The inquiry into Nova Scotia’s 2020 mass shooting says four pages of handwritten notes that sparked a political firestorm in Ottawa this week weren’t immediately submitted when subpoenaed by its investigators.
The notes of Nova Scotia RCMP Darren Campbell were made public Tuesday by the Commission.
They describe a meeting on April 28, 2020, with RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki and her “disappointment” that specific details about the illegal guns Gabriel Wortman used to kill 22 people hadn’t been released to the public.
Lucki had “promised” federal government officials it would be, wrote Campbell, as it was “tied to pending gun control legislation.”
Campbell believed those details should not be released to maintain the integrity of the investigation into how Wortman obtained his firearms.
After his notes were made public, former Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, the Prime Minister, and Lucki denied there was any political interference in the H Strong investigation.
Friday, the director of investigations for the Commission explained in a statement that Campbell’s handwritten record of that meeting was missing from the middle of his notes when they were first given to the inquiry by Ottawa on Feb. 15.
The omitted pages weren’t provided to investigators until May 30.
“The commission sought an explanation from the Department of Justice about why four pages were missing from the original disclosure,” wrote director Barbara McLean.
McLean’s statement continues, “The Commission is also demanding an explanation for any further material that has been held back from disclosed material for privilege or other review where the fact that this has occurred is not clear on what has been produced to the Commission. In short , the Commission is seeking assurance that nothing else has been held back as per direction from subpoenas.”
CTV News contacted the RCMP for an explanation on the missing pages and was told the Department of Justice would be responding.
Friday evening, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice made the explanation by email.
“Department of Justice counsel produced to the Commission a package of over 2,000 pages of notes from senior officers on February 11, 2022 and March 2, 2022. Some pages of those notes, including the four pages of the notes of Supt. Campbell, required further assessment of whether they were privileged,” wrote Ian McLeod.
“That review was completed and it was determined that the pages were not privileged. While it is a usual practice to review documents for privilege before disclosure, the Commission was not advised that some pages of the notes of senior officers were being reviewed for privilege,” the email continues.
“Department of Justice counsel should have done so and will work with the Commission to establish a process for review. Those pages have now been fully disclosed, unredacted, in advance of the testimony of Supt. Campbell.”
Prior to that explanation being received, the federal Conservative Member of Parliament representing many of the communities most affected by the tragedy expressed his misgivings.
“Something’s being withheld here, and that’s the last thing we need,” says Cumberland-Colchester MP Dr. Stephen Ellis.
“The biggest concern that we have is that another ministry is being brought into this scandal. Minister Lametti on top of Minister Blair, and of course the Prime Minister’s Office.”
The revelation is another blow to the force’s reputation, which has borne the brunt of harsh criticism for how command decisions were made during the Nova Scotia tragedy.
Retired RCMP officer Sherry Benson-Podolchuck says no matter what the reason is for the missing pages, the national police force needs to re-evaluate its upper ranks.
“This is what they have to get over is their own egos, and protecting their own,” says Benson-Podolchuck. “Speak the truth, do the truth, and you can never go wrong.”
Former OPP commissioner Chris Lewis says this only intensifies the already harsh spotlight on leadership at the RCMP.
“There has to be a buck-stopping somewhere in the hierarchy of the organization,” says Lewis.
“Key things that might hurt government and the senior command of the RCMP are gone, so that’s huge. And what does that do to public trust? What does that do to internal trust in the organization?