Blair and Lucki offer new details, deny interference in RCMP NS mass shooting investigation

Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair and RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki took turns Monday denying that they pressured the RCMP or interfered in the police investigation into the Nova Scotia mass shooting, saying their actions and motivations at the time were justified given the unprecedented situation.

Both were the key witnesses at a special hearing of the House of Commons Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety on Monday. The meeting was called by MPs seeking a full airing of the facts following allegations that, in pushing for a new gun ban, federal officials put pressure on police after the worst mass shooting in Canadian history.

A month after allegations of political interference in the matter first made headlines, Blair was the first in a series of key officials to testify Monday as part of the opposition-led parliamentary inquiry. He told the committee that while he did not lead the RCMP or Lucki in investigating the April 18-19, 2020 massacre that left 22 dead, the horrific event was “highly motivating” in his efforts to advance reforms. of weapons.

“At no time have I operationally interfered with or given operational instructions to the RCMP in my role as public security minister,” Blair said, later telling MPs that despite opposition claims, the timing of the Liberal move to ban assault Military-style weapons were politically motivated, work to implement the policy took “several months” in preparation.

For her part in the controversy, RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki testified that she was not ordered to publicly release information about the weapons used to help advance federal interests, but there was pressure to obtain information about the incident, information she said. Which she didn’t think of either. it flowed quite freely from RCMP investigators in Nova Scotia.

“It was my responsibility to keep relevant officials informed of developments while maintaining the integrity of the operation. Were the requests for information and updates political interference? No.” Luki said. “And in my dealings with Minister Blair, he was very aware of this and never tried to interfere with this investigation.”

Concerns about undue political meddling arose when a series of documents released as part of the Mass Victims Commission revealed notes from the lead investigator, Nova Scotia RCMP Superintendent Darren Campbell, suggesting that Lucki had secured Blair and the prime minister’s office that the RCMP release information about the firearms used by the perpetrator.

In his handwritten notes, Campbell suggested that after his officers did not discuss the types of weapons used during a news conference days after the shooting, Lucki expressed disappointment with him, claiming that the RCMP chief had claimed that the release of the information was related to pending gun control legislation intended to make officers and the public safer.

At the time, the Nova Scotia RCMP, which was under intense scrutiny for its handling of the case from the start, said releasing additional information would jeopardize the ongoing investigation into the perpetrator’s access to firearms.

Days later, on May 1, the prime minister announced a ban—through regulations, not legislation—on 1,500 assault weapons, including the weapons used in the Nova Scotia shooting. Advancing gun control measures was a pre-existing Liberal commitment dating back to his 2019 election campaign.

LUCKI QUOTE ‘MISCOMMUNICATION’

In her first public appearance on the matter, Lucki, accompanied by Deputy Commissioner Brian Brennan, reiterated her refusal to interfere in the case, while offering new details about interactions she had with the minister and her police counterparts.

Lucki said that while he regrets how he approached the April 28 meeting he had with Campbell and others, and while RCMP employees “may have different perspectives” on how it happened, the discussion was “necessary.”

Lucki said he called the meeting because the commissioner wanted to express his “frustration and disappointment” about the communication between his office and those leading the investigation.

“It had to happen. It was essential that I had more timely and accurate information. And it was important that my team understood my expectations going forward,” Lucki said.

Lucki said he had provided the government with information about what information would be released, which he understood would include information about the firearms.

“Regarding my use of the word promise during the meeting… at the time, and in that context, I was trying to convey that I had already confirmed to the minister that the weapons information would be released during the press conference, a confirmation made on the basis of the information that had been provided to me,” Lucki told parliamentarians.

“Due to a miscommunication this was not the case, and I felt I had misinformed the minister and by extension the prime minister. These were difficult, dynamic and demanding circumstances. Everyone was doing their best to provide as much information to the government, the public, the media, about this terrible event.”

Lucki also told MPs that he linked the NS perpetrator’s sharing of weapons to the “minister’s mandate letter”, after facing questions from colleagues about why it was so important to share such details.

BLAIR ON THE TIME OF THE GUNS BAN

Blair, who at the time of the shooting was Canada’s minister of public safety, was accompanied by Rob Stewart, deputy minister of the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

Appearing in person at the committee in Ottawa, Blair rejected opposition suggestions that the new gun regulations were hastily drafted “on a napkin” after the shooting in an effort to capitalize on mass murder.

However, he confirmed that the government chose the date to announce the gun ban after the shooting.

“The terrible tragedy that took place in Nova Scotia, the worst mass shooting in the history of our country, was very shocking to me. And all the work that we had been doing for months and years leading up to that moment certainly had the effect of deepen my resolve to move forward as quickly as possible,” Blair told the committee.

The minister detailed months of work put into compiling the list of weapons to be included, tracing it from the mention of the election pledge, to its being mentioned in the subsequent speech from the throne and included in Blair’s mandate letter. He also cited strong public support for the measures, suggesting the government did not need to link the measure to the shooting.

Since the beginning of the allegations, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has repeatedly denied that his government exerts “any undue influence or pressure” on the RCMP. Instead, the prime minister said, in the immediate aftermath of the mass murder, federal officials had many questions about what happened and what the police knew.

Blair elaborated on this on Monday, saying the event was “unprecedented”.

“There were a number of concerns expressed by the families of the victims, by my counterparts in the province of Nova Scotia, by the media and by the community, about the lack of information that people were receiving about what had happened, and a number of very important questions were not raised,” Blair said Monday.

“And I know that that was one of the challenges that the commissioner had in ensuring that on the one hand he protected the integrity of his ongoing criminal investigation and on the other hand he ensured that people’s questions were answered,” Blair continued. . .

Blair and Stewart were the first of three panels of witnesses to testify during the hour-long committee meeting. For his part, Stewart offered, to the extent he was involved and could recall, more details about the nature of the conversations they had at federal offices in Ottawa after the mass shooting.

OPPOSITION MPS WANT MORE HEARINGS

The third and final panel of Monday’s marathon meeting is underway, with MPs hearing more testimony from the fringes from a couple of former and one current RCMP officials.

In a press conference prior to the hearing, conservative parliamentarian and public security critic Raquel Dancho outlined her party’s concerns about what is known to date about what she characterized as the alleged “appalling and disgusting” involvement of the government in this situation, saying that his intention is to obtain “clarity and honesty as to what happened.

In his questioning of Blair, Dancho asked if he would provide the committee with the calendars and call records of his office, as well as those of his chief of staff and deputy minister between April 18 and 28, the time period in which the alleged facts took place and conversations took place.

In response, Blair said she had with him, and would provide him, a timeline of when he and Lucki had conversations on this subject during the time period in question, which he said was not daily but frequent after the shooting. . His assistant also offered to give her his schedule.

Asked earlier how Canadians should reconcile the government and Lucki said there was no interference with what Superintendent Campbell wrote based on the meeting he had, Blair said the superintendent “obviously came to his own conclusions.”

While the RCMP’s Campbell is central to the accusations, he did not testify before MPs on Monday as he was appear before the Mass Victims Commission.

The Conservatives are now pressing for MPs to agree to continue the committee’s investigation, including holding further hearings, which could include Campbell and other “key” officials who have spoken on the matter.

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