Halifax rally hopes to increase pressure for public inquiry into April massacre

HALIFAX — People are gathering at a Halifax park today to demand a public inquiry into the Nova Scotia mass shootings.

The gathering at Victoria Park comes less than a week after the province unveiled a plan for a panel review into the massacre.

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Organizers say a 22-minute general strike will begin at noon local time to honour the 22 victims who were killed last April.

Several local women's rights advocates, as well as Dartmouth South MLA Claudia Chender, of Nova Scotia's New Democrats, are expected to speak at the rally.

Many of the victims' families have called for a public inquiry into what happened during the shootings on April 18 and 19 and what led to the rampage.

Activists, lawyers, Nova Scotia opposition parties and federal senators from across Canada have also joined that call over the past several months.

But the federal and Nova Scotia governments said last week that a three-person panel would be set up to review the massacre.

That review body will be led by Michael MacDonald, a former chief justice of Nova Scotia, and includes former federal Liberal cabinet minister Anne McLellan, and Leanne Fitch, the former chief of police in Fredericton.

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said that he believes the panel will be able to get the answers that the victims' families are demanding.

He also told reporters that the panellists will be able to ask his government for assistance should they need it.

But critics have criticized a perceived lack of transparency and say the panel does not have enough power to lead an in-depth investigation.

The organizers of Monday's rally expressed hope that they will be able to pressure Ottawa and Halifax to reverse course and ultimately order a public inquiry.

"We need systemic and structural change to come from this," Martha Paynter, one of the event organizers, said in an interview on Saturday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 27, 2020.

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