Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has denied pressuring RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki to release information on the mass shooting investigation in Nova Scotia to help advance his gun control agenda.
“Absolutely not,” he said, when asked by reporters about the issue while speaking to the press in Kigali, Rwanda, on June 23 during a 10-day trip overseas.
“We did not put any undue influence or pressure. It is extremely important to highlight that it is only the RCMP, it is only police, that determine what and when to release information,” Trudeau said.
The controversy emerged on June 21 when the Mass Casualty Commission (MCC) released a document on the public communications of the RMCP and government officials after the mass shooting occurred in April 2020.
It contains notes from RCMP Superintendent Darren Campbell which say that RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki “promised” the public safety minister and the Prime Minister’s Office she would release information on the firearms used in the crimes.
Campbell noted he thought this would “jeopardize” the investigation, while Lucki allegedly tied her request to “pending gun control legislation that would make officers and public safer by or through this legislation.”
Trudeau told reporters on June 23 that he “still very much has confidence in Commissioner Lucki.”
While saying he did not apply pressure, the prime minister noted his office was involved in the issue and received “regular briefings” at the time.
“I will highlight, however, that when the worst mass shooting in Canada’s history happened, we had a lot of questions. Canadians had a lot of questions. And I got regular briefings on what we knew, what we didn’t know,” he said after expressing support for Lucki.
When the tragedy in Nova Scotia happened, the Liberals were preparing to ban hundreds of firearms that they qualify as “assault-style.”
The gunman, who killed 22 people, used four illegal firearms, three of which had been smuggled from the United States.
Two of the model types used by the killer were outlawed in May 2020, such as the Colt carbine (M4) and the Ruger Mini-14. The other firearms were handguns.
Bill Blair, who currently holds the emergency preparedness portfolio, also had the public safety portfolio when the tragedy happened.
He told the House of Commons on June 23 that at no point did the government interfere in the investigation.
Lucki also said she had not interfered in a written statement on June 21.
She did acknowledge, however, not having handled the conversations with Nova Scotia RCMP professionally.
“It was a tense discussion, and I regret the way I approached the meeting and the impact it had on those in attendance,” she said.
“My need for information should have been better weighed against the seriousness of the circumstances they were experiencing.”
Supt. Campbell’s recollection of that conversation was captured in his notes, extracts of which were released by the Halifax Examiner.
“The Commissioner was obviously upset. She did not raise her voice but her choice of words was indicative of her overall dissatisfaction with our work. The Commissioner accused us (me) of disrespecting her by not following her instructions. I was and remain confused over this,” Campbell reportedly wrote.
“The Commissioner said she told Comms to tell us at H Division to include specific info about the firearms used by [the killer]….However 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.”
Conservatives have called for an investigation into the issue. Their request for an emergency meeting of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety Thursday will lead to stakeholders testifying before the committee in the coming weeks.