A woman pays her respects to victims of a mass shooting at a roadblock in Portapique, N.S. on Wednesday, April 22, 2020. Almost two years after a gunman disguised as a Mountie started a shooting rampage that claimed 22 lives in rural Nova Scotia, an independent public inquiry is set to begin public hearings today in Halifax.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

‘Left in the dark.’ Nova Scotia premier frustrated with mass shooting inquiry

HALIFAX — Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston says the commissioners leading the inquiry into the 2020 mass shooting that claimed 22 lives in his province are treating the victims’ families with disrespect.

Houston issued a scathing statement Tuesday morning just as the inquiry was about to begin public hearings in Halifax.

“We must never lose sight of the reason for this public inquiry, to seek answers that lead to change and improve public safety,” he said.

The premier said he’s heard that family members feel “left in the dark” and have expressed frustration about the structure of the inquiry.

“This is not only disrespectful, it should cause us all to pause and ask, if the families don’t have confidence in the process, how can the public?” the premier said.

Houston is calling on members of the commission to meet with the families and their lawyers to listen to their concerns and provide them with a plan that “gives them confidence” in the process. He said Nova Scotians pushed for an inquiry as opposed to an internal review to ensure it was “honest, comprehensive, detailed and most importantly, designed to answer questions.”

The premier highlighted criticism raised earlier by lawyers who represent 23 individuals and families, noting the inquiry has yet to release a witness list and has been vague about how the proceedings will unfold. “This uncertainty is causing further, unnecessary trauma,” he said.

The federal-provincial inquiry is expected to hear opening statements Tuesday from the three commissioners leading the proceedings at the Halifax Convention Centre.

Before any evidence is presented, there will be a panel discussion on mental health and wellness, which will acknowledge how the multiple murders on April 18-19, 2020 had a painful ripple effect across Canada.