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Alberta justice minister calls for firing of RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki

Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro is calling on the federal government to fire RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki, saying her continued tenure is damaging to the national police force.

Ottawa has confidence in the commissioner, says public safety minister

Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro called Wednesday for the federal government to fire RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki. (Todd Korol/The Canadian Press, Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro is calling on the federal government to fire RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki, saying her continued tenure is damaging to the national police force.

On Wednesday, Shandro told reporters that federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino should immediately rescind Lucki's appointment. Soon after, Mendicino said the commissioner will remain in her post and Lucki said she has no plans to leave.

Shandro called Lucki's performance at two public inquiries this year "unforgivable." He said Lucki admitted to making no improvements to RCMP responses and communication during a mass casualty commission into the 2020 shooting deaths of 22 people in Nova Scotia.

"The commissioner of the RCMP must be held to the highest of standards. So far, Minister Mendicino has stood idly by while Commissioner Lucki has failed to meet even the most meagre of standards for the past two years," Shandro said in a written statement, also on Wednesday.

Shandro also told reporters that Lucki, who has been in the role since April 2018, failed to address systemic racism within the RCMP. He pointed to the case of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam in northern Alberta, who was violently arrested by RCMP in March 2020. The Crown later dropped charges against Adam.

In a scrum in Ottawa Tuesday, Mendicino said he will not remove Lucki.

"I have confidence, and the government has confidence in Commissioner Lucki, and obviously as her term, her first term comes up, there will be a process around that."

Mendicino said the appointment process that named Lucki commissioner in April 2018 has "integrity" and that there will be a discussion when her tenure comes to its "natural conclusion."

The RCMP commissioner serves at the will of government and does not have a fixed term, but Lucki said she will keep working to maintain the confidence of Canadians and the government.

"I'm not going to step down from my position," Lucki said in an interview in Prince Edward Island on Wednesday. 

"I won't focus on whether people want me in this chair or not. I'm going to focus on keeping Canadians safe."

'National conversation'

Since 2019, Alberta's United Conservative Party government has considered creating a provincial police service to potentially replace the RCMP now contracted to serve many smaller municipalities and rural areas.

At an unrelated news conference Wednesday, Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley says Shandro's comments about Lucki are designed to undermine Albertans' confidence in the RCMP.

"This is a political tactic to try and build support for what I would argue is their bogus desire to bring in a provincial police force. A provincial police force that is desperately unpopular," Notley said.

Shandro denied this, saying it would be "misleading" to conflate his concerns about Lucki with his mandate from Premier Danielle Smith to decide whether to proceed with creating a provincial force.

WATCH | Alberta government wants Lucki fired: 

Alberta justice minister calls on head of RCMP to resign

13 days ago
Duration 2:03
Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro is calling on RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki to resign, saying she is damaging the national police force’s reputation. But the federal government says it has no plans to fire her.

Shandro said cabinet has not yet made a final decision on whether to create a provincial police service.

"If it doesn't proceed ... that doesn't make the issue go away," Shandro said. "I think it's really important for us to remember this is a national conversation."

Lucki has been involved in several controversies during her tenure and has faced previous calls for her resignation.

Most recently, she has faced questions about her role in the federal government's use of the Emergencies Act to quell the protests that gridlocked parts of downtown Ottawa for weeks.

She was called to testify this month at the public inquiry into the use of the legislation.

Lucki has repeatedly stated her support for invoking the Emergencies Act. But the inquiry heard that the night before the federal government invoked the act, she told a senior public safety official that she felt police had not yet exhausted "all available tools." 

During his testimony Tuesday, Mendicino said Lucki shared with him sensitive police information the day before the government decided to invoke the act — and warned him that some protesters in Alberta were willing "to go down with the cause."

The minister said he spoke with Lucki on Feb. 13 and that she updated him on plans to execute a police operation at the blockade near Coutts, on the Alberta-Montana border.

Mendicino said he told Lucki he couldn't keep the information about the potential for loss of life in Coutts to himself. He said he shared it with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Katie Telford, Trudeau's chief of staff.

Mendicino was also questioned about the Feb. 13 email Lucki sent to his chief of staff, previously entered into evidence. 

The minister said Lucki was expressing a different view in his conversations with her.

"It also spoke volumes to me about the commissioner's state of mind, which was that we were potentially seeing an escalation of serious violence with the situation in Coutts," he said.

The blockade and protest at the Coutts border ended after a Feb. 14 pre-dawn operation that executed warrants on trailers and property. That operation resulted in RCMP seizing more than a dozen firearms, as well as ammunition and body armour.

Later that day in Ottawa, Trudeau announced that the government would be taking the unprecedented step of triggering emergency powers.

Lucki was also embroiled in a controversy related to the 2020 mass shooting in Nova Scotia, and allegations she interfered in the police investigation. 

Lucki testified at a public safety and national security committee on allegations Bill Blair, then the minister of public safety, pressured her to release details on the guns used in the shooting,

Lucki and Blair appeared before the committee this summer. Both denied meddling in the RCMP's investigation. 

At the time, Lucki said a miscommunication between her subordinates and herself resulted in her giving incorrect information to Blair's office.

Lucki has also faced repeated calls for her handling of systemic racism in policing. In 2020, Lucki said systemic racism exists in the police force — after telling several media outlets that she was "struggling" to define the term.

Under the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act, and the direction of the public safety minister, Lucki controls and manages the RCMP. This includes overseeing the delivery of front-line policing services in most provinces and all territories.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Wallis Snowdon is a journalist with CBC Edmonton focused on bringing stories to the website and the airwaves. Originally from New Brunswick, Wallis has reported in communities across Canada, from Halifax to Fort McMurray. She previously worked as a digital and current affairs producer with CBC Radio in Edmonton. Share your stories with Wallis at wallis.snowdon@cbc.ca.

With files from Evan Dyer

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