RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki warned the offices of top federal politicians not to share operationally sensitive details she was disclosing to them about a mass murderer’s weapons in a message she sent days before she pushed her subordinates to release that same information to the public.
Commissioner Lucki’s decision to urge the release of details about the guns used in the 2020 Nova Scotia massacre is at the centre of a political firestorm raising questions about whether she is sufficiently independent. New information about the commissioner’s dealings with top federal politicians is laid out in an e-mail from April 23, 2020.
This correspondence from Commissioner Lucki was sent to then-public safety minister Bill Blair’s office after a gunman killed 22 people during Canada’s worst mass shooting. There were plans for a top-level briefing of political officials in Ottawa and Commissioner Lucki relayed precisely what the RCMP knew about the specific firearms and ammunition used in the attacks.
But in that e-mail, she also stressed that this information about the weapons could only be circulated to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mr. Blair, given how detectives in Nova Scotia were still piecing together the trail of the weapons, and how many of them had been smuggled across the Canada-U.S. border.
“Please do not disseminate further,” Commissioner Lucki said in an e-mail to Zita Astravas, Mr. Blair’s chief of staff. “Do not share this information past the Minister and the PM as it is directly related to this active investigation.”
The e-mail was released Monday by the Nova Scotia mass-casualty commission. Last month, the public inquiry revealed an April 28, 2020, conference call during which Commissioner Lucki pressed her subordinates in Nova Scotia to make disclosures to the public about the models and provenance of these same guns.
The province’s Mounties defied her, saying they still considered the gun details too operationally sensitive for the public to know about. RCMP Superintendent Darren Campbell logged the call and his notes say that Commissioner Lucki berated him as she mentioned that she had promised the minister of public safety and the Prime Minister’s Office that the RCMP would release the gun information ahead of pending federal gun-control measures.
Conservative MP Raquel Dancho said the public needs to know why the country’s top police officer did such an about-face.
Commissioner Lucki “tears a strip off” Supt. Campbell for not releasing that information even though Nova Scotia Mounties were citing the same reason that the e-mail shows Commissioner Lucki herself cited to Mr. Blair’s office, Ms. Dancho said.
“If she flagged that releasing this information would jeopardize the investigation … how would she change her tune five days later?” she said.
Ms. Dancho is among the MPs on Parliament’s public-safety committee, which has invited Commissioner Lucki and other Mounties to testify this summer. She said the newly released e-mail raises questions for political figures as well.
“This puts a lot of pressure on Mr. Blair to explain: ‘This was flagged for you. What conversations did you have with Commissioner Lucki? What conversations did your staff have? Who was the point person in the Prime Minister’s Office?’” Ms. Dancho said.
Missing records have been a significant issue in the mass-casualty inquiry, which is aiming to complete its report by year’s end. The federal Department of Justice for months held back records from senior Nova Scotia RCMP officials that were critical of Commissioner Lucki.
The commission filed its latest subpoena to the federal government on July 4, asking for all outstanding records. “We continue to seek assurance that nothing else is being held back as per direction from subpoenas,” senior commission counsel Emily Hill said last week in a statement.
Late Monday, the RCMP issued a short statement in response to the disclosure about the April 23, 2020, e-mail. “The Commissioner’s direction was clear to not disseminate further. This was acknowledged by Minister Blair’s staff.”
The office of Mr. Blair, who is now the federal Emergencies Minister, also released a statement to The Globe and Mail.
“The RCMP provided classified updates to the federal government as the investigation progressed,” said spokeswoman Annie Cullinan. “At no time during his tenure did Minister Blair or his office direct the RCMP in any of their operational decisions. This includes the release of information about the firearms that were used.”
Mr. Trudeau has also said no political pressure was put on Commissioner Lucki in the days after the mass shooting.
Commissioner Lucki’s April 23, 2020, e-mail was copied to Vincent Rigby, then the Prime Minister’s national security adviser. It has been previously reported that Mr. Rigby wrote an April 24 briefing note to Mr. Trudeau describing the specific weapons used by the gunman.
In her e-mail, Commissioner Lucki apologized to the public safety minister’s chief of staff, saying she could not provide other requested information in time for the briefing.
“Zita. Here is the information about the firearms we know to date,” Commissioner Lucki said. “I am unsure if I will be able to get you a map etc. Sorry about this. … Lots of work being done to finalize chronology etc.”
Ms. Astravas said in an e-mailed reply that she understood the RCMP Commissioner’s messaging about looping in only Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Blair on the details about the weapons. “Brenda – thank you and understood,” the chief of staff said. “Will not be distributed further.”
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