RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki and the former public safety minister are pushing back on suggestions they interfered in the investigation into the mass shooting in Nova Scotia in order to push gun control measures.
A new report released Tuesday by the inquiry into the 2020 massacre revealed notes from a meeting among senior RCMP leadership 10 days after the shooting, which revealed Lucki said she had promised then-public safety minister Bill Blair and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) that police would release information about the firearms used by the shooter.
According to notes taken by RCMP Supt. Darren Campbell, Lucki said she felt “disobeyed” when those details were not shared, adding that the information “was tied to pending gun control legislation that would make officers and public safer.”
Lucki later issued a statement denying she interfered with the investigation and defended her discussions with Blair at the time.
“As a police officer, and the RCMP Commissioner, I would never take actions or decisions that could jeopardize an investigation,” she said.
“It is important to note that the sharing of information and briefings with the Minister of Public Safety are necessary, particularly during a mass shooting on Canadian soil. This is standard procedure, and does not impact the integrity of ongoing investigations or interfere with the independence of the RCMP.”
Lucki’s statement did not address the specific allegations that she had promised Blair and the PMO to release specific information, or that it was tied to government policy.
She did, however, express regret about the “tense discussion” detailed by Campbell, who said in his notes that some in the room were “reduced to tears” when Lucki questioned why firearms information wasn’t being released. Campbell, who took responsibility for not sharing those details, described Lucki’s “reprimand” as “belittling.”
“My need for information should have been better weighed against the seriousness of the circumstances (RCMP colleagues) were experiencing,” Lucki said in her statement.
“I should have been more sensitive in my approach.”
Videos of RCMP officers killing Nova Scotia mass shooter released
The issue was raised in the House of Commons on Tuesday, where the Conservatives accused the governing Liberals of interfering in an active police investigation. Blair, now the minister of emergency preparedness, insisted no one from the government issued directions to Lucki.
“It’s apparent that the Opposition is more interested in drama than in truth,” he said. “The commissioner has confirmed that no direction and no pressure was given by me or by any member of this government to direct her in any way.”
Conservative MP John Brassard countered that his raising of the issue wasn’t to create “drama,” but was based on the inquiry report itself.
The PMO has not commented on Tuesday’s report.
The report also included comments from the RCMP’s director of strategic communications in Halifax, Lia Scanlan, who told the inquiry in an interview that government officials, including Blair and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, were “weighing in on what we could and couldn’t say” during media briefings. She did not provide further details.
Less than two weeks after the shooting, Trudeau announced a ban on 1,500 makes and models of “assault-style firearms,” some of which were used by the Nova Scotia shooter.
A report released last month by the inquiry revealed multiple weapons, including two semi-automatic rifles, were found in the stolen rental car the shooter was refuelling when he was shot and killed by RCMP. Even more firearms were uncovered at the gunman’s home.
The weapons were all owned illegally and many were purchased in the United States, the report revealed. The inquiry has heard that the shooter did not have a firearms licence.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said the suggestion the government directed Lucki to interfere in the shooting investigation was “very disturbing” — especially if it was meant to further legislation.
“The idea that this government — that any government — would use this horrific act of mass murder to gain support for their gun policy is completely unacceptable,” Singh said in a statement.
“Not only is this inappropriate, it fuels cynicism about our democracy and the elected officials who participate in it.”
Conservatives claim murders at ’30-year-high’ under Liberal government, slam Bill C-21
The Liberal government most recently unveiled a revamped Bill C-21, which includes a national “freeze” on handguns and other gun control measures, after a string of mass shootings in the U.S. that culminated in the deaths of 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.
While Trudeau cited the violence in the U.S. in his announcement, the government has said the bill is meant to tackle rising gun crime in Canada, a majority of which has been fuelled by handguns.
Singh warned in his statement Tuesday against the Conservatives using the revelations out of the inquiry to “score political points” against Bill C-21 and firearms restrictions in general.
— with files from Global’s Mercedes Stephenson, Andrew Russell and the Canadian Press
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