Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal government had questions about the mass shooting in Nova Scotia in 2020, but remained adamant that his government did not interfere in the investigation.
His comments come as a Nova Scotia Mountie, and the former communications director claims that there was political pressure from Ottawa on what to say in the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in Canadian history.
“We have not put any abolition of influence or pressure. It is extremely important to emphasize that it is only the RCMP, it is only the police who decide what and when to release information,” Trudeau said during a Thursday scrum with journalists in Kigali, Rwanda, where he is attending a Commonwealth summit.
“However, I want to highlight that when the worst mass shooting in Canada’s history happened, we had a lot of questions. The Canadians had a lot of questions.”
Trudeau said he still “very much” trusts Lucki, whom he appointed in 2018 as she battles a new scandal after handwritten notes from the Nova Scotia RCMP Supt. Darren Campbell was released earlier this week as part of the Mass Casualty Commission investigation.
SE | The government refuses to interfere in the NS mass shooting investigation:
The investigation investigates the vandalism on 18-19. April 2020, which cost 22 lives – including a pregnant woman – and left several people injured and several homes destroyed.
In Campbell’s notes, written after a telephone meeting on April 28, 2020 between headquarters and the division, he claims Lucki was upset that the RCMP in Nova Scotia did not disclose more information about the weapons used because she had promised the federal government – who were considering gun control legislation at the time – that they would raise it.
“The Commissioner said she had promised the Minister of Public Security and the Office of the Prime Minister that the RCMP would release this information,” he said.
Campbell wrote that he believed the release of information about the firearms could harm the investigation.
“I tried to explain that there was no intention to disrespect anyone, but we could not release this information at this time. The Commissioner then said we did not understand that this was tied to pending gun control legislation that would make officers and public safer. “
Gun ban announced days later
Just days after the April 28 meeting, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a ban on about 1,500 firearms brands and modelsincluding two of the weapons used in the Nova Scotia mass shooting – a Colt Law Enforcement Carbine, a semi-automatic weapon and a Ruger Mini-14.
At that time, the police had still not released the specific makes and models used in the attacks. This information was first published in the fall of 2020, where National Post reported details of the weapons after obtaining an information note prepared for the Prime Minister after the shooting.
Investigators have said they believe the shooter, Gabriel Wortman, who did not have a gun license, got three of the weapons used during the Maine massacre and smuggled them into Canada.
Lucki issued a statement Tuesday night in which she wrote that briefings with the Minister of Public Security are necessary, especially during a mass shooting, but said there was no interference.
“I would never take actions or decisions that could jeopardize an investigation,” she wrote. “I take the principle of police independence extremely seriously and it has been and will continue to be fully respected in all interactions.”
Trudeau said he received regular briefings on what police knew and did not know about the shooter and the case.
“Those answers keep coming out,” he said. “We will continue to take responsible action.”
On Wednesday, Emergency Secretary Bill Blair, who was Secretary of State at the time of the shooting, slammed Campbell’s written report on the call.
“The inspector obviously came to his own conclusions, and his notes reflect that,” he said.
“But I’m telling you, and I would tell the Superintendent, if I spoke to him, that I did not make any effort to pressure the RCMP to interfere in any way in their investigation. I gave no instructions as to what information they should communicate. . “
In a statement to CBC News on Thursday, Campbell declined to respond, saying he was waiting to be interviewed by the Mass Casualty Commission.
“I also expect to be called to the MCC as a witness sometime in late July, and I look forward to both opportunities,” he wrote.
“As such, it would be inappropriate for me to make public comments before I testify under oath. I hope you understand.”
Former head of communications says there was ‘political pressure’
Campbell is not the only Nova Scotia Mountie who has marked influence from Ottawa during the aftermath of the vandalism.
In an interview with the commission’s investigators earlier this year, Lia Scanlan, the RCMP’s former civilian director of the provincial strategic communications unit, said Blair and the prime minister “considered what we could and could not say.”
She said Lucki was advised not to do media interviews, but did so anyway, giving inaccurate information.
Lucki initially shared that 17 people died, information RCMP had confirmed internally, when the local commanders only said “over 10” people lost their lives in a press briefing on the evening of April 19th.
“She went out and did it and knew it well – and it was all political pressure,” Scanlan said.
“It’s 100 percent Minister Blair and the Prime Minister, and we have a Commissioner who is not pushing back.”
Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino said “there was an exchange of information” after the shooting, but maintained that there was no interference.
While the RCMP Commissioner is accountable to the Minister, they are supposed to act independently.
The Canadian Supreme Court has made it clear that “the commissioner should not be considered a servant or agent of the government while he is involved in a criminal investigation.”
“I think it’s incredibly important that Canadians trust their institutions, including the RCMP and all law enforcement agencies,” said Mendicino, who has been tasked with reforming the RCMP.
“What’s important to Canadians is that there is a line of respect that was demonstrated around the principle of operational independence,”
Families are uneasy, the law firm says
Wednesday night, Mendicino said he had not spoken to Lucki.
The minister said he would let the commission review the facts.
“We look forward to finally seeing the report and to working closely with the Commissioners on any recommendations they may make,” he said.
Lucki is expected to be called as a witness at the interrogation next month.
Patterson Law, the firm that represents the families of more than a dozen victims of the mass shooting, issued a statement Wednesday saying their clients are worried about the allegations.
“In the days following 19 April 2020, all efforts should have been focused on supporting the victims, their families and the active investigation carried out by the local RCMP. To intervene in these efforts, to seize a perceived political opportunity or to otherwise, would have been unforgivable, “the statement reads.
“We trust that the Mass Injury Commission recognizes the importance of establishing the truth of these allegations and the need for extensive cross-examination of the relevant witnesses.”
The allegations have sparked a frenzy on Parliament Hill, including calls for an urgent debate and an inquiry into the House of Commons committee to get to the bottom of the charges.
“It is disgusting to know that the Prime Minister and his office would use the death of Canadians for its own political gain,” Interim Conservative leader Candice Bergen said Wednesday.
On Thursday, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh called the allegations of federal interference “deeply worrying”.