HALIFAX — A Nova Scotia family has made a passionate appeal for the federal and Nova Scotia governments to end the “back and forth” over which should lead a public inquiry into a recent mass shooting.
Darcy Dobson, the daughter of a licensed practical nurse who was among the 22 victims, writes in an open letter that she, her father Andrew and her five siblings “formally request the start of a public inquiry into the mass shooting on April 18 and 19.”
The letter notes that with few answers provided more than 40 days after the tragedy, families aren’t able to heal properly, and adds “the amount of information being kept from us is deplorable.”
Premier Stephen McNeil has said he wants Ottawa to lead a public inquiry because the areas of key jurisdiction — such as the protocols followed by the RCMP — are federal.
However, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hasn’t committed his government to overseeing an inquiry, saying only it will “work with the government of Nova Scotia” to get answers.
In an emailed statement Monday, Nova Scotia Justice Minister Mark Furey said the province is working with Ottawa to determine the best mechanism to provide victims’ families with answers.
“This is a matter of both federal and provincial responsibility, and the province is working with the federal government to take action and move this forward together,” Furey said.
“We believe this joint approach will yield the best results. Individuals, families, communities, and Nova Scotians impacted by this tragedy deserve no less.”
Dobson’s mother, Heather O’Brien of Truro, N.S., was killed by the gunman on April 19 as she drove along a highway in Debert, N.S.
The letter from the 30-year-old daughter is signed by the entire O’Brien family and says, “the back and forth about who’s responsible for an inquiry is unreal.”
It says mistakes were made at both the provincial and federal levels, adding, “We need answers to heal, we need answers so we can find a way to live in this new normal that we’ve been forced into.”
The letter adds that authorities should be trying to learn from one of the worst mass killings in Canadian history.
“What’s the hold up in the inquiry? Why hasn’t this happened yet? Where are we in the investigation? Was someone else involved? Why can’t we get any answers at all 40 days in?!” it asks.
“The fact that any one of us has to ask these questions is all very concerning and only makes everyone feel inadequate, unimportant and unsafe.
“Please for the people of our province, for the people of our country, for the people who have lost someone so dear to their hearts, find a way to let us start to heal.”
Dobson writes in her letter that her mother had taught her children to push strongly for what they believe in.
“This is why we are standing up. We are requesting you give us the information we all deserve.”
She also says other families may soon be joining hers in publishing requests for an inquiry to be called.
In recent weeks questions have been raised about why the RCMP didn’t issue a search warrant for the gunman’s home in Portapique, after reports of domestic abuse of his spouse and possession of illegal firearms seven years ago.
Last month, Brenda Forbes, a former neighbour of Gabriel Wortman — who was shot and killed by police on April 19 — said she reported an account of a 2013 incident of domestic violence by Wortman against his common-law spouse to the RCMP in Truro.
She said she reported witnesses telling her that Wortman had strangled and beaten his common-law partner, and she said she told police there were guns in the house.
Police have said Wortman’s rampage began late on the night of April 18 with the domestic assault of the same woman, who managed to escape and hide in the woods after the gunman assaulted her at their residence in Portapique.
The RCMP said in an email Friday it is still looking for the police record of the 2013 incident and declined further comment.
Last week saw more revelations the Mounties had received detailed warnings about Wortman.
A newly released police bulletin revealed that in May 2011, a Truro police officer had received information from a source indicating Wortman was upset about a police investigation into a break-and-enter and had “stated he wants to kill a cop.”
The officer goes on to say he was told Wortman owned a handgun and was having some “mental issues” that left him feeling stressed and “a little squirrelly.”
Thirty-three Dalhousie law professors have called for an inquiry under the Public Inquiries Act — which allows for broad terms of reference — arguing the province is responsible for the administration of justice.
Other legal experts have said another option is for a joint federal-provincial inquiry, as there are overlapping issues of provincial and federal jurisdiction.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 1, 2020.
Manitoba's no new COVID-19 cases streak reaches 8 days – Winnipeg Sun
Manitoba has hit eight-straight days without reporting a new positive COVID-19 test.
The last positive case reported in the province was from June 29. This is now the longest stretch Manitoba has gone without recording a positive since the pandemic started, there have been two previous streaks of six days without a case.
