A scathing letter from an RCMP communications official released on Tuesday says RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki referred to direct pressure from the federal Minister of Public Safety to release gun details in the days following followed the mass shooting in Nova Scotia.
This is the second such claim by an RCMP official who was on an April 28, 2020 conference call in which Lucki criticized Halifax staff, nine days after the rampage that left 22 people dead .
Lia Scanlan’s letter dated April 14, 2021 claims the RCMP chief focused on the Liberal government’s agenda to pass gun legislation during the hastily arranged meeting.
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A few hours earlier at a press conference, Superintendent. Darren Campbell had not provided full details of the two rifles and two pistols used by the killer. According to his handwritten notes, provided to the public inquiry, the RCMP feared that providing this information would compromise its investigation.
As the disguise unfolded, Scanlan said Lucki “advised us of the pressures and the conversation with[Public Safety]Minister (Bill) Blair, which we clearly understood was related to the forthcoming adoption of firearms legislation”.
“I remember a feeling of disgust when I realized that was the catalyst for the conversation and maybe a vindication of what you were saying about us.”
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Scanlan’s letter is part of the evidence provided as part of a public inquiry into the April 18-19, 2020 shooting.
According to Scanlan, who was the director of strategic communications at the time of the shooting, Lucki had come online furious that Halifax staff had not released details of the weapon, suggesting they had abandoned the surviving children whose the parents had been killed in Portapique, N.S.
“It was appalling, inappropriate, unprofessional and extremely demeaning,” Scanlan wrote.
“Someone from the RCMP say we let the boys down. There is nothing that makes this acceptable, especially since it was said by the person who, by his rank, is at the top of our organization.
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Handwritten notes from Campbell, released last Monday, also indicate that Lucki told those present that she had promised the federal Department of Public Safety and the Prime Minister’s Office that information about the weapons used by the shooter would be released because that they were “related to ongoing gun control legislation”. .”
Lucki confirmed on Tuesday that she received a letter “from an RCMP employee” about the controversial April 28, 2020 meeting. “It was an extremely difficult time and I expressed my frustration at the flow of information,” she said in an emailed statement.
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But she denied there was political interference. “There was definitely a need for timely and accurate information exchange with the Government of Canada and I made an effort to do that,” she said. “However, I want to re-emphasize that I in no way sought to interfere with the ongoing investigation, and felt no political pressure to do so.”
A spokeswoman for Blair, who is now Minister of Emergency Preparedness, said Tuesday that neither he nor his office had directed the RCMP in any of their operational decisions, “including during and immediately after the tragic events of April 2020”.
“Minister Blair was regularly briefed following the events in Nova Scotia, but it was clear that the decision of what information to release publicly regarding any investigation, as with all operational matters, is made solely at the discretion of the forces of order,” Annie Cullinan said in an email. .
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The statement noted that Canadians “expressed concerns about when and how the RCMP shared information with the public,” and that is part of the mandate of the public inquiry.
During Question Period last week, Blair repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, noting that the Liberal promise to enact tougher gun laws long predated the tragedy.
“The vicious murder of 22 Canadians with firearms has strengthened our resolve to keep Canadians safe and keep our promise,” he said.
However, Michael Scott, a lawyer with Patterson Law, which represents 14 of the victims’ families, said allegations of political pressure from the top of the RCMP are worrying his clients.
“April 2020 is not the time to try to push political agendas forward,” Scott said in an interview on Tuesday.
“It’s just an inappropriate role for the commissioner to take on all the time, frankly,” he added.
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Scott said he wondered why Scanlan’s letter, which was leaked to him “very recently”, was not made available much sooner.
The investigation issued a subpoena on June 15, 2021 to the RCMP for its entire investigation file and any related material in reference to the mass shooting. It is unclear when the inquiry received the letter.
Last week, the inquiry’s director of investigations, Barbara McLean, said in an email that the commission was seeking to explain why the federal Justice Department withheld Campbell’s notes for several months.
Scanlan, who recently testified at the public inquiry, said she had to take time off after last year’s mass shooting.
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She expressed various views in her testimony and interviews about what role Lucki should have played in spreading information.
During his June 9 testimony, when asked by Investigator Leanne Fitch where “the buck stops” with regard to what might be said at press conferences, Scanlan replied, “I have to say the Commissioner of the RCMP”.
However, during a February interview with investigative staff, Scanlan criticized Lucki for providing media interviews with a more accurate body count on the second night of the mass shooting.
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