Cabinet minister Bill Blair and top-ranking RCMP officials in Ottawa and Nova Scotia will be questioned Monday in two separate hearings addressing allegations that the federal government interfered in the investigation into the worst mass shooting in Canadian history.
On Parliament Hill, RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki, Mr. Blair, the Emergency Preparedness Minister, N.S. Chief Superintendent Chris Leather and Lee Bergerman, the former commanding officer of the RCMP in the province, will testify before the standing committee on public safety and national security.
Mr. Blair, the public safety minister at the time of the shootings, and the RCMP officials are expected to field questions on whether Commissioner Lucki pressed the Nova Scotia RCMP to release details of the firearms used in the April, 2020 rampage to help boost public support for the Liberal government’s gun-control agenda.
Meanwhile, in Halifax, Nova Scotia RCMP Superintendent Darren Campbell will testify at the public inquiry into the 13-hour attack, in which a well-armed man impersonating a Mountie killed 22 people.
It was Supt. Campbell’s handwritten notes, subpoenaed and shared through the inquiry, that alleged that Commissioner Lucki berated senior Nova Scotia RCMP officials in a conference call nine days after the mass shooting, angry that information about the two rifles and two pistols used by the killer wasn’t being shared publicly.
She told those on the call that information “was tied to pending gun-control legislation” and she’d “promised the Minister of Public Safety and the Prime Minister’s Office” that it would be released, according to Supt. Campbell’s notes. He expressed concern that releasing those details at that stage might jeopardize the investigation.
Monday’s appearance at the inquiry will be the first time that Supt. Campbell has spoken publicly about the political-interference allegations.
A lawyer representing many of the families of the gunman’s victims said his clients are eager to finally hear from Supt. Campbell, and other senior RCMP leadership, on the issue.
“The only message from Ottawa should have been: ‘How can we help?’ ” said Michael Scott, a Halifax lawyer whose firm represents 14 of the families participating in the inquiry. “The tragedy that was suffered by our clients, by [the Nova Scotia division of the] RCMP and by everyone in Nova Scotia, is not a matter to be exploited for political advantage or as part of a legislative agenda.”
A second document from another Nova Scotia RCMP official, director of strategic communications Lia Scanlan, released through the inquiry also said that the Commissioner was under direct pressure from Mr. Blair to share the firearms details.
Both documents were withheld from the inquiry’s investigators by the federal Justice Department for months, further fuelling allegations from opposition parties that the Liberals used the tragedy to advance their gun-control policy, and then tried to hide records that were politically damaging. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Mr. Blair and Commissioner Lucki have all denied interfering in the Nova Scotia investigation.
Chief Supt. Leather, whose role in delays in releasing information about the gunman’s mock patrol car is being investigated by the inquiry’s Mass Casualty Commission (MCC), will also testify in Halifax, starting on Wednesday.
Along with Supt. Campbell, he’ll be questioned about troubling missteps by the Mounties during the killings, including the failure to properly warn the public, contain the shooter and co-operate with municipal police forces during the manhunt.
In Ottawa, Rob Stewart, the deputy minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, RCMP Deputy Commissioner Brian Brennan and Sharon Tessier, the former director general of national communication services for the RCMP, are also scheduled to testify.
Records released through the inquiry two weeks ago show that prior to her conference call with her Nova Scotia subordinates, Commissioner Lucki shared information about the gunman’s weapons with Mr. Blair’s office – and stressed that those details should not be disseminated because it would compromise the investigation.
The fact that the Commissioner’s position changed a few days later suggests that she was under pressure to put that information out, said Raquel Dancho, Conservative critic for Public Safety.
“Something happened in that time, and by saying there was no ‘undue pressure,’ the Prime Minister admitted some level of pressure was exerted.
“So far, Minister Blair and the Prime Minister have been vague and used word play to avoid getting to the truth of the matter. That needs to stop,” Ms. Dancho said. “Canadians deserve answers, not more coverups and games from the Liberal government.”
She accused the government of being evasive with the mass-murder probe, withholding “self-incriminating evidence” from the inquiry’s investigators and blocking members of the PMO from appearing at the committee hearing in Ottawa.
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