Victims, family members of mass casualty optimistic following release of final report


  • <p>RAISSA TETANISH PHOTO</p><p>Scott McLeod, who lost his brother, Sean McLeod, in the April 2020 casualty in Nova Scotia, speaks with media following the Mass Casualty Commission&#8217;s final report release on March 30. McLeod is hopeful the 130 recommendations the commissioners made will have a positive impact on preventing a similar</p><p>tragedy in the future.</p>

TRURO - Scott McLeod is hopeful the Mass Casualty Commission's final report will have a positive impact for Nova Scotians moving forward.

McLeod lost his brother, Sean McLeod, during the April 18 and 19, 2020, mass casualty. Sean McLeod was one of 22 victims a perpetrator killed over an almost 13-hour span throughout the province. Along with Sean, his partner, Alanna Jenkins lost her life.

Speaking to media following the commission's release of the final report, McLeod said a lot of positives were coming out of the report, despite not having been able to read the 3,000-page report in its entirety. He said he was able to read some, while his lawyer also relayed what was in the report.

"The implementation committee was something I thought was a a great thing, and I had brought up to the commission prior because it's one way to ensure that things actually get done," said McLeod, adding an RCMP officer made a statement where things sometimes get knocked off the desk. "This is going to be a good way to ensure that it doesn't happen and that people can be held accountable to work with these implementations to better the way that the services work within each other, with the public."

He said a lot has been publicized around what could have been done better during the tragedy, be it communication or staffing.

"If this will help fix it and start building on a platform to move things to a better way of dealing with the public, it will definitely be worth the time and money spent to work with everybody to avoid something like this happening again."

McLeod acknowledged nothing could change what's happened and not everyone would be happy with the final report and its 130 recommendations. While people have been hurt throughout the process, he said he's happy there's a positive outlook on changes actually happening.

He referenced commission chairperson Michael MacDonald calling it a blueprint to move forward.

"That is a fantastic place to start. You have to start somewhere if you're going to change it, and it's a positive spin for the start," he said.

"We have to take and move things forward and at least, if we can get the positive side of this and move things forward, you know that these people didn't lose their lives for nothing."

The commissioners' recommendation on an implementation committee includes two spots for family members or survivors, and it's something McLeod says he's interested in.

"They need to have somebody there, to hold people accountable. If there's no one there, you can tell anybody anything you want. But if there's a body to hold them accountable and bring the stuff to show them ... there's no sneaking away from anything."

Jessica Zita attended the proceedings on her client's behalf. She addressed media, reading a statement before reading Lisa Banfield's own reaction.

Zita said she'd told the commission during the course of the last three years that her client wanted nothing more than to share her story so it could help others.

"This report has gone above and beyond in doing that," said Zita, adding they were pleased with the findings and recommendations.

"Victims of domestic violence and gender-based violence are given a voice like never before, their plight illustrated in this report with such clarity. Coercive control is explained in such a way that perhaps it will begin to be referred to more regularly in everyday discourse. Because it is everywhere. we have seen it.

"We just didn't know what to call it."

She said the report educates the public to be better going forward, and the hope is it will encourage other victims of domestic and gender-based violence to feel more comfortable coming forward.

"What happened to Miss Banfield, the way she was treated in the aftermath of this massacre, which began as an assault against her, is disgraceful. But this report is the first step to preventing that from ever happening again."

Zita said her client is hopeful she will once again be recognized for who she is and what she's endured, "and will finally begin to take her life back."

Banfield, says Zita, wants to translate the experience into one that will help others.

"This report is the step in giving back to Miss Banfield her voice."

Reading Banfield's statement, Zita said her client trusts there will be meaningful change from the recommendations, "especially with regards to links between intimate partner violence and mass casualties."

Banfield hopes the report is used as a blueprint for "fundamental changes in investigative practices and post-care for survivors."

Banfield noted the work her doctor, Peter Jaffe, had in her mental-health journey.

"He gave a voice to the impact of my abuse," read Zita.

Government action

Premier Tim Houston attended the commission's proceedings, as did Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Houston, following the release, said it was important to him, personally, to attend in support of the families.

"They're never far from my thoughts and from my heart," said Houston, adding it was nice to see and talk to some family members.

He said the province's commitment for safer communities is strong and government officials would do whatever possible to keep those communities safe. He spoke to the recommendation of an oversight committee in co-operation with the federal government.

"We're on board for that," he said.

The premier said a lot of work has gone into the final report, which he says he will take with respect and move as quickly as possible on what government can do for community safety.

He said it wasn't just the recommendations around gender-based violence that caught his attention, but that of supporting rural communities as well.

"We'll take this report and take it very seriously. We have great respect for the findings of the report and what is possible to make our communities safer, we will be acting on," said Houston.

He admitted many of the recommendations would come with a financial cost, however "we only put that in perspective of the emotional cost of feeling safe in your communities. Government will work on the funding arrangements, but the funding arrangements will never outstrip the the public safety elements of it."

One of the earliest deadlines for recommendations is a May 1 deadline of a mental-health support network in the province for those communities most affected. Houston said he's already talked with some community members who shared ideas on what's possible.

"We'll work as quickly as possible," he added.

"There's only a desire to move faster, for safer communities."

By having the commission a joint provincial and federal initiative, McLeod is hopeful representatives of both governments have listened to the families and survivors.

"This has been such a publicized event, right from the get-go, that I feel it would be a major hit in any of their careers to not at least work with the people to get stuff done," said McLeod.

"To ignore this at this point would be, I think, very detrimental to any of their careers because it would just look that bad on them."

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