THE WEST BLOCK
Episode 34, Season 9
Sunday, April 26, 2020
Host: Mercedes Stephenson
Guests: Minister Mélanie Joly, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
Dawna Friesen, Global National Anchor: “We’re continuing to cover the two biggest stories in this country: the pandemic and a mass murder.”
U.S. President Donald Trump: “Twenty states have announced that they are making plans and preparations to safely restart their economies.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: “But testing must increase even further before we can reopen and restart our normal activities.”
Official Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer: “What is the government doing to improve testing and tracing?”
Unidentified Woman: “Since April 1st, we’ve shipped approximately 1.2 million N95 respirator masks, 6 million surgical masks, and 8 million nitrile gloves to provinces and territories.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: “There are severe restrictions on the ground in China, in terms of how long a plane can actually stay in their airports before having to leave whether it’s full or not.”
Mercedes Stephenson: It’s Sunday, April 26th. I’m Mercedes Stephenson, and this is The West Block.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: “To the grandparent who lost a child, the children who lost a parent, to the neighbour who lost a friend, we are so sorry for your loss. Such a tragedy should have never occurred. Violence of any kind has no place in Canada. We stand with you and we grieve with you.”
Mercedes Stephenson: It’s been one week since the deadliest shooting in Canadian history that cost the lives of 22 innocent victims. Joining me now to talk about this very sad anniversary and what can be done to prevent something like this from happening again is Mélanie Joly Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages. Minister, thank you for joining us.
Mélanie Joly Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages: Thank you. Good morning, Mercedes.
Mercedes Stephenson: Minister, a number of people in Nova Scotia and across Canada are calling for an independent investigation or inquiry into the RCMPs response that some have categorized as being too slow in this situation. Is your government looking at a calling for that to happen?
Mélanie Joly Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages: Well, definitely. Of course, we understand the sadness, the angst of Nova Scotians and of people all across the country because of this tremendous tragedy. And what we know right now, that there’s still a lot of questions that are unanswered. And therefore, we will let the RCMP do its work; make sure that they provide these answers. And I understand that the commissioner of the RCMP has been also working on this very closely with the minister of safety.
Mercedes Stephenson: But, Minister, some say that the RCMP shouldn’t be investigating itself on this, that there needs to be an independent investigation.
Mélanie Joly Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages:
Well, like I said, my colleague, the minister of Public Safety, Bill Blair had been actively on this. But what we know also, meanwhile, is that there’s lots of questions regarding gun control and that we need to make sure that we strengthen our gun control laws across the country.
Mercedes Stephenson: Now, on gun control, I’m curious to know what your government will do about this, because these guns, the RCMP believe, were largely brought in illegally from the United States. So tightening gun control in Canada wouldn’t have prevented the suspect from obtaining them. Are you looking at putting more money into, for example, border patrols or stricter searches on cars that are coming in to try to prevent this kind of smuggling?
Mélanie Joly Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages: Well, we’ve done that in the past. Under our last mandate, we increased the funding through CBSA, so to control agents at the borders. Of course, we need to do more when it comes to gun control. I was with the prime minister during the 30th anniversary of Polytechnique in last December and at that time we clearly stated, as we did also during the last election, that we needed to move forward on making sure we have a stronger legislation, stronger capacity also to make sure that we come up with strengthening rules, making sure there are more people to abide by these rules and to enforce them. And at the end of the day, these tragedies need to stop.
Mercedes Stephenson: Minister, I think everyone agrees these tragedies need to stop. And one of the elements that we commonly see with mass shootings is that they begin with violence against an intimate partner or a family member. Is your government looking at bringing in stronger legislation and stronger consequences for those who abuse their domestic partners?
Mélanie Joly Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages: Well, as a feminist government, we’ve invested a lot in making sure that we can have much more of a national approach when it comes to fighting domestic violence. Even in the context of the pandemic, Mercedes, we came up with more funding to different women’s shelters all across the country. I think we understand also that there was an increase in women violence right now because of everything that is happening and the frustration and in the angst linked to the pandemic. But at the end of the day, we need to be there as a government, standing side by side with victims and we need to make sure that we do always more, because always more needs to be done when it comes to fighting the domestic violence.
