Former RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson and other retired Mounties are defending the integrity of Superintendent Darren Campbell, who has alleged that current Commissioner Brenda Lucki interfered in the investigation of the largest mass shooting in Canadian history to help the Liberal government’s gun-control agenda.
Emergencies Preparedness Minister Bill Blair doesn’t accept Supt. Campbell’s written account of a conference call, on April 28, 2020, between Commissioner Lucki and RCMP commanders overseeing the criminal investigation into the rampage 10 days earlier by a lone gunman in Nova Scotia. Twenty-two people were killed in the shooting.
The dispute dominated the House of Commons Question Period Wednesday and prompted the Conservatives and New Democrats to call for parliamentary hearings to determine who is telling the truth. The opposition want to hear testimony from Mr. Blair, Commissioner Lucki, Supt. Campbell and other officers who were part of the April 28 call.
Supt. Campbell’s notes say Commissioner Lucki told the RCMP officers 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 advance the government’s “pending gun-control legislation.” Mr. Blair was public safety minister at the time.
The RCMP officer recounted that Commissioner Lucki was upset because he refused to do so out of concern that politics could jeopardize the cross-border police investigation. The gunman had smuggled three of the weapons into Canada from the United States.
Mr. Blair questioned Supt. Campbell’s handwritten notes that were submitted to the Mass Casualty Commission probe.
“The superintendent obviously came to his own conclusions and his notes reflect that. But I’m telling you, and I would tell the superintendent if I spoke to him, that I made no effort to pressure the RCMP to interfere in any way with their investigation,” Mr. Blair told reporters.
“I gave no direction as to what information they should communicate. Those are operational decisions of the RCMP. And I respect that and I have respected that throughout,” he said. The PMO said Mr. Blair is speaking for the government.
Mr. Blair has not said whether he or the PMO obtained assurances from Commissioner Lucki that the type of weapons used in the shooting would be quickly released to the public.
In response to repeated questions in the Commons, Mr. Blair said MPs should ask the Commissioner.
“The conversations between the Commissioner and her subordinates are something that she can speak to,” he said.
The Globe and Mail asked Commissioner Lucki on Wednesday to confirm or deny Supt. Campbells allegations about the alleged promise to Mr. Blair and the PMO.
She declined to answer and RCMP headquarters pointed to what she had said in a statement Tuesday.
“The Commissioner clearly indicated that she did not interfere in the ongoing investigation, nor did she feel any political pressure to do so,” RCMP media relations said.
Mr. Paulson, who was commissioner from 2011 to 2017, would not be drawn into the political controversy involving his successor. But he defended Supt. Campbell, a former homicide investigator from the RCMP’s Vancouver office who he promoted and brought to headquarters in Ottawa during his tenure.
“Darren is one of the best investigators in the force and a highly reliable officer with tremendous integrity,” Mr. Paulson said. “You won’t find a practising police officer who will speak ill of Darren Campbell.”
Former deputy commissioner Pierre-Yves Borduas said there is no way that Supt. Campbell would make up a story about Commissioner Lucki.
“This officer has a solid reputation,” he said, and added: “There is a blend of politics and a big political slant to it and it is regrettable.”
Former RCMP superintendent Peter Lepine also spoke out in support of Supt. Campbell.
“I’ve followed Darren Campbell since the day he was a recruit,” Mr. Lepine said. “He’s an extremely competent police officer and extremely well trained in the world of major investigations.”
Mr. Lepine said he doesn’t believe Supt. Campbell “would falsify any notes or have any agenda to hang anybody out to dry.”
The recently released testimony is not the first example that the Nova Scotia probe has uncovered where Mounties recount the Liberal government’s effort to exert control over the RCMP.
In an interview with commission investigators, Lia Scanlan, the RCMP’s former director of strategic communications in Halifax, talked about the pressure from Ottawa. The transcript was made public earlier this month.
Ms. Scanlan told the investigation that federal government officials including Mr. Blair and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “were weighing in on what we could and couldn’t say” during media briefings.
The transcript of her remarks was heavily redacted in some sections by the Mass Casualty Commission before its release and so some details of the testimony remain secret.
At another point, Ms. Scanlan talked about Commissioner Lucki’s conduct in an interview and attributes what happened to “political pressure,” adding “that is 100 per cent Minister Blair and the Prime Minister.”
She then told investigators: “We have a Commissioner that does not push back.”
Bill Elliott, a former federal bureaucrat who became the country’s first civilian head of the RCMP from 2007-2011, said he did not see anything wrong with Commissioner Lucki’s conduct.
“I can understand the reluctance on behalf of investigators to releasing information. I think it is appropriate for people like the Commissioner of the RCMP to bring other considerations to bear,” he said.
The Conservative Party and the NDP are both calling for an emergency meeting of the House of Commons committee on public safety and national security to arrange hearings on the matter.
Conservative public safety critic Raquel Dancho and NDP public safety critic Alistair MacGregor have both written Jim Carr, the Liberal MP who chairs the committee, calling for a meeting as soon as possible.
Under the standing orders of the House, a meeting of a committee may be requested by four members of the committee, and one must be held within five calendar days to consider the request.
With a report from Colin Freeze
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