A public inquiry says the federal government withheld information alleging that RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki interfered in the Nova Scotia mass shooting investigation on behalf of the Liberal government. And it wants to know why.
Investigations director Barbara McLean said in a statement on Friday the inquiry has asked the Justice Department to explain why it did not disclose all the notes from a Mountie overseeing the April, 2020, shooting of 22 people by a gunman in Nova Scotia.
Ms. McLean said the Mass Casualty Commission has also asked for assurances that Ottawa isn’t hiding other information from the inquiry.
The release this week of four pages of notes from RCMP Superintendent Darren Campbell’s investigative file ignited a storm of political controversy and resulted in a parliamentary hearing into whether Commissioner Lucki attempted to compromise a police investigation for political purposes.
Ms. McLean said in the statement that the commission subpoenaed the RCMP’s entire investigative file last June, including the notes of Supt. Campbell.
The statement said the Justice Department sent 132 pages in February, 2022, that did not include Supt. Campbell’s notes about a meeting with Commissioner Lucki on April 28, 2020, 10 days after the massacre.
The Justice Department submitted the missing notes to the inquiry on May 30. “The commission sought an explanation from the Department of Justice about why four pages were missing from the original disclosure of Supt. Campbell’s notes,” the statement said.
Those notes allege that Commissioner Lucki berated Supt. Campbell when he refused to prematurely release the type of weapons used in the shooting. She told her officers she had promised the “minister of public safety and the Prime Minister’s Office” to reveal what kind of the firearms were used to build support for the Liberal government’s gun agenda.
The RCMP was working with U.S. authorities on the investigation because three of the weapons were smuggled in from Maine. Supt. Campbell’s notes say he objected to Commissioner Lucki’s request to reveal the weapons because he believed it would jeopardize the cross-border investigation.
Justice Department spokesman Ian McLeod said Ottawa withheld four pages of notes from a package of more than 2,000 files of senior investigating officers as it debated whether it was appropriate to hand them over.
“Some pages of those notes, including the four pages of the notes of Supt. Campbell, required further assessment of whether they were privileged,” he said in a statement late Friday. “That review was completed and it was determined that the pages were not privileged. They were disclosed in full without redactions to the commission on May 30, 2022.”
Mr. McLeod said the department should have informed the commission it was reviewing the notes, which contained the conversation between Commissioner Lucki and senior RCMP commanders in Nova Scotia.
“While it is a usual practice to review documents for privilege before disclosure, the commission was not advised that some pages of the notes of senior officers were being reviewed for privilege,” he said. “Department of Justice counsel should have done so and will work with the commission to establish a process for review.”
The Conservative Party has accused the government of a cover-up and demanded that Justice Minister David Lametti appear before the Commons public safety and national security committee next month to explain what happened.
Conservative public safety critic Raquel Dancho said the withheld notes are disturbing.
“Why just those four pages?” she said. “Until they can give us evidence to the contrary, how else are we supposed to see this other than some sort of cover up?”
In the statement on Tuesday, 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 confirm or deny the allegations in Supt. Campbell’s written notes.
Ms. Dancho said the committee will want Mr. Lametti to explain why his department withheld the notes from the Nova Scotia inquiry.
The committee voted on 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 Bill Blair, who was public safety minister at the time.
NDP public safety critic Alistair MacGregor said he thinks it may be necessary to expand the scope of the Commons committee study – including adding witnesses.
The NDP MP said his level of concern is increasing with news of the withheld notes.
“This story just seems to be getting worse and worse by the day.”
In his first public comments on the dispute, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Thursday 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 in Kigali, Rwanda, from 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 mass shooting.
“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.
He added that his government did have “a lot of questions” for the RCMP about the shootings, and that he received regular briefings on it.
The government, however, appeared to be shifting the onus for the political controversy onto Commissioner Lucki 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 on Wednesday that Supt. Campbell is an officer with integrity who would not falsify his written notes.
Mr. Blair, now Minister of Emergency Preparedness, told the House of Commons on Thursday 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 of which he has no knowledge, since he was not part of it. He noted though that Commissioner Lucki issued a statement on Tuesday in which she said she takes the “principle of police independence extremely seriously.”
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