Mercedes Stephenson: Does that mean, though, Minister, that you would see tougher consequences or changes to the criminal code for those who perpetrate this kind of violence?
Mélanie Joly Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages: I think that one of the first revisions; even in the context of COVID-19 would be increased funding to women shelters, just understanding that there was a clear link between mental health and increase of domestic violence. And so I think we have to continue to be working with these community centers at these women’s shelters to do more for sure.
Mercedes Stephenson: Minister, I’d like to turn to COVID-19, which you were just mentioning. There are a lot of provinces are talking about reopening. The federal government has promised some federal guidelines on what reopening the economy will look like. When can we expect those?
Mélanie Joly Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages: Well, I know that now nearly every week, the prime minister is talking with the premiers of all provinces and territories and we need definitely to have a national approach to make sure that there is coordination, because we know that our economies also are increasingly linked and our supply chains are increasingly linked. Definitely as the minister of economic development I have had good conversations with my counterpart about that and also as a minister in charge of tourism I’ve had good conversations also with my counterparts on the tourism side. But we will work with provinces. Some provinces don’t have COVID-19 cases right now, but their public health system is not as resilient as other provinces. So that’s why we need a good coordination and we’re moving very closely.
Mercedes Stephenson: We just have under a minute left here. But I think something a lot of Canadians are wondering about and that you would have a big say in is when national parks might reopen and whether they might be able to go there on vacation. Also, a lot of people working in the tourism industry, which will be severely affected this year, wondering when they might see money. So will people be able to vacation in national parks and is their money coming for those in seasonal employment that relates to tourism specifically?
Mélanie Joly Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages: Well, I know that the tourism sector is deeply affected. And that’s why we wanted at first to have a people first approach where the CERB, the CERB, the two thousand dollar grant would be also allocated to seasonal workers. So that was the first thing. And then we moved on and made sure that there would be wage subsidies and also rent relief for all businesses, including tourism business. And now I have also a fund of $1 billion to help different communities impacted by COVID-19 and including many tourism businesses that fall through the cracks. So definitely aid is there and also aid is coming, support is coming. As for national parks, I’ll be work with my colleagues on this. I know some provincial parks will be opening soon, Saskatchewan being an example of that. But we need to have a coordinated approach. And to your last question, we need to work with provinces that have reopening strategy altogether and afterwards we can open our national parks. And I understand that people can’t wait to go to our national parks because they’re our gems and I look forward to going and seeing them as well.
Mercedes Stephenson: Minister, thank you so much. We all look forward to getting back outside. I know that. We appreciate your time.
Mélanie Joly Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages: Thank you, Mercedes. Have a good day.
Mercedes Stephenson: Up next, Saskatchewan will begin to reopen its economy on May 4th. We’ll ask the premier about his plan to head back to normal while keeping citizens safe.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer: “For sure crowded conditions, mass gatherings is not in any of our near future. I think that is pretty evident. As to whether certain activities can be done safely, that needs further assessment.”
Mercedes Stephenson: Welcome back. That was Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam on reopening the economy from a medical perspective.
Last week, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, announced that his province would start to reopen their economy on May 4th. So, what will that look like?
Joining me now is Premier Moe from Regina. Welcome to the show, Premier. How are you?
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe: I’m doing fabulous, Mercedes. Thank you so much.
Mercedes Stephenson: Premier Moe, how did you decide that it was time to start preparing and setting dates to reopen the economy in your province?
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe: Well for the—we’ve flattened the curve here in Saskatchewan. To be honest, over the course of the last two weeks, we’ve had very low positive COVID ID—identifications, test numbers and I think we’re at 27, total, over the course of the past week or thereabouts. And so we had discussions with our health department, our Ministry of Health, our Saskatchewan Health Authority as well as our chief medical health officer Dr. Shahab on exactly what a phased approach would look like. And with the numbers that we’ve been having, and the sources just as importantly, where those infections are coming from, we felt it was time for us to move forward with some reintroduction dates of allowing some of our medical services and businesses to reopen, but allowing some time in-between those phases so that we can ensure we’re doing the appropriate testing and contact tracing, to address any localized or isolated outbreaks that may occur.
Mercedes Stephenson: Can you walk us through when various sectors are reopening? So for example, what reopens first? And also, when can people start to get a haircut, which is something a lot of folks are wondering.
