Advertisement

N.S. shooting inquiry: Witness allegedly told to only be ‘reactive’ in testimony

Click to play video: '‘The purpose of the call became very clear’: RCMP superintendent testifies about alleged political interference in N.S. massacre probe' ‘The purpose of the call became very clear’: RCMP superintendent testifies about alleged political interference in N.S. massacre probe
WATCH: Testifying before a House committee, Nova Scotia RCMP Chief Superintendent Darren Campbell has stuck to claims Commissioner Brenda Lucki allowed federal political interference in the investigation into the 2020 massacre. Tom Vernon reports – Aug 16, 2022

A former Supreme Court of Canada judge working with the inquiry into the 2020 Nova Scotia mass shooting says he’s worried the federal Justice Department has been discouraging witnesses from being forthcoming with relevant evidence.

In an Aug. 5 letter to the department, released late Monday by the inquiry, commission counsel director Thomas Cromwell cites advice the department gave Nova Scotia RCMP Chief Supt. Chris Leather before he testified before the commission of inquiry on July 28.

Cromwell said he was “deeply concerned” by Leather’s claim that he was advised “to be simply reactive rather than forthcoming,” an approach that Cromwell said “will hamper the commission in fulfilling its mandate.”

Click to play video: 'Nova Scotia shooting: Conservatives say calling for Blair’s, Lucki’s resignation is ‘not off the table’' Nova Scotia shooting: Conservatives say calling for Blair’s, Lucki’s resignation is ‘not off the table’
Nova Scotia shooting: Conservatives say calling for Blair’s, Lucki’s resignation is ‘not off the table’ – Aug 16, 2022

Read more: N.S. shooting inquiry: MPs continue hearings into alleged political meddling

Story continues below advertisement

The former judge asked for assurances from the department that this sort of advice has not and will not be given to other witnesses.

“Rather, I would hope and expect that witnesses would be encouraged to share the relevant information that they have,” Cromwell said.

On July 28, Leather testified that in an earlier interview with commission lawyers, he didn’t say anything about emails or phone calls related to an April 28, 2020, meeting he attended with RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki because Justice Department lawyers had suggested he take “a reactive posture.”

Leather said he was advised not to proactively disclose previous conversations or correspondence with Lucki.

Click to play video: 'Bill Blair denies receiving ‘assurances’ from RCMP to release N.S. mass shooting weapons' Bill Blair denies receiving ‘assurances’ from RCMP to release N.S. mass shooting weapons
Bill Blair denies receiving ‘assurances’ from RCMP to release N.S. mass shooting weapons – Jul 25, 2022

The April 28 teleconference, led by Lucki, focused on the effectiveness of the Nova Scotia RCMP’s news conferences in the days after a man disguised as a Mountie fatally shot 22 people in northern and central Nova Scotia on April 18-19, 2020.

Story continues below advertisement

Meeting notes taken by another Nova Scotia Mountie, Supt. Darren Campbell, claim that Lucki said she had promised then-public safety minister Bill Blair that the RCMP would release details about the killer’s weapons to lend weight to the Liberal government’s pending gun control legislation.

That bombshell assertion has prompted allegations of political interference in a police investigation, an allegation that is being investigated by a parliamentary committee in Ottawa.

In response to Cromwell’s letter, the Justice Department’s general counsel, Lori Ward, said department lawyers did not discourage Leather from being forthcoming. Ward’s letter, dated Aug. 9, 2022, says that Leather’s comments about what he was told “can only be the result of a misunderstanding.”

“Counsel did not provide such advice,” Ward said.

Read more: Lucki cited ‘pressures’ from Blair amid Nova Scotia shooting probe: RCMP official

Still, Ward’s letter confirms that at one point Leather was told not to say anything about an unrelated workplace assessment in 2021 because it might not be relevant or could be privileged information.

“We suggested that he not raise the assessment,” Ward said in the letter. “However, we stated that should he be asked a question that would require him to discuss it, to answer truthfully.”

On another front, the Justice Department has admitted it should have alerted the commission when it withheld 35 pages of notes from seven senior officers, including four pages from Campbell’s notes, when it disclosed two packages of documents containing 2,400 pages on Feb. 11, 2022 and March 2, 2022.

Story continues below advertisement

“We acknowledge that the commission was not advised that these pages were being reviewed for privilege,” the department said in a letter to the commission dated June 24, 2022. “(Department of Justice) counsel should have done so.”

As of June 24, all but three of those deleted pages had been submitted to the inquiry.

The letter goes on to say that the department is not aware of any other documents that have been withheld.

Click to play video: 'Nova Scotia shooting: Conservative MP blasts Trudeau government over alleged interference into RCMP probe' Nova Scotia shooting: Conservative MP blasts Trudeau government over alleged interference into RCMP probe
Nova Scotia shooting: Conservative MP blasts Trudeau government over alleged interference into RCMP probe – Aug 16, 2022

Sponsored content