Nova Scotia Mounties have told Parliament that RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki put politics ahead of policing after Canada’s deadliest mass shooting when she pressed her investigators to make disclosures about firearms in a bid to reinforce the Liberal government’s gun-control agenda.
RCMP Chief Superintendent Darren Campbell called the commissioner’s stance “detrimental” to a police investigation, while Mountie communications strategist Lia Scanlan said it inspired “disgust.” The two officials made their remarks as they appeared on Parliament Hill for the first time on Tuesday to give MPs at the House of Commons public safety committee their impressions of remarks Commissioner Lucki made in April, 2020.
Revelations this summer about this tense conference call between RCMP headquarters and Mounties at the force’s Nova Scotia division have fuelled a continuing controversy over whether Canada’s top police commander is too exposed to direction from top politicians.
The April 28, 2020, conference call among Mounties took place a few days after a gunman killed 22 people. RCMP detectives in Nova Scotia were investigating the firearms and how some had been smuggled into Canada, but were withholding details from the public.
That’s when Commissioner Lucki called senior Mounties in Nova Scotia and urged them to release details about the guns. Police who took part in the conversation say that as she pushed for disclosures, the Commissioner referenced undertakings she had made with the offices of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and then-public safety minister Bill Blair.
Mounties in Nova Scotia rebuffed the RCMP Commissioner by telling her such disclosures could undermine the police investigation.
And Commissioner Lucki was not receptive to these arguments, according to Chief Supt. Campbell. “The Commissioner was upset. The Commissioner made me feel as if I was stupid and that I didn’t seem to understand the importance of this information to go out,” he told Parliament Tuesday.
Chief Supt. Campbell told MPs that Commissioner Lucki replied that public disclosures about the firearms would be in the interest of the greater good. “I was told this was very important because this was about legislation that was going to make officers and the public safer.”
He told Parliament he left the conference call after 20 minutes because he did not care to hear about any government plans for gun-control measures. Commissioner Lucki “didn’t seem to appreciate or recognize the importance of maintaining the integrity of the investigation,” he said.
This past June, a public inquiry first disclosed Chief Supt. Campbell’s detailed handwritten notes about the 2020 conference call. These contemporaneous notes, which cast Commissioner Lucki in a similar light, were first released by the Nova Scotia Mass Casualty Commission. The public inquiry is looking at all events that contributed to the circumstances of the shooting and all facets of the police response.
The release of Chief Supt. Campbell’s notebook two months ago caused controversy on Parliament Hill and prompted the public safety committee of MPs to launch its own investigation into allegations of political interference in the Nova Scotia mass murder investigation.
Last month, Mr. Blair appeared at the security committee. He denied that he or Mr. Trudeau ever put any undue pressure on Commissioner Lucki.
In July, the Commissioner appeared at committee and told Parliament the same thing. “I did not interfere in the investigation around this tragedy, nor did I experience political interference,” she said. “Specifically, I was not directed to publicly release information about weapons used by the perpetrator to help advance pending gun-control legislation.”
In addressing MPs on Tuesday, Chief Supt. Campbell said that, “I stand by my notes from 2020.”
He was backstopped at committee by Ms. Scanlan, the RCMP communications strategist who also took part in the 2020 conference call. “I would never dispute Darren Campbell’s notes,” she said.
Ms. Scanlan urged the federal legislative committee to do what it can to clarify the RCMP Act so as to uphold the independence of the Commissioner’s position from political imperatives in Ottawa. “There needs to be a level of independence from the selection process all the way through,” she said.
Commissioner Lucki’s insistence on Mounties making disclosures about firearms during the 2020 conference call was uncomfortable to listen to, Ms. Scanlan said. “It was a feeling of disgust. I was embarrassed to be a part of it. I was embarrassed to be listening to it.”
Days prior to the controversial conference call, Commissioner Lucki was part of an e-mail exchange involving Mr. Blair’s chief of staff and the Prime Minister’s national security adviser. She had then just learned about the specific models of the firearms used in the massacre, and she was relaying that information to the political offices through an e-mail.
“Please do not disseminate further,” Commissioner Lucki wrote at the time. “Do not share this information past the minister and the PM as it is directly related to this active investigation.”
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