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe: Sure. I would just maybe preclude is we are still addressing some of our higher risk areas like crowd sizes, travel and access into our long-term care homes. And some of the parameters that the staff are working with in our long-term care homes to ensure that we’re taking care of our most vulnerable in our societies, and we are still asking Saskatchewan residents to ensure they are practicing the very best efforts in physical distancing. But on May the 4th, we are going to open a number of medical services that have been closed for some time: dentistry, opticians, some of the medical services where those businesses and individuals are accustomed to working with personal protection equipment, accustomed to working with patients that may have other virus—viral diseases that are communicable as well, like influenza each and every year, for example. On May the 19th, then we will move forward with our retail sector. But that allows us a couple of weeks to do our testing and our contact tracing and we have a very robust capacity in both to ensure that we can address any localized outbreaks that may occur. And we will then after that May 18th [19th] date, when we open up a number of our—a significant amount of our retail sector to do some further testing and contact tracing, and make some assessments at that point if and when we would move forward with phase three.
Mercedes Stephenson: Now, Prime Minister Trudeau has said that the return to normal is weeks and weeks away, that it won’t be completely normal again, likely until there’s a vaccine. I imagine that you probably talked about this with him before you announced it publicly. What did he say?
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe: Absolutely. We’ve been having weekly council of federation calls in which I currently am the chair with all of the other premiers of the territories and provinces, as well as we have been having what has been for the last number of weeks, weekly calls with all of the premiers. And the prime minister, the most recent as of this past Friday, for a first ministers call. Communicating fully and collaborating across the board as premiers and premiers with the prime minister on where we are with our specific situation, region by region with our—how we’re addressing COVID-19, what the results of that are. Sharing what is working, sharing what is just as importantly, not working and ensuring that as we begin to reopen some regions of this country, that it is done in a very collaborative manner and very collaborative nature and doing so with the very best practices that are available and have been tried in other areas.
Mercedes Stephenson: You’ve obviously consulted very closely with experts. It’s a phased careful approach, but there’s still some who say they’re worried that it’s too soon and that as soon as some restrictions start to ease, people will go back to thinking it’s okay to have gatherings, to be getting together and will stop social distancing. Does that concern you, too?
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe: How we conducted business in our grocery stores and our retail sector, in our day-to-day visits, if you will, with neighbours and family, it’s going to be very different for the foreseeable future, relative to where we were just two short months ago. The people of this province have done a very good job of this and we’ve asked them, under no uncertain terms, the success of these phases as we go through the phases of turning up the dimmer switch on our economy, if you will, not flipping the switch but turning the dimmer switch up gradually is very much on each of us as individuals, to continue with our efforts and hopefully and the goal is to have that collective success that we have had over the course of the last number of weeks.
Mercedes Stephenson: Premier, we’ll certainly be keeping a close eye on your province and we wish you the best of luck. Thank you for joining us.
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe: Thank you very much, Mercedes. You have a great day.
Mercedes Stephenson: Thank you. Up next, we’ll talk to NATO secretary general about the impact of COVID-19 on NATO security and whether our supply chains should rely less on China.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland: “Everyone desperately needs PPE and medical supplies, and that just means not only is the competition to get the stuff fierce, but the competition to get the stuff out of China and into your own country is really, really fierce as well.”
Mercedes Stephenson: Welcome back. That was Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland on the challenge of getting critical equipment from China to Canada. The issue of equipment coming from China is one that NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says NATO countries should be thinking about more and stop depending on China so much for that critical personal protective equipment as well as medications and time to start making it here in NATO countries. While the alliance is used to dealing with military enemies, COVID-19 has been another story. What kind of security threats does it present?
Joining me now is NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Thank you so much for joining us, Mr. Secretary General.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: Thank you so much for having me.
Mercedes Stephenson: I’d like to start by asking you about an experience that your country had and that was with the horrific shooting in Norway. You were prime minister at that time, 77 people, I believe, killed in that shooting. Canada has just experienced our worst mass shooting in our history. What advice do you have for Canada? And how did you country change after that?
