RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki pressed the Mounties to disclose the weapons used in the Nova Scotia mass shooting to help advance the Liberal government’s gun-control legislation, the public inquiry into the April, 2020, killings was told.
The Mass Casualty Commission released supporting documents and notes Tuesday involving a conversation between Commissioner Lucki and RCMP officers overseeing the Nova Scotia investigation into the murder of 22 people by a lone gunman.
In an April 28 conference call that took place 10 days after the worst mass shooting in Canadian history, Commissioner Lucki chastised senior commanders for withholding information about the guns used in the attack – allegedly telling them those details could be leveraged for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s gun-control agenda.
The revelations prompted opposition MPs to accuse the federal government of interfering in a criminal investigation for political purposes.
Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair, who was public safety minister at the time, denied Tuesday that any political direction was given to the RCMP Commissioner. The Prime Minister’s Office said Mr. Blair was speaking for the government.
In a statement Tuesday evening, Commissioner Lucki said she did not interfere in the investigation. However, she did not address alleged political interference by Mr. Blair and the PMO and only commented on her interaction with Nova Scotia RCMP.
In notes submitted to the inquiry, RCMP Superintendent Darren Campbell described how he was reprimanded at length by the commissioner. He said she was upset because she had “promised the Minister of Public Safety and the Prime Minister’s Office” that the RCMP would disclose specifics about the type of firearms used by the gunman.
Supt. Campbell’s notes make it clear he was concerned that politics could interfere with a cross-border police investigation.
His notes say Commissioner Lucki explained that the Nova Scotia RCMP needed to understand that the release of the information “was tied to pending gun-control legislation that would make officers and the public safer by or through this legislation.” The gunman, however, never had a firearms licence and smuggled three weapons into Canada from Maine.
“The Commissioner accused us (me) of disrespecting her by not following her instructions. I was and remain confused over this,” he wrote. “I said we couldn’t because to do so would jeopardize ongoing efforts to advance the U.S. side of the case as well as the Canadian components of the investigation. Those are facts and I stand by them.”
Commissioner Lucki was appointed the country’s top law enforcement officer by the Prime Minister in June, 2018.
“I did not interfere in the ongoing investigations into the largest mass shooting in Canadian history,” she wrote in her statement, saying it is “standard procedure” for the top Mountie to share information and briefings with the minister overseeing the RCMP.
However, Commissioner Lucki said that she mishandled the discussions with commanders in charge of the investigation.
“It was a tense discussion, and I regret the way I approached the meeting and the impact it had on those in attendance. My need for information should have been better weighted against the seriousness of the circumstances they were facing,” she said.
Under questioning in the House of Commons, Mr. Blair insisted that the government never tried to use the mass shooting to push its gun-control agenda.
“I am very pleased to confirm that no one in the Prime Minister’s Office or in the Public Safety office exerted any pressure or direction on the Commissioner of the RCMP,” he said.
Conservative public safety critic Raquel Dancho said Canadians should not accept Mr. Blair’s assurances that there was no political interference.
“We’ve seen this before during the SNC-Lavalin scandal where the Trudeau government also denied any wrongdoing. This is a pattern. We need to get to the bottom of this and investigate this immediately,” she said.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also called for a “full investigation” into the matter.
“The allegations that the Prime Minister’s Office or the Public Safety Minister’s office directed RCMP Commissioner Lucki to interfere in an ongoing police investigation are very disturbing,” Mr. Singh said in a statement.
“The idea that this government – that any government – would use this horrific act of mass murder to gain support for their gun policy is completely unacceptable. Not only is this inappropriate, it fuels cynicism about our democracy and the elected officials who participate in it.”
Mr. Singh said any inquiry into the matter should not be used to “score political points” but about obtaining answers for victims.
Specific details about the guns used by the shooter were not shared in the five news conferences that took place in the week after the mass shooting. The RCMP had recovered multiple firearms, including two semi-automatic rifles, from the stolen car the gunman was driving when he was shot dead by two Mounties at a gas station north of Halifax on April 19, 2020.
In May of 2020, the month after the mass shooting, the Trudeau government introduced legislation which included a national ban or over 1,500 modes and variants of assault-style firearms. Licensed gun owners will no longer be allowed to sell, transport, import or use these sorts of weapons in this country.
After the mass shooting of teachers and school children in Uvalde Texas, on May 24, 2022 the Liberals introduced a freeze on the sale, purchase or transfer of handguns within Canada, and bringing newly acquired firearms into the country.
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Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that on May 2020, the Liberal government introduced a freeze on the sale, purchase or transfer of handguns within Canada, and bringing newly acquired firearms into the country. In fact, the Liberals introduced legislation which included a national ban on over 1,500 modes and variants of assault-style firearms. Legislation to impose a national handgun freeze occurred after the mass shooting in Uvalde Texas, on May 24, 2022.