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RCMP Chief Supt. Chris Leather appears at the Mass Casualty Commission inquiry in Halifax on July 28.Kelly Clark/The Canadian Press

A former Supreme Court of Canada judge, assisting the Nova Scotia Mass Casualty Commission, has written to Ottawa to say that he is “deeply concerned” about the possibility that federal witnesses are being advised against volunteering information.

On Monday, the public inquiry released a letter that justice Thomas Cromwell sent to the federal Justice Department. In his Aug. 5 letter to general counsel Lori Ward, the retired judge wrote that he takes issue with recent testimony from a senior RCMP officer who suggested in the witness box that federal lawyers had told him not to divulge information that he wasn’t specifically asked about.

“I would like your assurance that this sort of advice has not and will not be given to other witnesses,” wrote Mr. Cromwell, the commission counsel director who retired from the Supreme Court in 2016. He is also leading an independent review of the governance structures of Hockey Canada, which is facing intense scrutiny for its handling of past sexual-assault claims.

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One of several senior retired officials assisting the Nova Scotia inquiry’s three commissioners, Mr. Cromwell pressed the federal legal department also to ensure that it is living up to commission demands that Ottawa provide the inquiry all required documents.

“I would also be grateful if you could advise me whether clearly relevant material (whether testimony, documents, or things) has been withheld because it was not specifically requested,” the letter says.

Late Monday, Justice Department spokesman Ian McLeod said the department is doing its best to comply with the inquiry’s demands for federal documents and candid testimony from witnesses.

”The Government of Canada is committed to fully supporting the Mass Casualty Commission Inquiry in its important work,” he said.

“Justice counsel understand and respect the need for witnesses to be completely truthful and to share any relevant evidence they have with the Commission to facilitate its work.”

The Nova Scotia commission is scheduled to complete its final report at the end of the year as it probes the April, 2020, mass shooting, where a gunman killed 22 people in a rural part of the province. One of the inquiry’s focuses is the police response to the tragedy, which was led by the RCMP.

The inquiry publicly released the retired judge’s letter and related materials Monday, without formally tabling them, so that these documents were available ahead of a meeting of the House of Commons public safety committee.

Parliament is probing allegations of federal political interference in the RCMP’s investigation into the shootings. Senior Justice Department officials are set to testify to the committee Tuesday, as are several RCMP witnesses from Nova Scotia.

The scheduled witnesses in Ottawa include Chief Superintendent Darren Campbell and communications strategist Lia Scanlan.

Parliament started its investigation this summer after the inquiry released Supt. Campbell’s handwritten notes documenting remarks made by Commissioner Brenda Lucki during a 2020 conference call.

These notes say that during this conversation, held days after the shooting, the Commissioner told Nova Scotia Mounties that she had promised the Prime Minister’s Office and the office of then-public safety minister Bill Blair that the Nova Scotia RCMP would release details about the guns used in the shootings. At the time, the Liberal government was preparing to announce new gun-control measures.

Senior RCMP officers in Nova Scotia rebuffed the Commissioner and declined to make these details public. The provincial Mountie division believed that the specifics about the guns, and how they were smuggled across the Canada-U.S. border, needed to be kept under wraps to preserve the integrity of the police investigation.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mr. Blair have denied placing any undue political pressure on Commissioner Lucki. In her own testimony to Parliament last month, the Commissioner said the same.

“I did not interfere in the investigation around this tragedy; nor did I experience political interference,” Commissioner Lucki said. “Specifically, I was not directed to publicly release information about weapons used by the perpetrator to help advance pending gun-control legislation.”

Last month, Nova RCMP Chief Superintendent Chris Leather testified before the mass-casualty inquiry. It was his remarks that spurred Mr. Cromwell’s Aug. 5 letter to the federal Justice Department.

Chief Supt. Leather “testified as to his concern about advice he received from Department of Justice counsel to speak about certain topics – topics that in his view were obviously relevant to the Commission’s work – only in a reactive way – i.e., if he was specifically asked about them,” Mr. Cromwell’s letter says.

The retired judge wrote Justice Canada to say that any such advice would not live up to the legal standards set for the mass-casualty inquiry. “It is in my view not appropriate to give this advice to a senior officer of the RCMP participating in this commission of inquiry,” he said. “I would like your assurance that this sort of advice has not, and will not, be given to other witnesses.”

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