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: First of all, I would like to express my condolences to all those who lost their loved ones in the shooting so few days ago in Canada. I think what we have seen in Canada, in Norway and many other places is that violence comes in many different forms but it’s always about innocent people losing their lives. And I think that is one of the lessons we learned in Norway is that the fact that we stand together in the aftermath, in the wake of such a terrible incident, that mobilizes comfort, support to those who really were affected.
Mercedes Stephenson: Sir, the NATO alliance is facing really an unprecedented threat when it comes to coronavirus. This is not your standard adversary. You can’t, for example, gather intelligence on their meetings and their plans. It’s invisible, it hides among us. How is NATO dealing with this very different kind of security threat?
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: Well NATO does this that we provide support to NATO allies and we see also that the military across the lines is essential in providing support to the civilian efforts of fighting or combating the coronavirus. This is a health crisis. We see health workers on the front line, and I would like to commend them because they do a very important job every day, but I also recognize and welcome the fact that military capabilities, military personnel provide support from any—from everything from controlling borders to setting up field hospitals, to disinfecting public spaces and also deploying different kinds of military capabilities. So, it shows that the military provides a kind of search capacity, which helps the civilian society in dealing with a health crisis.
Mercedes Stephenson: You’ve talked about your concerns when it comes to China and NATO countries relying too much on that country for things like personal protective equipment and medical supplies. Do you believe that that’s a security threat, a national security threat to NATO nations?
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: I believe that the COVID-19 crisis reminds us of the importance of resilience, the importance of that we are able to provide necessary equipment, protective equipment, medicines in times of crisis. And I don’t believe that every nation can be self-sufficient or produce all kinds of medicines and equipment themselves, but I think we as NATO allies have to look into issues like stocks. Do we have enough stocks to deal with this kind of crisis? Are we too dependent on imports from countries who are as they say, outside the lines? So one of the lessons we have to learn, some of the homework we have to do after this crisis is to look into how to be less dependent on imports of these kinds of essential equipment dealing with this kind of health crisis.
Mercedes Stephenson: Have you seen examples of, I guess, NATO adversaries or just nations, perhaps who aren’t that friendly to NATO nations, trying to take advantage of the situation security-wise, when it comes to COVID-19?
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: I think the most serious thing we have seen so far is different attempts of disinformation, propaganda, using this situation to try to divide us and to undermine the cohesion, the solidarity within the alliance. We have seen, you know, extreme already different attempts to portray the coronavirus that’s something totally different from what it is and also making NATO allies responsible for the virus. That’s absolutely wrong and we have to respond to that. And I believe that the best way to counter propaganda is not propaganda. And the best way to counter this information is actually to provide facts and I believe that the truth will, in the long run, prevail. And I believe that journalists, free and independent press, are perhaps the best weapon we have in countering disinformation and propaganda.
Mercedes Stephenson: You’ve called on countries like Canada to spend more on defence. With all the spending on coronavirus that NATO countries are having to do, are you concerned that coming out of this, not only will countries not meet that 2 per cent GDP, but in fact will start potentially slashing their defence budgets?
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: I think the challenge we are faced with is that the coronavirus is a serious effect and we need to mobilize against it as we now do as countries and allies all over the world. But at the same time, the COVID-19 crisis does not mean that the other threats and challenges we see disappear. We don’t have the luxury of either addressing security threats or health threats. We need to cope with both of them at the same time. And [00:06:42 more is sort of Russia] being responsible for aggressive actions against the Ukraine, or support of the Assad regime in Syria, or the shift in the global balance of power with regards to China, or terrorism, these threats and challenges, they don’t disappear because of the COVID-19 crisis. So the reality is that we need to be able to both invest in health but also invest in our military security.
Mercedes Stephenson: Mr. Secretary General, that’s all the time we have but we truly appreciate you joining us. I know this is a very busy time for you.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: Thank you so much.
Mercedes Stephenson: That is all the time we have for today. Thank you for joining us. And as we leave you, we wanted to take a moment to honour those who lost their lives and those who have had their communities traumatized in the mass shootings one week ago in Nova Scotia. We’ll see you next week.
[Bag pipes playing Amazing Grace]
Additional West Block programming aired in some markets on Sunday:
Ontario Premier Doug Ford: “We have literally called in the troops and the cavalry is on its way.”
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe: “Over the next several weeks, restrictions will be gradually lifted, adding more types of businesses to the allowable businesses list.”
