Blue Line

Lucki says tense meeting with N.S. RCMP after shooting spree ‘needed to happen’

July 26, 2022  By The Canadian Press

July 25, 2022, Ottawa, Ont. – RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki says there was poor communication between her office and Nova Scotia Mounties in the days following the shooting spree that left 23 people, including the gunman, dead in April 2020.

“It was for this reason I called the meeting (on April 28) to express my frustration and disappointment,” she told the House of Commons public safety committee Monday. “It needed to happen. It was essential that I had more timely and accurate information.”

The public safety committee heard conflicting reports – from Lucki and other RCMP officials – about what happened during that meeting.

Lucki said she did not interfere in the police investigation, but that she was frustrated with the Nova Scotia division over its communication with the public, as well, because media were reporting facts before the RCMP released them.

“I remember looking up on a screen and seeing 22 faces on a screen, and we were reporting different numbers,” she said. “We needed to get in front of it.”

Nova Scotia officials said Lucki was angry and upset during that April 28 meeting call, but for a different reason: she was feeling political pressure to release details about the firearms used by the gunman during the attacks.

Then-Supt. Darren Campbell wrote in his notes about the meeting that Lucki said she promised the minister the RCMP would release the list of weapons, and that this release was tied to pending gun control legislation from the federal Liberals.

On Monday, his colleagues Chief Supt. Chris Leather and retired assistant commissioner Lee Bergerman said they also recall Lucki saying she made a promise to the minister.

Bergerman said the reaction to Lucki’s comments was, “Confused and a bit stunned, because any police officer knows that if you’re in the middle of an investigation certain information cannot be released.”

Lucki said she did not recall using the word “promised,” and said it was a “confirmation” from her to then-public safety minister Bill Blair, who had asked if the list of weapons was being made public. Her account of the events was that she sought the answer to Blair’s question from her communications staff, and was told the answer from Nova Scotia was yes.

When it turned out that was wrong, “I felt I had misinformed the minister and by extension the prime minister,” Lucki said.

She said she did connect the weapons information to “the minister’s mandate letter” in that meeting, specifically the direction to ban assault-style firearms.

The public safety committee is looking into Campbell’s allegations the federal government was meddling in the police probe. A public inquiry investigating the killings released documents showing that Lucki sent the inventory of weapons to federal officials on April 23, saying it shouldn’t be circulated any further than the prime minister and the minister.

But Leather said that was not supposed to be released outside the RCMP at the time, because it was part of an investigation by the Serious Incident Response Team, or SIRT, which was looking into the RCMP’s fatal shooting of the gunman.

“That was the agreement and the commitment that we made to the director of SIRT,” he said.

SIRT has not responded to questions about this commitment.

Campbell’s notes do not mention SIRT, saying only that he believed releasing the information would jeopardize the investigation into how gunman Gabriel Wortman smuggled handguns and assault-style weapons from Maine. No one in either country has been charged with weapons offences in the case.

Those notes were published as part of the ongoing public inquiry – an exhibit to a scathing document outlining dozens of instances in which the RCMP concealed or obfuscated basic information about the case in the three months following the horrific events.

That includes the number of victims, their relationship to the gunman, the fact that one victim was a child, the number of crime scenes, the reason for the first 911 call the night the killings began, and when police learned the gunman was disguised as an RCMP officer, among other things.

Meanwhile, Blair told MPs on the committee the government decided after the shooting spree to schedule May 1, 2020, as the date to announce its ban of some 1,500 models of assault-style firearms.

Blair said the killings were “highly motivating” to him in moving forward on the Liberal government’s promise to outlaw the firearms, but he added that the ban was in the works for months.

“There is no place in a civil and safe society for such weapons,” he said.

Blair was asked by MPs whether the government was trying to drum up support for its gun policy.

He told the committee he believes there is “overwhelming support” among Canadians for the firearms ban, and he didn’t think the government needed to connect it to the shootings to justify its decision.

“I don’t think it’s in any way relevant, to be frank.”

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