Politics

Mountie who wrote that RCMP head interfered in N.S. investigation 'came to his own conclusions,' says Blair

Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair is casting doubt on the Nova Scotia Mountie who suggested Commissioner Brenda Lucki interfered in the investigation into the largest mass shooting in Canadian history. 

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki denies claim she interfered in N.S. shooting investigation

In his notes from the time, RCMP Supt. Darren Campbell wrote that RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki was upset that police in Nova Scotia were not revealing more information about the weapons used in the April 2020 mass shooting. The notes were released Tuesday as part of the Mass Casualty Commission probe. (Robert Guertin/CBC)

Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair is casting doubt on the Nova Scotia Mountie who suggested Commissioner Brenda Lucki interfered in the investigation into the largest mass shooting in Canadian history. 

The former public safety minister's comments come as the political firestorm around the head of the national police force spills into a second day. 

That explosive allegation was contained in handwritten notes from Nova Scotia RCMP Supt. Darren Campbell which were released Tuesday as part of the Mass Casualty Commission probe.

The commission is investigating the April 18-19, 2020, rampage that claimed the lives of 22 people — including a pregnant woman — and left several people injured and several homes destroyed. The commission released a report Tuesday on the way the RCMP and government communicated with the public about the incident.

WATCH | Bill Blair denies government intervened in N.S. shooting investigation: 

Minister addresses claims of federal interference in N.S. mass shooting investigation

3 days ago
Duration 1:02
Minister of Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair says the federal government was never involved in conversations between RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki and her subordinates around the investigation into the 2020 Nova Scotia mass shooting.

In those notes, Campbell wrote that RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki was upset that the RCMP in Nova Scotia were not revealing more information about the weapons used because she had promised the federal government — which was considering gun control legislation at the time — that they would raise it.

"The superintendent obviously came to his own conclusions and his notes reflect that," Blair told reporters Wednesday. 

"But I'm telling you, and I would tell the superintendent if I spoke to him, I made no effort to pressure the RCMP to interfere in any way with their investigation. I gave no direction as to what information they should communicate. Those are operational decisions of the RCMP and I respect that and I have respected that throughout."

Lucki has also denied interfering in the investigation.

"As a police officer, and the RCMP commissioner, I would never take actions or decisions that could jeopardize an investigation," Lucki wrote in a statement released Tuesday evening.

A woman in an RCMP uniform stands in front of a Canadian flag.
Lucki, seen speaking at a 2019 news conference in Ottawa, says she did not interfere in the N.S. shooting investigation. (Chris Wattie/The Canadian Press)

While the statement did not directly address the claim that she was pushing for the release of more information to help the Liberals' plans for gun control, Lucki wrote that briefings with the public safety minister are necessary, particularly during a mass shooting.

"I take the principle of police independence extremely seriously, and it has been and will continue to be fully respected in all interactions," she wrote.

Patterson Law, the firm representing the families of more than a dozen of the victims in the mass shooting, issued a statement Wednesday saying their clients are troubled by the allegations. 

"In the days following April 19, 2020, all efforts should have been focused on supporting victims, their families and the active investigation being carried out by local RCMP. Interfering in those efforts, to exploit a perceived political opportunity or otherwise, would have been inexcusable," reads the statement.

"We trust that the Mass Casualty Commission recognizes the importance of determining the truth of these allegations and the need for fulsome cross-examination of the relevant witnesses."

Blair, who was the minister of public safety at the time of the shooting spree, said he has faith in the commissioner, who was appointed by the Liberal government in 2018.

The new public safety minister, Marco Mendicino, said he believes the "principle of operational independence" was upheld. That sets out that the RCMP commission is accountable to the minister, but operationally independent and should be free from direction or influence of elected officials when fulfilling its core law enforcement functions.

WATCH | Public safety minister on N.S. mass shooting investigation: 

Public safety minister on N.S. mass shooting investigation

3 days ago
Duration 1:52
Marco Mendicino reacts to the Conservatives claiming that the federal Liberal government interfered with the Nova Scotia shooting investigation. Liberals deny the claims.

"Naturally, in the aftermath of this, there was a great anxiety, a great fear, a great sense of despair and anguish and loss, and Canadians had and continue to have a right to know as to what went on. So, in those moments, there will be an exchange of information," said Mendicino Wednesday.

"There will be conversations had about what went on, and I think there is a responsibility on the part of both law enforcement and government to be upfront with Canadians which is why there needs to be exchanges of information contemporaneous to those events."