Health Minister Patty Hajdu: “One of the aspects of COVID-19 that has been the most heart-warming is seeing people pull together.”
RCMP Commissioner Brenda Luckie: “We mourn the loss of Constable Heidi Stevenson, as well as families across Nova Scotia and their loved ones, and we are all families.”
Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil: “It is a critical time for us to find a way to mourn, to find a way to heal from a distance.”
Mercedes Stephenson: Hello. I’m Mercedes Stephenson, and this is The West Block.
Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil: “This is one of the most senseless acts of violence in our province’s history. Words cannot or console the families affected by what has transpired over the last 24 hours. To the families of the victims and to those who are still feeling afraid, my heart goes out to you. Know that all Nova Scotians are with you.”
Mercedes Stephenson: It’s been one week since the deadliest mass shooting in our country’s history. A horrific rampage that killed 22 people and traumatized a community left with many questions about why and how this happened. That community also forced to mourn apart due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is preventing friends and families from gathering together for funeral services. How are the people in Colchester County, Nova Scotia managing?
Joining me now is the MLA for this area, Larry Harrison. Thank you so much for joining us, Larry.
Larry Harrison, MLA for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley: Pleasure to be here.
Mercedes Stephenson: I’m sorry that we’re speaking to you under these circumstances, but I’m hoping that you can give our viewers an update on how you’re doing and how your community is fairing?
Larry Harrison, MLA for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley: Well, you used the word in the introduction of being a traumatic event and that’s exactly what it was. I mean, this is unprecedented in this province. None of us even conceived of this happening in rural Nova Scotia. But it did and we’re trying to get all the resources possible together to help meet the needs of the folks that have been affected by this.
Mercedes Stephenson: You are also a United Church minister and as a man of faith, you’re used to being able to comfort those who are grieving. How difficult is this for people who have not only had this tragedy but now have the compounding factor of not being able to come together in-person to grieve?
Larry Harrison, MLA for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley: I have talked to some of the grief counsellors and they’re trying to set up ways to ease the non-contact. It is very difficult. I mean, that’s how I operate was walking into a home under these circumstances and giving a hug, sitting down and holding a hand and talk. We can’t do that. But we do have very competent grief counsellors who will be finding ways as needs arise, to help deal with this either by—well, virtual service and Facebook. There are other ways in which it can happen and they will find it.
Mercedes Stephenson: What questions are people in the community asking and looking for answers to?
Larry Harrison, MLA for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley: Well of course, the whole thing has started to open now. I mean, people were in shock for the first few days. But now, the element of shock is going and all these feelings now, are starting to surface with the community as a whole, certainly with families and friends and others. How could it happen? How did it happen? Why did it happen? How did people deal with it? There are so many questions now that are starting to arise. I just got finished looking at the RCMP doing their press conference and yeah, I mean, the events that happened during that 12-hour period, just absolutely horrendous.
Mercedes Stephenson: There are some who are looking at the RCMPs response, and in particular, the fact that that emergency alert wasn’t sent. Is that something that concerns you?
Larry Harrison, MLA for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley: No, because I really want to believe that the RCMP made their decisions on the information that they had at that particular time, and I really can’t second-guess that. But one thing I am worried about, though, all these questions are surfacing and I’m some—I’m a little bit afraid that some of the energy that needs to be put into the healing process for the friends, families, the first responders and RCMP, well it may hurt that energy a wee bit and we need it.
Mercedes Stephenson: When you first heard about what was unfolding and now that you’ve had a chance to step back and reflect on it and also again, as a man of faith, how do you make sense of this kind of a horrific tragedy?
Larry Harrison, MLA for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley: I really—I really can’t. I go to bed at night and I just keep thinking about these 22 people that lost their lives just in a—just in a second. They had hopes, dreams. They had a whole life ahead of them, gone. And when I get finished thinking about those people, then I start thinking about the families and their friends that are going to be months, years getting over this trauma. The only thing I can say is, I, and I hope all the people in the community, are going to put their best selves forward because we need our best selves forward in order to help through the healing for the situation, because it is so horrific.
Mercedes Stephenson: Can you describe for me, a little bit about what your community was like before this? I mean, we always hear quiet, nobody expects. But when it happens to you, suddenly its reality and I know this was such a tightly knit and close community.
