A “miscommunication” led Brenda Lucki to tell government officials in April 2020 that details about weapons involved in the Nova Scotia mass shooting would be shared with the public, the RCMP commissioner testified Monday.
Lucki made the statement to MPs on the House of Commons public safety committee as it explored whether there was political meddling with the RCMP as it investigated Canada’s deadliest mass shooting.
In the lead-up to a major news conference on April 28, 2020 by Nova Scotia RCMP, Lucki told then-Public Safety Minister Bill Blair’s chief of staff and the deputy minister of public safety that information into the weapons used and seized by the perpetrator would be included during the media update. She said she did so after her communications team confirmed those details would be shared.
“Due to a miscommunication, this was not the case and I felt I had misinformed the minister and by extension, the prime minister,” Lucki told committee members in Ottawa.
“These were difficult, dynamic and demanding circumstances and everyone was doing their best to provide as much information to the government, to the public, to the media, about this appalling event.”
Later that day, Lucki held a meeting with top officers in Nova Scotia that was described by those in attendance as tense.
Supt. Darren Campbell, who was in charge of the investigation, wrote in his notes that Lucki mentioned promising the federal government to release information about the weapons the gunman used.
According to notes taken by Campbell, which were released on June 21 by the public inquiry into the massacre, Lucki said she felt “disobeyed” when those details were not shared, adding that the information “was tied to pending gun control legislation that would make officers and public safer.”
On Monday, Lucki expressed regret over the timing of the meeting and how she framed the conversation, adding it was done over teleconference so she “had no visual cues for how my words affected those on the call.”
“Regarding my use of the world ‘promise’ during the meeting I had with my team following that press conference, at that time and in that context I was trying to convey that I already confirmed to the minister that the information about the weapons would be released during the press conference, a confirmation made based on the information I had been provided,” she said.
“This all took place just over a month after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. The pandemic fundamentally changed how we managed this incident. The unfortunate reality is that the information flow from Nova Scotia colleagues into my office in the hours and days following the shooting wasn’t what it should have been.”
Lucki added it wasn’t until a year later she learned of concerns around political interference stemming from that meeting.
“Had I known my words and approach had such an effect, I would have definitely made things right sooner,” she said, adding she did not interfere in the investigation around the shooting – doubling down on statements she made last month when the revelations first came to light.
“Was there pressure from the federal government for information on this incident? Yes. This wasn’t surprising as we were dealing with the biggest mass shooting incident in our country, and it was my responsibility to keep relevant officials apprised of the evolving situation while maintaining the integrity of the operation. Were the requests for information and updates political interference? No.”
Earlier in the day, Blair, who now serves as the emergency preparedness minister, also appeared before the committee. He stood firm on rejecting claims he interfered in the investigation to further the Liberals’ gun control objectives.
Blair said the government did choose to publicly announce its assault-style firearms ban on May 1, 2020 – after the shooting took place – but work on it was already well underway.
“The work had actually begun in 2019 when I had done cross-country consultations … to talk about what weapons should be prohibited. The compiling of the list … it was several months of very hard work,” Blair said of the government’s ban on 1,500 assault-style weapons.
“The terrible tragedy that took place in Nova Scotia … was for me very impactful and all of the work we had been doing for months and years leading up to that moment, it certainly had the effect of deepening my resolve to move forward as quickly as possible.”
— with files from The Canadian Press
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