MPs will hold a hearing next month into allegations that RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki, at the request of the Liberal government, tried to put pressure on Mounties investigating the Nova Scotia mass shooting to help advance Ottawa’s gun-control agenda.
The controversy over political interference erupted on Tuesday after the Mass Casualty Commission probe into the rampage disclosed documents and notes of a conference call between Commissioner Lucki and commanders overseeing the April, 2020 shooting that left 22 people dead.
Notes from RCMP Superintendent Darren Campbell allege that Commissioner Lucki told the RCMP in Nova Scotia that she had “promised the Minister of Public Safety and the Prime Minister’s Office” that the force would disclose the type of firearms used in the mass shooting because it would support the government’s “pending gun-control legislation.”
The Commons public safety and national security committee voted Thursday to hold a hearing in July and to call Commissioner Lucki and other Mounties involved in the April 28, 2020 discussion. The committee also wants to hear from then-public safety minister Bill Blair, now Emergency Preparedness Minister, The actual date of the hearings remains unclear. It could be as late as July 25 under a timeline approved by the Liberals, NDP and Bloc.
In his first public comments on the dispute, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his office did not exert what he described as “undue influence” on Commissioner Lucki to take measures that could give momentum to the government’s firearms-control legislation.
Speaking to reporters Thursday in Kigali, Rwanda, where he is attending a Commonwealth meeting, Mr. Trudeau said he and his office did “absolutely not” interfere with RCMP decisions about when to release details of guns used in the worst mass shooting in Canadian history.
“We did not put any undue influence or pressure,” he said. “It is extremely important to highlight that it is only the RCMP, it is only police, that determine what and when to release information.”
Mr. Trudeau declined to say whether he thought it would be appropriate for Commissioner Lucki to direct subordinates to take actions based on political imperatives, such as building support for gun-control legislation.
“We continue to have confidence in the Commissioner,” Mr. Trudeau responded.
He added that his government did have “a lot of questions” for the RCMP over the shooting and that he received regular briefings on the matter.
The government, however, appeared to be shifting the onus for the political controversy onto Commissioner Lucki – one day after retired Mounties came to the defence of Supt. Campbell.
Former RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson and other senior retired Mounties told The Globe and Mail Wednesday that Supt. Campbell is an officer with integrity who would not falsify his written notes.
Mr. Blair told the House of Commons Thursday that he does not dispute that Supt. Campbell is an “exemplary police officer and a man of integrity.”
“I am not in any way questioning the integrity or the honesty of the superintendent. I know former commissioner Paulson very well, and I take him very much at his word when he commends the officer for his integrity,” Mr. Blair said.
Mr. Blair said Supt. Campbell was referring to a conversation with Commissioner Lucki and other RCMP officers of which he has no knowledge since he was not part of that conference call. He noted though that Commissioner Lucki issued a statement on Tuesday in which she said she takes the “principle of police independence extremely seriously.”
In the statement, Commissioner Lucki also said she regretted “the way I approached the meeting and the impact it had on those in attendance.”
She has yet to deny or confirm allegations in Supt. Campbell’s written notes that she told her officers that she promised the PMO and Mr. Blair that the RCMP would release the type of weapons used in the mass murder to help advance the government’s gun agenda.
Conservative public safety critic Raquel Dancho said she thinks the Liberal government is preparing to turf Commissioner Lucki.
“When Blair says ask Commissioner Lucki [about the conversation], they are certainly trying to pin it on her. I wouldn’t be surprised if that is their strategy,” Ms. Dancho said.
Ms. Dancho also criticized Liberals MPs for blocking efforts at the committee to call someone from the Prime Minister’s Office to testify at the July hearings.
“So if you have nothing to hide, why not bring back those who were responsible for co-ordinating at the time,” she said. “The fact that they won’t allow any from PMO to come is I think very telling.”
Former RCMP deputy commissioner Raf Souccar said the parliamentary committee should require Commissioner Lucki and the other officers involved in the April, 2020, conversation to testify under oath. Lying under oath would open up witnesses to being charged with perjury.
“If Campbell is right, the government needs to account for it and she needs to account for having gone along with it,” he said. “If what Campbell is saying is true, she needs a good swift kick out the door.”
NDP public safety critic Alistair MacGregor said he wants the hearing to shed light on contradictory statements on allegations of interference by the government.
“We have the handwritten notes of Supt. Campbell that were submitted as evidence in the inquiry,” he said. “And on the other hand, we have Bill Blair saying there was no interference.”
He said the “official government narrative” doesn’t add up.
The Globe asked Commissioner Lucki on Thursday to clarify whether she told Nova Scotia RCMP that she promised Mr. Blair and the PMO that she would get the RCMP to quickly disclose the firearms used in the mass shooting because it would help pending gun-control legislation.
RCMP spokesperson Robin Percival declined to comment, saying the Commissioner has no more to say beyond her June 21 statement. That statement, she said, “still stands.”
The Conservative Party’s Ms. Dancho compared the Lucki affair with past controversies, saying “We have seen this before. Just like with the SNC-Lavalin and WE Charity scandals, the Trudeau government denies, deflects, and seeks to pin the blame on others.”
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