The Mass Casualty Commission reached a milestone last week in delivering its Interim Report. This is a good time to recap the Commission’s work so far, its impact on participants, and what’s needed to deliver on the Commission’s mandate.
This has been a hard journey for all those affected. The process of reviewing and documenting the events of April 18 and 19, 2020, is not easy for anyone — but presenting what happened is a necessary aspect of the Commission’s work.
Over the past year, the work and participation of dozens of RCMP Members have helped the Commission to provide these answers. This includes Major Crime Unit and Forensic Identification Services Members, who collected and processed evidence from seventeen crime scenes, conducting hundreds of interviews and chasing down innumerable leads.
Members who responded during those thirteen hours also provided their notes and reports, and participated in lengthy recorded interviews with Commission staff during which they provided complete and detailed retellings of their involvement and knowledge. Many of these documents, are now publicly available on the Commission’s website, as sources for the foundational documents.
The Commission has provided all participants and their counsel access to over 55,000 documents which cover all aspects of the RCMP’s response to the mass casualty. These documents address (and put to rest) even the most unlikely conspiracy theories that have circulated since that time. They have been carefully reviewed by the Commission and compiled into narrative foundational documents with the help of participants.
Despite this ocean of existing and available information, some participants continue to insist they’re being kept in the dark, or that the Commission hasn’t provided the “answers” they have been seeking. This disingenuous rhetoric is driving demands for our Members to be publicly examined and cross-examined as witnesses, despite their prior detailed statements and all the information available in the disclosed documents. It’s hard to imagine what questions could possibly remain beyond what they have already provided.
Five RCMP Members have already appeared before the Commission. There is no doubt this testimony confirmed their exceptional training, professionalism, and – most importantly – humanity in the face of tragedy and adversity. But at what cost to Members’ mental health, and to what advantage to the Commission’s actual forward-looking work?
The Commission intends to call more than a dozen more Members in the coming weeks, including those who have carried the weight of the responsibility of directing police operations throughout the police response.
Why must Members be required to repeat themselves and face participant questions designed to undermine their abilities, recollection, or effort? And most importantly, why does the Commission’s “trauma-informed” approach apply to some and not others?
This performance theatre comes at a potentially high cost to Members, forced to relive their traumatic experience for a live and critical audience.
There is little recognition of the harm caused to our Members, either within the Commission’s process or from the public. Some have mischaracterized these concerns as blanket assertions Members are “too traumatized to testify” or suggested that they are hiding from sharing the truth. Some participants have openly scorned the idea that a police officer could be equally impacted by trauma as a civilian, or that testifying could affect them the same way as others. As a result, Members who require accommodations cannot seek them, knowing they could face vehement opposition from participants and public scrutiny of their personal circumstances.
The Commission’s purpose is not to place individual blame, and it is certainly not a civil trial on the claim brought by families against the RCMP. The Commission has noted in its Interim Report that it is “required to be guided by restorative principles that necessitate a forward-looking and outcome-focused approach”. This must apply equally to first responders and others directly impacted.
To properly honour the lives lost and the damage already done, the Commission and its work must not waver in upholding its mandate not to cause more irreparable harm to those who lived it.
We look forward to advancing discussions at the Commission beyond what happened, to why it happened and, even more importantly, what we can all do to help ensure this never happens again.
National Police Federation
Fabrice de Dongo
Manager, Media Relations