House adjourns for summer amid questions of interference into Nova Scotia shooting probe

Click to play video: 'Bill Blair grilled over possible interference into RCMP investigation of Nova Scotia mass shooting'
Bill Blair grilled over possible interference into RCMP investigation of Nova Scotia mass shooting
WATCH: Bill Blair grilled over possible interference into RCMP investigation of Nova Scotia mass shooting – Jun 23, 2022

The House of Commons adjourned for its summer break on Thursday, but the Liberal government and the RCMP will still face scrutiny in the coming weeks on alleged interference in the police investigation into the 2020 Nova Scotia mass shooting.

Conservatives, hoping to get some answers during the recess, have requested a meeting of the House public safety committee to be held no later than July 25.

RCMP Darren Campbell and Lia Scanlan, a former communications director, are on the witness list for that meeting, according to a copy shared with Global News. Both have alleged Bill Blair, the public safety minister at the time of the shooting, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his staff were involved in public communications decisions in the days after the massacre.

Story continues below advertisement

The committee is also summoning Blair, Lucki and their deputies to testify, along with two other senior RCMP officials who may have witnessed Lucki say she had promised Blair and the Prime Minister’s Office that information about the gunman’s firearms would be released.

A report published Tuesday by the public inquiry into the massacre included handwritten notes taken by Campbell at a meeting among senior RCMP officials 10 days after the shooting. During that meeting, according to Campbell’s notes, Lucki told those present that releasing the information was “tied to pending gun control legislation.”

Conservative MP Raquel Dancho requested the summer meeting to probe what she called “shocking revelations” coming out of the inquiry, which is studying the tragedy that killed 22 people and the police and political response.

Click to play video: 'Trudeau denies his government interfered in Nova Scotia shooting probe: ‘Absolutely not’'
Trudeau denies his government interfered in Nova Scotia shooting probe: ‘Absolutely not’

She said the political interference allegations are separate from what the Mass Casualty Commission is looking at, and should be investigated by Parliament.

Story continues below advertisement

All parties at the committee supported calling the witnesses but disagreed for nearly two hours about when to hold the meeting.

Dancho said a motion calling for staff from the Prime Minister’s Office with knowledge of discussions with RCMP to testify at the meeting was blocked by Liberal members, with NDP and Bloc Quebecois members abstaining.

Blair, Lucki and Trudeau have all said there was no interference in the investigation. Blair on Wednesday suggested Campbell “came to his own conclusion” about what Lucki said during the meeting.

In emails to Global News, both Campbell and Scanlan declined to comment further on the matter, including the denials by Blair and others. Campbell said he is still waiting to testify to the inquiry.

However, Scanlan said “further information and testimony” released by the Mass Casualty Commission “may provide additional context.”

Scanlan, a former RCMP communications director, told inquiry investigators in testimony that Blair and Trudeau were “weighing in on what we could and couldn’t say” during media briefings. Her comments were included in Tuesday’s report, which focused on how public communications were handled in the days following the shooting.

During question period both Wednesday and Thursday, Blair repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, noting the Liberal promise to enact stiffer laws on guns long predated the tragedy.

Story continues below advertisement

“The vicious murder of 22 Canadians using firearms deepened our resolve to make Canadians safe and to keep our promise,” he said.

Click to play video: 'Conservatives call for investigation into if RCMP, Liberals interfered in N.S. shooting probe to push gun laws'
Conservatives call for investigation into if RCMP, Liberals interfered in N.S. shooting probe to push gun laws

Speaking to reporters Thursday in Kigali, Rwanda, Trudeau said the government did not “put any undue influence or pressure” on the RCMP in Nova Scotia. He also said he has faith in Lucki, but when asked if her comments at the April 28, 2020, meeting were appropriate, he pointed to Lucki’s own written statement.

In that statement, issued Tuesday night, Lucki said she did not interfere with the investigation but could have better handled the meeting on the flow of information coming out of the probe.

“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.”

Story continues below advertisement

Lucki will be asked to expand on her statements at the public safety committee. Also on the witness list is Chief Supt. Chris Leather, who was the critical incident commander the weekend of the shooting; assistant commissioner Lee Bergman, who was the commanding officer in Nova Scotia; and Sharon Tessier, a senior communications manager at RCMP headquarters in Ottawa.

Trudeau and Blair announced less than two weeks after the shooting in Nova Scotia that the government would be banning 1,500 makes and models of “assault-style” firearms, including models that were owned by the gunman.

Thursday’s House sitting concluded with the passage of the second reading of Bill C-21, which codifies that ban among further gun control efforts like a national handgun “freeze” and red flag laws.

The bill now moves to the public safety committee for review.

The House will return from its summer recess on Sept. 19.

— with files from Global’s Amanda Connolly and the Canadian Press

Sponsored content