Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he still “very much” has confidence in RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki, and is denying his government put “any undue influence or pressure,” on the national police force’s investigation into the 2020 Nova Scotia mass shooting.
“We did not put any undue influence or pressure. It is extremely important to highlight that it is only the RCMP, it is only police that determine what and when to release information,” Trudeau said. “I still very much have… confidence in commissioner Lucki.”
Despite this denial, the issue was a central focus during the final question period of the spring sitting, and MPs voted Thursday to strike a summertime study of the matter.
The government and commissioner Lucki have been under scrutiny over their involvement in the case, after allegations were raised Tuesday that the worst mass shooting in Canadian history was being used by the federal government to help push forward a new gun ban.
According to documents released as part of the Mass Casualty Commission, in a meeting 10 days after the killing rampage that left 22 people dead, lead Mountie Lucki allegedly expressed her disappointment with the Nova Scotia division’s handling of press briefings, because she wanted them to release specific information on the firearms used by the perpetrator.
In handwritten notes, Nova Scotia RCMP superintendent Darren Campbell wrote that Lucki indicated she promised then-minister of public safety Bill Blair and the prime minister’s office that the RCMP would release this information, and that this was tied to pending gun control legislation intended to make officers and the public safer.
At the time, the Nova Scotia RCMP — which was under heavy scrutiny for its handling of the case from the start — said that releasing additional information would jeopardize the ongoing investigation into the perpetrator’s access to firearms.
Days later, the prime minister announced a ban on 1,500 assault-style weapons, including weapons used in the Nova Scotia shooting. Moving forward on gun control measures was a pre-existing Liberal commitment, dating back to their 2019 election campaign.
In echoing the denials from Blair and Lucki — who wrote in a statement that while she regretted how she approached the meeting, she would never jeopardize an RCMP investigation — Trudeau also told reporters that, while the government didn’t intervene, they did have questions.
“I will highlight however, that when the worst mass shooting in Canada’s history happened, we had a lot of questions. Canadians had a lot of questions. And I got regular briefings on what we knew, what we didn’t know. And those answers continue to come out, even as the public inquiry is ongoing,” said the prime minister, during a scrum with reporters travelling with him for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Rwanda.
During question period, Blair said he was not party to the discussions that took place between the commissioner and her subordinates, amid suggestions from the Conservatives that the government was casting doubt on his accounts of his interaction with Lucki.
“I have absolutely no doubt the superintendent is an exemplary officer, and I don’t question his integrity in any way. I would simply remind this House that the fact is, that there was no interference in this matter,” Blair said.
Following calls from the opposition parties for the government to provide a full airing of the facts as they relate to the matter, the House of Commons Public Safety and National Security Committee is set to dig into it, a month from now.
At their final meeting before the end of the spring sitting, MPs on the committee voted to study the allegations of political interference in the RCMP investigation and communications. The committee plans to hold a four-hour meeting on July 25, or as soon as the pre-scheduled House of Commons maintenance period ends.
At this meeting, the intention is to include three panels of witnesses. The first would see superintendent Campbell and other Nova Scotia RCMP officials testify; the second would include commissioner Lucki and her deputy, and the third would be Blair and the Deputy Minister of Public Safety Robert Stewart.
The Conservatives had wanted the hearing to include testimony from an official in the Prime Minister’s Office, but that proposal wasn’t supported.
“We found it to be very important that a member from the Prime Minister’s Office come to answer… The Liberal members led the way on ensuring that did not happen today. They also led the way on ensuring that this meeting does not happen for another month,” said Conservative MP and public safety critic Raquel Dancho during the meeting.