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'Our fight is not done': families of N.S. mass shooting victims optimistic but determined as commission releases final report

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Now that the Nova Scotia Mass Casualty Commission’s final report is released, some victims’ families say they’re encouraged by its recommendations.

The families were initially unsatisfied with a planned judicial review and insisted on a full-fledged inquiry.

A few hundred people gathered Thursday to hear the Mass Casualty Commission’s (MCC) findings in Truro, N.S.

“Honestly, today, I was pleasantly surprised,” said Darcy Dobson, daughter of Heather O’Brien, who was killed by Gabriel Wortman while sitting in her car near Debert, N.S., in April 2020.

With the report released, Dobson says the real work starts now.

“The whole exercise is completely pointless if the recommendations aren’t implemented,” said Dobson, adding she was surprised by the criticism levelled against police in the report.

Lawyers for the various groups echoed that sentiment but said the report isn’t perfect.

“A little bit of negative on some of the more peripheral issues that they feel took up too much of the commission’s time,” said Rob Pineo, who represents some of the families. He declined to elaborate on that comment.

The MCC has recommended sweeping changes to everything from gun control to mental health services, though there is no guarantee any will be implemented.

In a message published in the MCC report’s executive summary, the trio of commissioners suggested the prevention of future tragedies was a primary objective.

“Our recommendations are designed with two objectives in mind: prevention of violence and ensuring effective critical incident response by police, other public safety partners, health and victim service providers, and communities,” the report reads.

“Crucially, we also consider the broader root causes of violence, how such violence can be prevented, and how we can all help to improve community safety and well-being.”

Scott McLeod, brother of victim Sean McLeod, says he wants to discuss the implementation face-to-face with the prime minister.

“The old saying ‘put a bug in his ear.’ And that’s what I’m hoping for, meeting with Mr. Trudeau,” said MacLeod.

Regardless of long-term outcomes, the tragedy has forever linked many of the families. Bonnie Oliver, mother of victim Jolene Oliver, mother-in-law to Aaron Tuck and grandmother to Emily Tuck, who came from Alberta for Thursday's proceedings, says their circles remain unbroken, as she stood beside Harry Bond, son of victims Peter and Joy Bond.

“Harry’s Mom and Dad, and our kids, Jolene, Aaron and Emily, they were neighbours. So, they lived on the same court. So we have his last name: Bond. We have a bond.”

Oliver, Bond and Dobson all referred to Thursday as a “new beginning,” and expressed determination to make sure all of the recommendations are ultimately acted on.

“Our work ain’t over. Our fight is not done,” said Bond. “We’ve got to make sure that this is pushed and the changes are made.”

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