Larry Harrison, MLA for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley: Oh, you’re absolutely right. I love rural Nova Scotia, and people actually move here and like the lifestyle because it has beauty to it. It is serene and people come here actually for safety as well because they don’t deal with the stuff that usually happens in the city. And all of that now has been put in question and I’m not sure how long it’s going to take for us to get that sense of serenity back. It’s going to take some time.
Mercedes Stephenson: Larry, we are so sorry for your community’s loss, our condolences from all of us here at The West Block and at Global News. Our hearts go out to you. Thank you for joining us to talk about your community today and we are thinking of all of you.
Larry Harrison, MLA for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley: I appreciate the opportunity and thank you very much for your concern.
Mercedes Stephenson: Up next, we’ll take a look at the investigation into that mass shooting. What questions still need to be answered?
RCMP Commissioner Brenda Luckie: “There’s always going to be a better way to do things and so if we can take this and move forward and find a better to advise the public, but I have to say in these incidents, they are so dynamic and they are so quick. And it was just over 12 hours that all of this took place.”
Mercedes Stephenson: Welcome back. That was RCMP Commissioner Brenda Luckie on why the Mounties did not send out an emergency alert after they had learned there was an active shooter last weekend in Nova Scotia. The lack of warning is one of the concerns being raised about how the RCMP responded to this situation, questions that include whether or not there were enough police and enough resources in places like Nova Scotia are now being raised.
Joining me now is Pierre-Yves Bourduas former RCMP Deputy Commissioner. P-Y, thanks for joining us.
Former RCMP Deputy Commissioner Pierre-Yves Bourduas: My pleasure, Mercedes.
Mercedes Stephenson: You know, you had been a member of the RCMP tactical team, you were also very senior in command in the RCMP and I know active shooter scenarios like this are one of your areas of expertise. What did you think of the RCMPs response to the situation?
Former RCMP Deputy Commissioner Pierre-Yves Bourduas: First of all, having been a first responder myself, I can—I can safely say that it must have been mayhem, must have been very hard to manage initially, because the first responders actually arrived at the scene and there’s already houses on fire. There are numerous bodies, an individual that is lying on the road. There’s been someone that was shot at and injured. They need to call in backup. They need to also call in ambulance. The initial responders had to gather a lot of information in a very truncated period of time, in order to assess the situation, needs to relay the information to backup units that are approaching. And according to the RCMP, at one point during the evening, there were over 25 different units, experts—emergency response team, helicopters. So they actually converge all in this area, trying to contain the 2-square kilometres of action that was actually taking place there.
Mercedes Stephenson: But one of the issues being raised is that lack of an emergency alert. That instead, the police took to Twitter. They described this—and I’m looking at the tweet—as a firearms complaint. There’s no mention of an active shooter and as you know, in rural areas, a lot of people are not on Twitter at 10 pm on a Saturday night. What do you think of the fact that they did not use the emergency alert system to send out an alert to people and warn them?
Former RCMP Deputy Commissioner Pierre-Yves Bourduas: In the RCMP opinion, what they’ve expressed is that they hoped that they were able to contain the situation and cordon off the 2-square kilometres hoping that the perpetrator was still in the area. They’ve indicated in the press conference, they were still trying to determine whether or not he was actually burnt into a house. So they were trying to gather all this information. The emergency alert, you know, for as far as I’m concerned and, you know, like the commissioner of the RCMP expressed, like stepping back. Yes, it could have been one of the two views, but the RCMP is seeking ways to improve on their response. With regards to this particular tragedy, they were hoping to—well, they were hoping to have contained the perpetrator shortly before dawn on Sunday morning.
Mercedes Stephenson: When you look at this, one of the things I know you’ve looked into for the force in the past is whether there is adequate training, adequate equipment. When you’re looking at this response, does it raise concerns for you about whether or not RCMP officers, and I’m not talking about the specialized tactical teams but the average front line member, has sufficient training and sufficient knowledge of how to deal with an active shooter situation?
