N.S. justice minister not in conflict in shooting inquiry, says commissioner

Nova Scotia’s conflicts commissioner says Justice Minister Mark Furey is not in a conflict of interest for his involvement in the public inquiry into April’s shooting and arson rampage that left 22 people dead.

In a letter dated Nov. 30, Justice Joseph P. Kennedy said he was not convinced that Furey — a former Mountie of 32 years — is in violation or is perceived to be in violation of the provincial Conflict of Interest Act.

The RCMP has come under scrutiny for its handling of the tragedy — like the decision to tweet about the shooter’s whereabouts instead of issuing an emergency alert — and issues around transparency when it comes to releasing details about the case.

Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Houston requested that the conflict commissioner’s office review Furey’s involvement in the shooting inquiry, saying “the public has raised several concerns related to this perceived conflict.”

The PC leader had pointed to Furey’s employment history, as well as the fact that there is a class-action application by the families of the shooting victims that names both the RCMP and the province as defendants.

Tory Leader Tim Houston says Furey could be perceived to be in a conflict of interest because he will potentially be a compellable witness during the inquiry. (Pat Callaghan/CBC)

Houston also said that Furey could be perceived to be in a conflict of interest because he will potentially be a compellable witness during the inquiry and he is responsible for the actions of the RCMP in Nova Scotia.

But in his letter, Kennedy said Furey dismissed Houston’s affidavit as “opinion and speculation, devoid of actual knowledge and factual evidence.”

The commissioner also said that it is premature to suggest Furey’s involvement in the inquiry would be compromised by his prior years of service with the Mounties.

“I acknowledge that there has been public concern expressed as to minister Furey’s participation in the process that created the inquiry based largely because of his former association with the RCMP,” Kennedy wrote.

The commissioner concluded: “The evidence produced does not satisfy me that there is any contravention or perceived contravention of the [Conflict of Interest] Act.”

In the minister’s rebuttal, which was cited in Kennedy’s decision, Furey says Houston’s affidavit shows a misunderstanding of his previous role in the RCMP and his current responsibilities as minister of justice.

He says the minister is not responsible for the functioning of the police in the province but rather the administration of justice under the Police Act. 

In a statement on Wednesday, Houston said unanswered questions remain.

“We know that the government wanted a review and not a public inquiry, but we may never know why,” said Houston.

“What’s clear is that minister Furey’s involvement with the file has eroded public trust at a difficult time for Nova Scotians. We’re disappointed in the commissioner’s ruling as it’s evident to most Canadians that, at minimum, the perception of a conflict of interest exists.”

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