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'Their heads are in the proverbial sand': RCMP leader urged force to formally apologize after MCC report

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There are renewed calls for the RCMP to formally apologize for its actions - and inactions - during Nova Scotia's mass shooting, and a newly-released internal memo says top officials wanted it to happen shortly after the Mass Casualty Commission released its final report back in the spring.

The force has come close to saying the words, but hasn't done so, and experts say there's a number of reasons for that.

The long-awaited report didn't formally recommend an apology from Canada's national police force, but did acknowledge a series of mistakes and missteps during the worst mass shooting in Canadian history, and recommended police adopt a policy of admitting its mistakes.

That night, on CTV News, the assistant commissioner got close to the line, but never quite crossed it.

"Our members and employees did the best they could," said Assistant Commissioner Dennis Daley.

"However, and we've apologized to family members that the response wasn't what they particularly needed, and for that, I am truly sorry," he said.

But it seems there were pressures for more, even inside the force.

The Globe and Mail published an internal memo Tuesday from RCMP Assistant Commissioner Sorab Rupa.

“It is imperative that the RCMP acknowledge its failures and display a willingness to be accountable for them," the Globe reported the memo saying, adding it should happen in a "timely and decisive” manner.

CTV News has not independently confirmed the veracity of the memo.

Representatives of some of the victim's families say the relative silence from the force implies a reluctance to change.

"I don't know that I would say that hearing those words is what's important," said Michael Scott, a lawyer for some of the families.

"It's the fact that, to make meaningful changes going forward, requires a recognition of mistakes that were made," he said.

"Like everyone else, we're waiting to see what happens next in terms of implementing some of the recommendations from the commission. We've not heard much from the RCMP directly, and to some extent, that's quite discouraging."

Others are less diplomatic.

"I wish I could say that I was surprised, but I'm not," said St. Thomas University criminology professor Michael Boudreau.

"The RCMP has always been very reluctant to admit any fault or any wrongdoing, whether it was the Moncton shooting, whether it's now Portapique, whether it is sexual harassment among the ranks, they have been very reluctant to admit they made mistakes," said Boudreau, suggesting the force wants to avoid legal jeopardy and further erode public confidence.

But he says a larger problem exists at the highest levels.

"It's also indicative of an organization at the upper echelons, not at the rank and file level, but the upper echelons that is impervious to change and thinks the RCMP remains the best police force not only in the country, but arguably in the world, when it really isn't," said Boudreau.

"They just can't see they've actually made mistakes that tragically, in the Nova Scotia situation, cost people their lives," he said.

"Their heads are in the proverbial sand."

CTV News reached out to the force to inquire whether an apology would be forthcoming, but there was no formal response before deadline.

Still, the office of the newly-minted Public Safety Minister, Dominic LeBlanc, says it expects the RCMP to make an official apology, but did not explain why the force hasn't already done so.

“Our government is committed to delivering a comprehensive response to the recommendations outlined in the Mass Casualty Commission’s final report. That work is well underway, and is being done in collaboration with the RCMP," said Jean-Sebastien Comeau, the minister's press secretary and senior communications advisor.

"Minister LeBlanc looks forward to working with Commissioner Duheme on this matter over the coming months.”

In an email to CTV News last month, a spokesperson for the force noted the RCMP did not wait for the MCC’s final report to begin work on "addressing gaps in our approach."

"Our efforts are detailed on our website," said media relations spokesperson Robin Percival.

"The RCMP is committed to being transparent with Canadians on our approach. That is why we are planning on providing a significant public update on our response to the MCC Final Report in the fall," said Percival.

The sentiment appeared to be echoed by Assistant Commissioner Daley during his CTV News interview.

"I do promise Nova Scotians that the RCMP will take each recommendation and act upon that recommendation to the best that we can," he said.

“What I heard Commissioner MacDonald talk about today - which was very impactful for me - was the need for police leaders to demonstrate the courage and the commitment and the collaboration, so I do think that's a very good place for police leaders to start from as we work with others in addressing each of the recommendations," said Daley.

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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