Former RCMP Deputy Commissioner Pierre-Yves Bourduas: Well, the RCMP trained their people to respond to active shooters, but sometimes it’s as police officers—and I’ve experienced this—you cannot train for the impossible, like no one in their worst possible nightmare could have dreamt of this particular situation. When first responders get to a scene, you’re in rural Nova Scotia and you have limited available resources at the outset and you’re trying to assess the situation to the best of their ability. Of course, the RCMP is—when you’re policing in a rural environment, for having done it in New Brunswick for a number of years, the backups are not immediately there. So active shooter, yes, but also you have to look at the victims, you have to assess the situation. So the RCMP, I’m convinced, will learn from this experience because the public needs to trust their policing agency to respond to these types of situations. But in this particular situa—this particular incidence and tragedy, it was something that I, for one, never experienced over 33 years in policing.
Mercedes Stephenson: And I understand the not knowing that he had escaped dressed as an officer obviously complicated things, but even between the time when they spoke with the girlfriend and that alert went out at 7:02 am, saying there’s an active shooter situation, it still takes over two more hours to say that he’s in a police car. Some in the community are saying that kind of information could have saved lives because people would have trusted somebody who dressed and looked like a police officer.
Former RCMP Deputy Commissioner Pierre-Yves Bourduas: And I agree that ostensibly you’d look at this and you’d think of course, you know, if you look at your prime suspect being dressed as an RCMP officer, driving an RCMP vehicle, it stands to reason that the alerts should have gone out. But again, it’s a judgement call for the commander and maybe a better alignment with the commander and the provincial authorities with regards to the emergency alert. But that will become one of the issues that will, I’m convinced, will be discussed between the provincial authorities and the RCMP about protocol of engagements, because the RCMP has indicated that they were looking at going up the chain of command to get the proper approval from the ops commands and full consultation. Would there be any way that this whole process could be streamlined in order to align—better align the emergency alert with the RCMP communications. You know, this—I’m sure this question will be discussed further.
Mercedes Stephenson: Some people are wondering if tighter or more restrictive firearms laws would have prevented this situation. What are your thoughts on that?
Former RCMP Deputy Commissioner Pierre-Yves Bourduas: Well, it’s all—it’s a political discussion that would need to take place. I’m not at liberty, but I’m certainly a strong proponent that the fewer firearms, the better it is. But of course, in this particular incidence, the RCMP has indicated that this individual actually sought these firearms out of the U.S. I’m sure the investigation will reveal how he managed to obtain any guns and long rifles in order to carry out the unthinkable for people in Nova Scotia.
Mercedes Stephenson: P-Y, thank you so much for joining us and sharing your expertise with us, today.
Former RCMP Deputy Commissioner Pierre-Yves Bourduas: It was my pleasure, Mercedes.
Mercedes Stephenson: Denmark from lockdown to reopening: lessons learned from this Nordic country as Canadians look for a way forward.
Official Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer: “Certain provinces have been able to flatten the curve and are now starting to talk about when they may be able to slowly start revising health restrictions over the coming weeks and months. This has raised concerns about a possible patchwork approach across the country. Other countries have released national frameworks, so why hasn’t Canada?”
Mercedes Stephenson: Welcome back. That was Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer talking about reopening the economy. Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and his province will be the first province to reopen with a phased plan that will start on May 4th. The questions of when and how to return to normal is on many Canadians minds these days, Denmark is one country that has successfully started into that process, earlier this month. So, what lessons do they have for us?
Joining me now is Denmark’s Ambassador to Canada Hanne Eskjaer. Ambassador, thank you so much for making time for us.
Denmark’s Ambassador to Canada Hanne Eskjaer: You’re welcome.
Mercedes Stephenson: Your country was one of the first in Europe and Denmark to go into a lockdown and it happened very quickly before a lot of other countries had done so. Six million people all in lockdown at once. What were the signs that your country saw that led you to take that immediate approach versus the phased lockdown that other countries have and who have moved more slowly?
Denmark’s Ambassador to Canada Hanne Eskjaer: Well first of all, I think it’s because we’re a very small country, as you mentioned, around 6 million people. So it was possible for the government to take these measures all at once. Compared to Canada, where it’s a big country there’s a lot of different authorities involved. I think it’s also related to us being a very open economy. We work and we travel everywhere and we were very close to some of the countries that were very hardly hit in the beginning. So we could see that quite quickly, we needed to really protect, take quick measures to protect our health system. A lot of people came from other European countries with the virus, so we had to act swiftly and we could do it because we are small. And in general, our population have a very high degree of trust in our authorities and to each other. So, we were quite nimble in that sense in the early phases. .
