N.S. premier not ready to question if a public alert should have been issued about gunman

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil says there will be a time to discuss how the public was alerted and updated about a shooting rampage that killed at least 17 people on the weekend, but now is not that time.

RCMP used Twitter to provide updates to the public as they responded to a weapons complaint late Saturday night in Portapique, N.S., that became an active-shooter incident and manhunt across the central part of the province that lasted almost 12 hours.

But in communities plagued by spotty internet service and heavily populated with seniors who might not use Twitter, some people have asked why the province did not use its emergency alert system to issue text messages to cellphones advising people of what was happening and to stay inside.

The United States Consulate General in Halifax on Sunday morning issued a warning about the situation by email.

Province used alert system Easter weekend

The province most recently used its text alert system in the lead up to the Easter long weekend, advising people to stay home to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

McNeil told CBC News Network on Monday that rather than question whether an alert should have been issued, right now the police investigation needs to be allowed to happen.

“People were making decisions as they were trying to protect their community and I am certainly not going to judge the decisions that were made yesterday,” he said.

“I want law enforcement to focus, quite frankly, on ensuring that they piece this together so that families can have some closure and eventually communities and, in the broader sense, people will be able to ask them those questions.”

Premier learned of manhunt Sunday morning

Like most Nova Scotians, McNeil learned of the manhunt when he woke up Sunday morning and saw news reports.

The premier, whose family has extensive connections to law enforcement, said he did not think he should have been contacted by RCMP to be advised of what was happening.

“I got notified when it was required,” he said.

“We need to bear in mind, we can’t even fathom what this environment was like and the last thing that they needed to do was call the premier unless they needed something from our government.”

McNeil said Mark Furey, the province’s attorney general and a former RCMP officer, has been the government’s contact with the RCMP. The premier said the message to the force from his government has been to do their job and the government would only get involved if they are asked.

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