As many as eight search warrants are expected to be carried out by the RCMP this week into last month’s mass shooting in Nova Scotia – the deadliest in Canadian history with 22 fatalities.
The RCMP’s probe into the shooting spree is moving rapidly behind the scenes. By week’s end, as many as 20 search warrants related to the investigation will have already been issued by the courts.
That news emerged at a hearing conducted by teleconference this morning in front of Nova Scotia Judge Laurel Halfpenny MacQuarrie. The hearing was held to argue an application brought by a group of eight media organizations, led by the CBC, that are seeking the release of information used by the RCMP to obtain a group of seven search warrants, a number of which were executed last week at properties owned by the gunman, Gabriel Wortman.
Both the provincial and federal Crown attorneys are challenging the full release of the information. Their offices are currently going over the first batch of search warrants and production orders (the information used to obtain search warrants) and deciding what information to make public and what to redact in a highly sensitive probe that is also expected to place RCMP actions under a microscope.
David Coles, the lawyer hired by the CBC et al, argued that it shouldn’t be up to the provincial and federal Crown offices to decide what information should and shouldn’t be made public. He said he should be given the opportunity to cross-examine the Crown on the basis of their decisions. Coles argued that “If the warrant has been executed and something has been found, then the information should be released.”
Mark Heerema, one of two lawyers representing the Nova Scotia Crown’s office, cautioned that the process of what to redact or not to redact is painstaking and requires consultation with investigating officers, among others. He reports that it took two days to complete redactions on one search warrant.
Heerema said detailed affidavits to support the Crown’s decisions on what information is released and what is not could take up to a month to furnish.
That’s not an idea the judge was willing to entertain, citing the public urgency surrounding the case. The Crown was given until May 19 to submit its first batch of redactions.
The court also heard that criminal charges are likely in the case. Even though Wortman was killed in a confrontation with police, there are big questions about where he obtained the unregistered firearms used in the killing spree as well as RCMP uniforms and other equipment he wore during his rampage.