Mercedes Stephenson: One of the challenges that Canada has is we’re so integrated with the United States and even though that border is closed, there’s still essential goods. How did you handle it in Denmark in terms of closing the border, because you’re a part of the European Union?
Denmark’s Ambassador to Canada Hanne Eskjaer: Well, I think what was important was it was not—the borders were not closed for essential business, for essential people who had to cross the border. And keeping the supply chains intact was just as important in Denmark as it has been here in Canada. So the medical supplies, but also the foods and everything else we need to keep our societies running. So there was a distinction between travelling and then getting in through the borders where we needed to.
Mercedes Stephenson: You’re planning to reopen Denmark as a country, to lift the restrictions. I know a lot of Canadians are looking outside and thinking that they’re hoping that the same happens here, too. What were the markers or the benchmarks that you used to determine that it was safe to start reopening? And how is your government going about doing that?
Denmark’s Ambassador to Canada Hanne Eskjaer: Well first of all, we looked at the indicators of the very crucial stuff like how many people were at the hospitals and in intensive care and in ventilators. And when that stabilized, it was our health authority’s advice that we could go into a very cautious and gradual and controlled reopening. So it’s not like we open everything. Like for example, we still have a prohibition of gatherings than more than 10 people. We still have closed cafés and restaurants. But what we have done is to go into phase one. We did that on the 14th of April, where the kindergartens and the small kids in schools, plus the high school kids who are preparing for their final exams in high school, they were allowed to go back. Then we look at it carefully, and this is all the political parties throughout the political spectrum in our parliament, taking these measures together. What they did was then to say okay, we have—we have gone in, well into phase one. Things are starting to work a little bit normally—not normal, because one class is, for example, separated into three different classrooms in order to adhere to the social distancing. So after a week, we were able to open some of the small little businesses like hairdressers, dentists, these kinds of businesses because of course, people in Denmark, like here in Canada, would like to go back, but would like to go back in a safe manner. And as we speak, our politicians are discussing what could be a safe next step in this very gradual and controlled reopening of our society.
Mercedes Stephenson: How big of a role have testing, both for COVID-19 and for the antibodies as well as contact tracing, played in your decision to reopen and to feel that you can do so, safely?
Denmark’s Ambassador to Canada Hanne Eskjaer: In fact, our gradual reopening has been combined with an overall and encompassing test strategy. So right now, we are—we are testing more people and what we’re also doing is that we’re doing a representative sample of our population to try to follow the trends. So not just the vulnerable and the ones who are the front workers, but also the other people to see are there some trends in how the virus is spreading that we can learn from. And our prime minister’s been very clear throughout in her daily press briefings; we are tackling a situation that is evolving all the time and we are learning as we are going.
Mercedes Stephenson: As you may know, here in Canada, initially the government announced a 10 per cent wage subsidy. Then they increased it to 75 per cent, which is what Denmark was doing. What impact has that made in Denmark in terms of protecting jobs and businesses and the economy?
Denmark’s Ambassador to Canada Hanne Eskjaer: I think it’s been quite important to have this balance of both protecting our people and their health and protecting the economy just as we have seen here in Canada. And the wage subsidy is one of the key elements in the economic package also in Denmark, allowing businesses to keep people in their jobs and not laying them off. Of course, it’s difficult to measure how many would have been—would have lost their jobs if we wouldn’t have had these wage subsidies, but we have heard from several businesses and business associations that this has been a very important step in order to keep the economy in a better place than they would have been if we hadn’t had these economic packages and the wage subsidy.
Mercedes Stephenson: Ambassador Eskjaer, thank you so much for joining us.
Denmark’s Ambassador to Canada Hanne Eskjaer: A pleasure.
Mercedes Stephenson: That’s also all the time we have for today. Thanks for joining us. And as we leave you, we’d like to take a moment to honour and remember those who lost their lives and the pain in the communities out in Nova Scotia after the mass shooting one week ago there, today. We’ll see you next week.
[Bag pipes playing Amazing Grace]
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