Manitoba’s total positive cases remains at 325 with only six active cases, none of whom are hospitalized. There have been 312 individuals who have fully recovered from COVID-19 and seven deaths.
Canada as a whole, sits at 108,120 total cases as of 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Only Maritime provinces, P.E.I. (32), Newfoundland and Labrador (261) and New Brunswick (165) have reported fewer cases among provinces. Quebec, meanwhile, has had the most cases with 56,079 while Ontario has reported 37,932. A total of 8,777 people in Canada have died from the virus.
Doctor accused in Campbellton, N.B., COVID-19 outbreak won't face criminal charges, says lawyer – CBC.ca
The doctor accused of being patient zero in a northern New Brunswick COVID-19 outbreak after he travelled to neighbouring Quebec in May and didn’t self-isolate upon his return has been notified he won’t face criminal charges, his lawyer said.
Dr. Jean Robert Ngola’s defence team is now “seeking answers as to why proper procedures were not followed, why [he] was singled out and why privacy laws were breached,” said a statement issued by EME Professional Corporation, the Toronto-based law firm representing him.
Ngola, who is from Congo but has had a practice in Campbellton, N.B., for about seven years, is also still seeking an apology from New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs for what his lawyer calls “unacceptable and unfounded public accusations” and for the “extreme racism and threats of violence that he and his family have had to endure.”
If Higgs refuses to apologize, Ngola’s legal team will seriously consider taking the matter to court, his lawyer, Joël Etienne, said.
“We firmly believe the premier should publicly apologize for the condemnation he hurled against Dr. Ngola without taking, in our opinion, satisfactory steps to learn the truth in the matter,” Etienne said in the statement.
The absence of criminal charges does not preclude the possibility of charges being laid under the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Act.
A spokesperson for the New Brunswick RCMP said the investigation is ongoing.
During a news conference late Wednesday afternoon, Higgs told reporters he stands by the comments he made on May 27.
Higgs never publicly named Ngola but blamed a cluster of COVID-19 cases in the Campbellton region and a resurgence of the coronavirus in the province on an “irresponsible” medical professional who travelled to Quebec for personal reasons, “was not forthcoming about their reasons for travel upon returning to New Brunswick” and didn’t self-isolate.
“If you ignore the rules, you put your family, your friends and your fellow New Brunswickers at risk,” Higgs had said. “Today’s case is evidence of that.”
“My position hasn’t changed,” Higgs said Wednesday. “The comments I made previously, I stand behind those comments. I don’t intend to withdraw them.”
Ngola drove to Quebec the week of May 10 to retrieve his four-year-old daughter because her mother had to travel to Africa for a funeral. He immediately returned to work at the Campbellton Regional Hospital without self-isolating for 14 days.
He and his daughter were both tested for COVID-19 on May 25 after he was informed one of his patients had tested positive for the respiratory disease. Although neither of them were exhibiting symptoms, their results came back positive.
A total of 41 people in the Campbellton region became infected with COVID-19 during the outbreak that began May 21, and two of them, who were in their 80s, died. As of Wednesday, there is only one active case remaining in the province and it’s linked to that outbreak.
Etienne said his client was questioned by the RCMP to determine whether he should be charged with negligence causing death or bodily harm.
But the lawyer said he received confirmation a few days ago that no criminal charges will be laid.
No timeline on investigation
Cpl. Jullie Rogers-Marsh, spokesperson for the New Brunswick RCMP, said she is not aware if the RCMP had a conversation with any lawyer.
“However, we would not discuss any private conversations we have had anyway,” she said in an emailed statement.
“The investigation is still ongoing, that has not changed. I cannot speculate on the status of any charges as we are still investigating.”
On May 30, the New Brunswick RCMP received a complaint from the provincial government and the Vitalité Health Network regarding an individual who “may have violated the mandatory order under the current Emergency Measures Act by travelling outside of N.B., and not following the guidelines of self-isolating upon their return,” Rogers-Marsh said.
The RCMP are continuing to investigate to “determine if a violation has occurred.”
Rogers-Marsh declined to discuss the details of the investigation.
There is no timeline on how long the investigation will take, she said.
