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.
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.
While the statement did not 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 minister of public safety 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.
Blair, who was previously the minister of public safety, said he has faith in the commissioner, who was appointed by the Liberal government in 2018.
Conservatives believe Campbell: Bergen
Interim Conservative leader Candice Bergen accused the government of denying wrongdoing.
“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,” she said.
“This is disgusting to know that the prime minister and his office would use the death of Canadians for his own political gain.”
According to Campbell’s notes, Lucki’s 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 a few days later.
“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.”
In the spring of 2020, 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.
At that time, police had 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.
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.
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.