A document released by the inquiry into the 2020 mass shooting in Nova Scotia shows RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki wanted details of the firearms used in the killing shared with the public in order to raise support for federal gun control legislation. Conservative MPs say the revelation shows attempts to interfere with an investigation into the shooting.
The document, citing notes submitted by Nova Scotia RCMP Superintendent Darren Campbell, said that during a conference call on April 28, 2020, shortly after the rampage that took the life of 22 people, Lucki criticized senior RCMP managers who had refused to reveal details of the guns used in the killings.
“At the meeting, Commr. Lucki expressed disappointment in the press briefings carried out by the Nova Scotia RCMP. In particular, Commr. Lucki felt that the Nova Scotia RCMP had disobeyed her instructions to include specific information on the firearms used by the perpetrator,” the document said.
It went on to say that Campbell was concerned that revealing information about the firearms could compromise the RCMP’s investigation into the case.
“In his notes, Supt. Campbell indicated that he had told the Nova Scotia RCMP Strategic Communications Unit not to release information about the perpetrator’s firearms out of concern that it would jeopardize the ongoing investigation into the perpetrator’s access to firearms, which was being carried out both by the RCMP and United States law enforcement.”
The document added that Campbell wrote in his notes that Lucki had “promised” the minister of public safety and the Prime Minister’s Office that the RCMP would release the information related to the guns.
His notes added that when he tried to explain the reasoning for not releasing that information, Lucki said the Nova Scotia RCMP “didn’t understand, that this was tied to pending gun control legislation that would make officers and public safer by or through this legislation.”
Campbell also said some in the meeting were in tears over Lucki’s reprimand.
‘This Is Alarming’
According to police, the guns used by the killer were not obtained legally, with some of them smuggled into Canada from the United States.
In May 2020, shortly after the mass killing, the Liberal government announced a ban on 1,500 types of weapons in Canada. It has since announced more gun restrictions, introducing new legislation this year to implement a “national freeze” on the sale, transfer, and importation of handguns into and within Canada.
The Conservatives were quick to condemn the revelations in the report, saying in the House of Commons and on social media that the incident amounts to interference in the investigations into the killings.
“If true, this is damning,” said Tory MP Dane Lloyd. “The allegations are that the commissioner for the RCMP sought to interfere in an active criminal investigation at the behest of the Prime Minister’s Office and Public Safety to advance Liberal gun control announcement.”
“This is alarming,” said Tory MP Dan Albas, while fellow MP Melissa Lantsman repeated Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s words from February 2020: “We are not the kind of country where politicians get to tell the police what to do.”
In a statement, Lucki said she would never interfere with an investigation into the mass killing.
“It is important to note that the sharing of information and briefings with the minister of public safety are necessary, particularly during a mass shooting on Canadian soil,” she said. “This is standard procedure and does not impact the integrity of ongoing investigations or interfere with the independence of the RCMP.”
She added that she did meet with Nova Scotia RCMP shortly after the shootings to discuss communication flow and the release of information to the public.
“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.
Bill Blair, minister of emergency preparedness, said the federal government didn’t issue directions to Lucki on the matter.
“The commissioner has confirmed that no direction and no pressure was given by me or by any member of this government to direct her in any way,” Blair said.
The Canadian Press contributed to this report.