Justice Leo Barry, a Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court judge since 1989, has been tasked by the provincial government with finding answers in the shooting death of Don Dunphy.
Andrew Parsons, provincial attorney general and minister of justice and public safety, announced Barry’s appointment as head of the provincial inquiry at a news conference Friday at Confederation Building.
“I am confident he will ensure a full and complete inquiry into the facts and circumstances of this tragic incident,” said Parsons.
“It is not lost on me that it has taken far too long to get to this day, and it is unfortunate that we need an inquiry in the first place.”
It is “abundantly clear” the province needs its own independent serious-incident response team, he added.
According to the terms of reference released by Parsons, the purpose of the inquiry — which will be held at the Newfoundland School for the Deaf — is to find out, among other things:
- The circumstances of Dunphy’s death;
- The reason RNC officer Joe Smyth visited Dunphy, whether he was directed to do so, and if so, by whom;
- What information was provided as the reason for the RNC officer’s visit, as well as its reliability;
- The reason an RNC officer visited Dunphy in the RCMP’s jurisdiction;
- The facts surrounding police operations on the day of Dunphy’s death;
- Whether use-of-force protocols were properly followed;
- Whether Dunphy’s use of social media played any part in his death.
Dunphy, 59, was shot and killed by Smyth on April 5, 2015.
The RCMP concluded there would be no charges against Smyth, and an investigation by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team found the RCMP’s investigation “thorough, complete and unbiased.” The RNC also said the Saskatoon Police Service found no wrongdoing on the part of Smyth and the RNC.
None of the reports have been released publicly.
Barry said what’s happened in other inquiries will be helpful to him, but he hasn’t seen the reports yet.
“I would hope that all the information available to this point would come to the commission, and would be available for public viewing,” he said, qualifying that by noting privacy concerns must be respected.
The commission will not be taking a position on potential criminal or civil liability for Smyth.
“But if there are facts revealed in the course of an inquiry, then obviously these facts would be made known to government and to the powers that be in terms of making decisions, and it would be up to them as to what the law says in terms of acting on any new information instead,” he said.
Barry also said he was “at a loss” as to why retired justice David Riche went public with his own concerns as an independent observer of the RCMP’s investigation.
“Justice Riche was not operating under the purview of legislation, such as the Public Inquiries Act, and to that extent, his opinions are his own. So I think you’d have to deal with him in terms of whether or not the opinions stand up,” he said, adding Riche has the right to express his opinion.
“I will say that I will be dealing with evidence that’s presented under oath. I will not be dealing with my own recollections or information I may receive informally.”
Parsons said he’s concerned about the way information about the shooting has come out in “dribs and drabs” over the past year and a half.
“I think that’s contributed to the overall situation we have, which is a year and a half of uncertainty, and a family not knowing,” he said.
Parsons also said the office of the Citizens’ Representative will examine the history and treatment of Dunphy’s case with Workplace NL. He said the government has budgeted $1.5 million to $2 million for the inquiry. So far there have been two applications for coverage of legal counsel costs: One by Meghan Dunphy and former premier Paul Davis.