we could and couldn’t say” during media briefings. She did not provide further details.

Scanlan has told the inquiry that 10 was the number the Nova Scotia RCMP first used “because at a certain point, you have to call your information final.”

By 11 p.m. on April 19, 2020, the RCMP had concluded that up to 22 people had been killed. The next day, Leather said the death toll had climbed to at least 19. The RCMP didn’t reveal the final number until a statement was released on April 21, 2020.

At another point during the first news conference, Leather was asked if the killer, Gabriel Wortman, was known to police. Leather said: “No, he was not.” But that was not the case.

On the morning of April 19, 2020, the RCMP learned from police records that the killer had pleaded guilty to assaulting a 15-year-old boy in 2001 and had threatened to kill his parents in 2010.

The records also confirmed a police safety bulletin had been issued after he told a police source in 2011 that he “wanted to kill a cop.” And in early 2020, he had a bizarre but non-violent confrontation with police officers who had parked in the lot next to his denture-making business in Dartmouth, N.S.

As for the identities of the victims, Leather said on April 20, 2020, that no names would be released until Nova Scotia’s medical examiner had confirmed the identity of certain individuals. The Mounties’ own records, however, show that by 5:25 p.m. that day, all of the victims’ immediate next of kin had been notified of their deaths — and that RCMP headquarters had confirmed its support for releasing the names.

By April 25, media reports confirmed the names of the 22 victims, but the RCMP had yet to provide a list.

The RCMP’s operational manual says the names of deceased persons can be released once next of kin have been notified, but only if the disclosure will further the investigation, or there is a public safety concern or the identities have already been made public through other means.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 21, 2021.

— With files from Lyndsay Armstrong, Keith Doucette and Sarah Ritchie

 

Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press

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I was placed in ESL classes despite being fluent in English. It made me feel less Canadian – CBC.ca

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This First Person article is the experience of Alvin Ma, a second-generation Chinese Canadian. For more information about CBC’s First Person stories, please see the FAQ.

I tried to avoid eye contact and slump in my chair, but it didn’t work. It was the start of my Grade 4 school year and for the fourth consecutive year, my name was called to receive “additional English language instruction.” 

It didn’t matter that I could fully comprehend the Guinness Book of Records I purchased from the Scholastic Book Fair or that I read the Vancouver Sun sports section every morning. I was going back to ESL.

I was born in Canada and grew up speaking English with my parents. My Chinese-born mother immigrated to Canada as a high school student and my father, also an immigrant from Hong Kong in the 1970s, taught culinary classes in English. However, my grandparents and other elderly family members were not fluent in English and spoke predominantly Cantonese at home. 

It’s why my parents put down Cantonese as the language most spoken at home when filling out my public school registration form. 

It’s also the reason we believe I was placed in English language learner classes (ESL) despite the fact I was born in Canada and spoke English fluently.

A screenshot of a report saying the student received ESL support.
Alvin Ma’s Grade 3 report card shows he received ESL support while also participating in enrichment activities. (Submitted by Alvin Ma)

I don’t have negative memories of these ESL classes or teachers themselves. 

But as a kid, being placed in those classes made me feel less than a full-fledged Canadian. 

I just wanted to be treated like the “CBC” (Canadian-born Chinese) classmates who did not require these ESL classes. Some of these students would occasionally flaunt their English abilities and poke fun at those perceived to be “fresh off the boat.” I don’t remember making fun of people, but I do remember wanting to prove that I was better than others in English — thinking a superior grasp of the language would make me somehow more “Canadian.” 

Even if I secretly found ’90s Cantonese pop songs such as 每天愛你多一些 and Sugar in the Marmalade catchy, I listened to Shania Twain. I unfailingly watched every Hockey Night in Canada broadcast. Twenty-two years before Simu Liu’s rendition at the Juno Awards, I was able to effortlessly recite the “I AM CANADIAN” rant in its entirety. 

I distanced myself from my Chinese heritage and purposely failed assessments at Chinese school to prove I was more Canadian than Chinese. My mother knew I would only speak to her in English, and there was an unspoken understanding that she was to speak only English to me when she came to my school to pick me up.

A screenshot of a report card showing failing grades in Chinese language.
Alvin Ma’s report card from a Cantonese heritage language course shows his failing grades. (Submitted by Alvin Ma)

When I asked my mother if she thought it was odd that I was placed in ESL for so many years, she shrugged.

Considering that my grandparents supervised me during weekdays, my parents reasoned that “additional English language instruction” would help my education in the long term.

Then one day and without any explanation, I was put into the regular stream of Grade 5 students. My student record simply noted that my ESL status had been delisted. I felt relieved, but I remained self-conscious of my pronunciation of words and tried to avoid a stutter that would label me as anything but a born-in-Canada Canadian. 

Years after I graduated, my elementary school faced allegations that it falsely inflated the number of English learners in order to get more government funding.

A smiling family surrounds a student in graduation robes.
Alvin Ma, third from the right, poses with his family to mark his graduation from the University of British Columbia. (Submitted by Alvin Ma)

As an adult, I know now that neither my fluency in Cantonese nor perceived accent makes me any less Canadian. Years of academic research and presentations made me a confident speaker in multiculturalism-related issues. 

But I hadn’t really considered the impact of those ESL classes until I met a 10-year-old student through a tutoring job. As his mom left the room, she said these parting words: “你需要努力,進步你的英文分” (you must work hard to improve your English mark).

He indignantly responded in English, “Stop bothering me in Chinese if you want me to improve!”

That student was a mirror of my younger self: a second-generation Canadian who desperately tried to prove his English fluency by shunning Chinese. 