Doctor still suspended
Ngola, who is also known as Ngola Monzinga and as Jean Robert Ngola Monzinga, declined to comment on Wednesday, directing media inquiries to his lawyer.
He remains suspended, said Vitalité spokesperson Thomas Lizotte, identifying Ngola only as “the individual.”
“Unfortunately, we cannot add any more comments as this is a confidential file in human resources’ hands,” he said.
Ngola was suspended on May 28, the day after provincial officials announced his case without naming him.
He has about 2,000 patients and also works at the Campbellton Regional Hospital’s emergency department. He cannot practise anywhere in the province while suspended.
Ngola’s lawyer, who wrote a letter to the premier last month saying he had proof his client was not patient zero and seeking a public apology, has written him another letter.
“For us, it is a truth that he has always been innocent and that is why we ask the premier of the province once again to apologize,” Etienne said.
The defence team contends the province should have, “at a minimum,” initiated an investigation “before immediately blaming Dr. Ngola.”
The investigation, it contends, should have included:
- Performing out-of-province contact tracing, in consultation with pandemic medical experts.
- Investigating and tracing a “massive breach of privacy” that allegedly originated from within the government within an hour of Ngola testing positive for COVID-19 and resulted in the “unlawful outing and shaming” of him, complete with his photograph circulating on social media.
Defence hired its own investigators
Private investigators for Ngola concluded last month that he “could not have been the first patient” and that his trip to Quebec was not the source, his lawyer said.
During Ngola’s overnight round trip, he interacted with only a few people — all of whom subsequently tested negative for COVID-19, Etienne said.
Based on the coronavirus incubation period of up to two weeks, Etienne said, the investigator concluded Ngola was infected in New Brunswick by either a patient or a colleague and did not carry the virus over the border.
The premier said at the time he’s bound by privacy rules and limited in what he could say.
“But I am quite comfortable in the position that I’ve taken, how I’ve spoken about it and the reality of how this situation developed,” he said.
“And if the facts are all on the table, I am sure that others will be clear as well.”
Asked Wednesday what the government is doing to look into the defence’s allegations of a privacy breach, Higgs replied, “Well, I appreciate that’s been the accusation.
“I don’t believe that certainly that I did that. I was concerned about the protocols being followed. I think that Vitalité [has] done a lot of research in that regard. We’ve had lessons learned from that experience in Campbellton.”
Rules for health-care workers
Public Health officials did not respond Wednesday to a request for comment.
At the time of Ngola’s trip, health-care workers who live and work in New Brunswick were required to self-isolate for 14 days upon return from travel outside the province, officials have said.
There were exceptions, however. Doctors and nurses who work in New Brunswick but live across the border and commute regularly don’t have to isolate, for example.
Out-of-province doctors who fill in on a temporary basis, known as locums, had not been required by Vitalité to fully isolate. But the province’s pandemic task force became concerned about the number of locums coming in and issued a directive on May 19 requiring the regional health authorities to seek isolation exemptions for their locums through WorkSafeNB.
Before the Campbellton outbreak, New Brunswick had managed to flatten the COVID-19 curve, going more than two weeks without any new cases.
No new cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba, extending streak to 8 days – CBC.ca
Manitoba has extended its record to eight days without a new case of COVID-19 being reported in the province.
The total number of cases identified in Manitoba is still 325, the province said in its daily coronavirus news bulletin on Wednesday.
There are currently six active cases of COVID-19 in the province. That number is down from 11 on Tuesday — which was also when Manitoba set its previous record for the longest stretch with no new cases of COVID-19, as the province marked a full week without a new case of the illness.
The province twice before reached a six-day stretch without any new cases reported.
There is still no one in hospital with the illness caused by the new coronavirus. The total number of deaths related to COVID-19 in Manitoba is still seven.
In total, 312 people have recovered from the illness in Manitoba.
On Tuesday, 614 tests for COVID-19 were done in the province, bringing the total number of tests done since the start of the pandemic to 67,618.
The province again asked for feedback on possible personal care home visitation shelters in its daily bulletin.
Those centres are intended to help provide quality visits with people living in care homes, while making sure physical distancing is maintained and visitors and residents have personal protective equipment.
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