'That's not acceptable': Families of N.S. shooting victims, lawyers boycott inquiry in protest

There were plenty of empty seats at the Mass Casualty Commission's first day in Truro, N.S., Wednesday -- seats that would normally be filled.

It was the result of a boycott of the inquiry by many of those whose loved ones were killed in Nova Scotia's mass shooting in April 2020.

“It's total bullshit. I'll call it what it is,” said Nick Beaton, whose pregnant wife Kristen was killed on the second day of Gabriel Wortman’s massacre.

He joined his lawyers for a news conference in downtown Truro Wednesday to say the commission is failing.

“When these three (commissioners) got hired on, they have the power to subpoena and ask any question in the world, to anybody, and they're not using it," he said. “And they're scrubbing, they're scrubbing the words before they come out.”

The boycott comes after the commissioners' decision Tuesday to allow two senior RCMP decision-makers to testify in a recorded video interview, answering direct questions from commission counsel only.

Any other questions from other lawyers must be submitted in writing, to be asked at counsel's discretion.

"Two of the most critical RCMP members who assisted with the response in Portapique are being kept away from our clients,” says lawyer Sandra McCulloch. “That's not acceptable to our clients.”

“Our clients don't want to be used as pawns,” adds lawyer Rob Pineo. “Lending legitimacy to the process as if we're in agreement with how this commission is being run in that regard.”

Other lawyers are also boycotting proceedings.

Tara Miller, who represents another relative of Kristen Beaton, told CTV News she will not attend this week or the next. The lawyer for the Bond family, Joshua Bryson, won’t be attending next week on the instruction of his clients.

"We feel like, if we're going to be marginalized to this extent, there's really not much point in us being here to participate in these two witnesses,” says Bryson.

The commission insists accommodations don't keep it from doing its work.

“We will not allow accommodations that prevent the commission from gathering necessary information,” head commissioner Michael MacDonald told the commission in his opening statements Wednesday.

Senior commission counsel Emily Hill says the inquiry doesn't have any other requests for special accommodations at this point in time.

“But if we receive those requests, we'll deal with them in the same way,” says Hill.

That’s not exactly what Nick Beaton and his lawyers want to hear, in a search for answers they say the inquiry is only making more difficult on families.

“My baby, my wife are gone, nothing's going to change that,” says Beaton. “But I'm trying to stop the next husband, father, from going through the same thing. I’m not going to stop fighting.”

Wednesday, the commission heard testimony from Staff Sgt. Bruce Briers, who served as an RCMP risk manager on April 19, 2020 – the second day of the mass shooting.

Twenty-two Nova Scotians were killed in the rampage over April 18 and 19, 2020.