Lawyer urges full disclosure in N.S. shooting, says RCMP and shooter are not entitled to privacy
HALIFAX -- Halifax privacy lawyer David Fraser says now is the time to ask pertinent questions about what happened during the Nova Scotia shooting and how the force handled its response to Gabriel Wortman's killing spree.
Fraser says the more he knows about how little is being said, the more upset he's getting.
"If we're not asking these questions now, then perhaps they won't be asked at all," Fraser said. "The news cycle will carry on."
If that happens and the questions aren't asked – and answered – then the public will have been poorly served by the media that needs to ask the questions and the RCMP that needs to answer them, he said.
"There are some very important questions about what happened, but also about the nature of the response to the crime," Fraser said. "These are legitimate questions."
Fraser says he knows that people are grieving the victims -- including RCMP Const. Heidi Stevenson, who was killed in the line of duty -- but that does not give the RCMP a free pass.
He says it's important to distinguish the institution's bureaucracy and the members on duty and says that criticism of the former is not, by default, criticism of the Mounties on patrol or who were responding to the weekend's violence.
Fraser says the Mounties act like a paramilitary organization when it comes to transparency.
"They tend to shut down information flow," he said. "They are one of the least forthcoming government organizations. They have deliberately turned off the tap of information in relation to this investigation."
He says the RCMP did this in response to criticism that it did not issue a provincewide alert and instead relied on Twitter to advise the public of an active shooter situation.
Fraser says people have legitimate questions about whether the RCMP's failure to use the provincial alert system would have saved lives.
Fraser, who is normally a staunch defender of privacy rights, is encouraging full transparency in this case.
"Institutions aren't entitled to privacy," Fraser said.
He also said releasing the information won't jeopardize an investigation or violate the privacy rights of the shooter.
"He's dead and dead people don't have privacy rights," Fraser said.
He says, in this case, transparency is a matter of public interest that in this case "weighs very strongly in favour of disclosure."
Fraser says, whenever the RCMP face criticism, they tend to shut down, and in this case, they've even been "arrogant" in the way they've refused to be interviewed by journalists.
"We're going to need a public inquiry or an inquiry under the Fatalities Act," he said. "This might have been completely unprecedented, but there are going to be important lessons to learn from this for the RCMP and for us as a society."