Families' proposed class action alleges RCMP, province failed to protect loved ones in N.S. mass shooting
HALIFAX -- The families of the Nova Scotians killed and injured during the mass shooting in April have filed a proposed class-action lawsuit against the RCMP and the province.
Twenty-two people were killed when the gunman, 51-year-old Gabriel Wortman, went on a violent rampage across central Nova Scotia on April 18 and 19.
The representative plaintiffs in the proposed lawsuit are Tyler Blair and Andrew O'Brien.
Tyler Blair is the son of Greg Blair and stepson of Jamie Blair, who were both killed by the shooter the evening of April 18 at their home in Portapique, N.S.
O'Brien is the widower of VON worker Heather O'Brien, who was killed by the gunman during his rampage on April 19, near her home in Masstown, N.S.
According to a news release from Patterson Law, the firm handling the application to the court, the claim alleges the Nova Scotia RCMP failed to "protect the safety and security of the public" during the mass shooting.
The lawyer representing the families, Sandra McCulloch, says the court action is about seeking answers.
"There are numerous more questions then there are answers," she says, "And how did the events become as tragic as they did in how they unfolded?"
Among the "failures" listed in the court documents is the failure by authorities to issue a provincewide emergency alert during the rampage. The plaintiffs in the proposed suit also allege the RCMP's use of Twitter to send warnings to the public while the tragedy was unfolding wasn't good enough.
"The communication to the public was inadequate and insufficient in light of the circumstances that were unfolding," says McCulloch.
The court documents also allege the RCMP "failed to contain Wortman in the community of Portapique," after he had killed 13 people in the small community before continuing his massacre.
The proposed suit also disputes a statement made by RCMP officials earlier this month, in which investigators said the gunman did not use his replica RCMP vehicle to "pull over" any of his victims.
The plaintiffs allege that around 10:08 a.m. on Sunday, April 19, VON worker Heather O'Brien was stopped by Wortman as he was posing as a police officer, and was shot and killed in her car.
The lawsuit also seeks punitive damages against the RCMP for how it has handled the investigation into the tragedy.
Court documents allege the vehicle of one of the victims was returned to the family by the RCMP after the investigation with "gun casings and body parts still in the automobile."
The documents also state that the families believe the RCMP's handling of the shooting and the aftermath has been "in a high-handed, self-serving, and disrespectful manner."
When asked for a response to the proposed civil action, the RCMP provided this statement to CTV News:
"The RCMP has not yet been served with a civil claim in respect to the incidents of April 18-19, 2020 but will review and consider any such claim once served," writes Cpl. Caroline Duval. "Our primary focus continues to be on the ongoing criminal investigation and supporting the victims of this tragedy as well as our members and employees."
McCulloch says they have given the province of Nova Scotia notice of the intent to include it in the lawsuit as well.
While the documents have been filed in Nova Scotia Supreme Court, the lawsuit must still be certified by the courts, and the allegations in the suit have not been tested in a court of a law.
This is the second proposed class-action lawsuit filed by the families in Nova Scotia.
The first lawsuit seeks damages against the estate of the shooter, Gabriel Wortman.