Although I wanted to avoid confrontation, I plucked up my courage. I told him  — and by extension my younger self — that knowledge of another language is a strength; not an embarrassment to hide. My student nodded, but if my journey is an indicator, it might take many years for him to comprehend my message. I just hope the message sinks in eventually.


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Philippines’ new President promises policies that will benefit everyone

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Manila, Philippines- Ferdinand Marcos Jr, the son of former President, Ferdinand Marcos, has promised to take the country far and provide policies that will benefit everyone.

The new President who was sworn in yesterday said he would work on healing divisions in the country, to grow the economy, recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and lead a more unified prosperous country.

“This is a historic moment for us all! You picked me to be your servant, to enable changes to benefit all. I fully understand the gravity of the responsibility you put on my shoulders. I do not take it lightly but I am ready for the task.

I am here not to talk about the past, I am here to tell you about our future. A future of sufficiency, even plenty, of readily available ways and means to get done what needs doing. I will get it done,” said Marcos Jr.

In addition, the President said he would improve food sufficiency, infrastructure, waste management and energy supply, and give full support to millions of overseas Filipino workers.

Marcos Jr won last month’s Presidential election with 31.6 million votes, or 58.77 percent of ballots cast, a margin not seen in decades and replaces outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte.

His running mate, Sara Duterte-Carpio, the former President’s daughter, was sworn in as Vice-President on June 19, and they will both serve until 2028.

According to human rights groups, during his father’s reign between 1965 and 1986, tens of thousands of people were imprisoned, tortured or killed for perceived or real criticism of the government.

As a result, activists and survivors of the martial law era under his father protested against Marcos Jr’s inauguration. Nevertheless, more than 15 000 police, soldiers and coast guard personnel were deployed across the capital to ensure security.

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Canada Day: Parties, protests planned in Ottawa | CTV News – CTV News Ottawa

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Thousands of people wearing red and white and waiving Canadian flags packed downtown Ottawa to celebrate Canada’s 155th birthday, while police monitored the crowds for possible protests against COVID-19 vaccines and restrictions.

It’s the first in-person Canada Day in Ottawa in three years, after COVID-19 restrictions forced the cancellation of events in 2020 and 2021.

“We have missed two years already,” said Rebecca Lau, while standing in front of Parliament Hill. “We used to come here every year to celebrate for Canada Day, but the last two years because of the pandemic we had to stay home.”

The main events include a daytime ceremony and evening show at LeBreton Flats, activities for families and fireworks at 10 p.m.   The Canadian Forces Snowbirds were forced to cancel the annual fly-by over Ottawa on Canada Day following a recent technical issue.

Two kilometres away from LeBreton Flats, Parliament Hill and the streets around the parliamentary buildings were packed with people marking Canada Day.

“It is fabulous to see everybody here celebrating and enjoying Canada Day. It’s nice to see all the patriotism going on; the good kind, the positive kind,” said Todd Salter, visiting Ottawa from Erin, Ont. “There’s protesters here; but they seem calm right now which is a nice change. It feels a little bit normal and really nice to be back.”

Canada Day festivities come months after “Freedom Convoy” protesters occupied streets around Parliament Hill protesting COVID-19 vaccine mandates. A protest march against the mandates and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is scheduled for later this afternoon.

The Freedom Fights Canada website says a “March to Freedom” will be held at 3:30 p.m., followed by speeches, live music and DJs on Parliament Hill from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Just before 1 p.m., dozens of people gathered on Wellington Street in front of Parliament Hill and chanted “Free Pat King.”  Pat King was one of the organizers of the “Freedom Convoy”, and remains in jail on charges connected to his involvement in the three-week protest.

A “Family Day Picnic” hosted by the group Police on Guard for Thee at a nearby park was cancelled, with organizers citing “a recent incident in Ottawa.” However, there were no further details provided.

A small crowd gathered at Strathcona Park despite the picnic being cancelled, and People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier planned to deliver a speech to supporters in the area. Several vehicles with Canadian Flags were parked in the parking lot, while police patrolled the area.

There is a visible police presence patrolling the parliamentary precinct and the roads around downtown Ottawa, with a motor vehicle control zone set up to prevent vehicles from stopping or engaging in protests.

Any vehicles stopping or parking in the control zone will be ticketed and towed, while police say any vehicles participating in protests will be prohibited from entering the area.

As of Friday morning, Ottawa Bylaw Services officers issued 275 parking tickets and towed 72 vehicles from the vehicle control zone. Bylaw officials have also increased fines for the unusual noise, shouting, urination or defecation on roads and sidewalks, blocking a highway and idling. Fines are now $1,000.

Despite their presence, Ottawa police says it is safe for families to come downtown for Canada Day events.

“Come, don’t be worried. This is a festival. This is to celebrate Canada, that’s why we’ve gone to the extent we have to put the plans in place and the resources around it,” interim Chief Steve Bell told The Evan Solomon Show on Thursday. “It’s going to be a safe environment, that’s why we’re here to ensure that.”

Four people were arrested following an incident at the National War Memorial Thursday, shortly after Canadian Forces veteran James Topp completed his cross-country march to protest COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

“We are reviewing video and investigating the incident at the National War Memorial this evening,” police said on Twitter Thursday evening. “The initial investigation finds that an interaction with officers became confrontational and 1 officer was choked. Other officers immediately responded, 4 people were arrested.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is calling on Canadians to recommit to the country’s values on Canada Day, including respect, hope and kindness.

In his official Canada Day message, the prime minister said July 1 is an opportunity to commit to the values that the Maple Leaf represents.

“It’s also a promise — a promise of opportunity, a promise of safety for those fleeing violence and war, and a promise of a better life,” he said.

With files from The Canadian Press and CTV News Ottawa’s Natalie van Rooy

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