WATCH | Victims' families lash out at N.S. shooting inquiry: 

Angry victims’ families heard at N.S. shooting inquiry

4 days ago
Duration 4:57
Family members of the N.S. shooting victims expressed their frustration about how the RCMP handled telling them about what happened to their loved ones. Meanwhile, a report questioned whether the RCMP's top cop interfered with the release of some information because of promises to the Prime Minister's Office.

According to Campbell's notes, Lucki's alleged comments came during a meeting about a week after the shootings. 

During a news conference, Campbell told reporters the gunman had two semi-automatic handguns and two semi-automatic rifles.

He would not offer more details but said that some of the guns might have come from the United States and the Canada Border Services Agency was assisting with the investigation.

"The commissioner was obviously upset. She did not raise her voice but her choice of words was indicative of her overall dissatisfaction with our work," Campbell wrote after meeting with Lucki on April 28.

"The Commissioner said she had promised the Minister of Public Safety and the Prime Minister's Office that the RCMP (we) would release this information," Campbell continued.

Releasing gun info might hurt case, RCMP Supt. wrote

"I tried to explain there was no intent to disrespect anyone, however we could not release this information at this time. The Commissioner then said that we didn't understand, that this was tied to pending gun control legislation that would make officers and the public safer."

Campbell wrote that he believed releasing information about the firearms might hamper the investigation.

"I said we couldn't because to do so would jeopardize ongoing efforts to advance the U.S. side of the case as well as the Canadian components of the investigation," he wrote.

Soon after that April 28 meeting, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a ban on some 1,500 firearm makes and models, including two of the guns used in the Nova Scotia mass shooting — a Colt Law Enforcement Carbine, a semi-automatic weapon, and a Ruger Mini-14.

WATCH | Did the government try to interfere in N.S. shooting investigation? 

Did the government try to interfere in an RCMP investigation of the Nova Scotia mass shooting?

4 days ago
Duration 11:02
A report released by a public inquiry into the 2020 Nova Scotia mass shooting suggests RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki had promised the government to release information regarding the firearms used in the tragedy. MPs Taleeb Noormohamed and Raquel Dancho weigh in.

At that time, police had still not released the specific makes and models used in the attacks. That information didn't become public until the fall of 2020, when the National Post reported details of the weapons after obtaining a briefing note prepared for the prime minister after the shooting.

During an interview on CBC's Power& Politics on May 1, 2020 to tout the gun ban, Blair said the RCMP would reveal more information about the weapons used in the shooting when they deemed it appropriate. 

"I think most appropriately the RCMP will reveal the information of their investigation when they have concluded and at a time they deem appropriate. The RCMP, in the completion of their investigation, will at their own appropriate time reveal the details of that investigation and I'm not going to preempt them on that," he said.

When asked if he was suggesting the weapons were legally obtained, Blair said the guns are relevant to the Liberal's ban.

"Let me be very clear, the weapons used in this offence are very relevant to the work that we have done today," he said. "And I believe Canadians will have a better understanding of that when that information becomes available."

Investigators have said they believe the shooter, Gabriel Wortman, who didn't have a firearms licence, obtained three of the guns used during the massacre in Maine and smuggled them into Canada.

Conservatives believe Campbell: Bergen

Conservatives are demanding an emergency debate immediately and a House of Commons committee investigation to get to the bottom of the allegations.

"This is disgusting to know that the prime minister and his office would use the death of Canadians for his own political gain," said Interim Conservative leader Candice Bergen.

"Conservatives believe Supt. Darren Campell when he says that Brenda Lucki, the commissioner, pressured him, pressured the RCMP, and the reason she did it was because she had made a commitment or she had been pressured by the Prime Minister's Office and/or the public safety minister."

NDP MP Alistair MacGregor, the party's public safety critic, has requested that Lucki, Blair and other officials testify at committee. 

Mounties 'reduced to tears' in meeting: Campbell 

Of the meeting with Lucki, Campbell wrote that some in the room "were reduced to tears and emotional over this belittling reprimand."

In her Tuesday statement, Lucki said she regrets her behaviour in that meeting, which she said was called to discuss several matters, including the flow of information to RCMP national headquarters and the public release of information. 

"It was a tense discussion, and I regret the way I approached the meeting and the impact it had on those in attendance," she said.

"My need for information should have been better weighed against the seriousness of the circumstances they were experiencing. I should have been more sensitive in my approach. Had I led the meeting differently, these employees would have felt more supported during what I know was an extremely difficult time."

Lucki is expected to be called as a witness next month.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Catharine Tunney is a reporter with CBC's Parliament Hill bureau, where she covers national security and the RCMP. She worked previously for CBC in Nova Scotia. You can reach her at catharine.tunney@cbc.ca

With files from Elizabeth McMillan and Haley Ryan

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