There’s something crucial missing: an explanation from RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki. It can’t wait much longer.
The allegation that the Liberal government pressured the RCMP to release information about the investigation into the Nova Scotia shootings of April 18 to 19, 2020, in order to advance their gun-control agenda is now boiling down to two increasingly irreconcilable versions of events – with Commissioner Lucki in between.
We need the commissioner to come forward, quickly.
She has issued prepared statements denying political pressure. But now she has to tell the country what she said to RCMP officials in a conference on April 28, 2020 – and whether she told them she was under political pressure to release additional information about the investigation.
This week, a second document surfaced from a second RCMP official saying they heard Commissioner Lucki expressing her desire to see investigators release information about the guns used in the shootings because she was under political pressure relating to the government’s pending gun legislation. It’s hard to imagine two people misheard the same shocking thing.
Yet there was also a clear denial on Wednesday from Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair, who at the time of the shootings was the public safety minister responsible for the RCMP.
He said neither he nor anyone else in the government asked Commissioner Lucki to release additional information. And he said he never linked the government’s gun-control agenda with the investigation, or the release of details, in his conversation with the commissioner.
There is only one person in the middle of all this: the top officer in the national police force. Yet while the contradictions in the accounts of events have become sharper, Commissioner Lucki’s version has remained vague. She is expected to appear before a parliamentary hearing on the matter in late July. But the public has a right to expect a frank recounting of what happened. Right away.
The issue is not whether Mr. Blair nor Prime Minister Justin Trudeau nor some other political operative in the Liberal government asked the RCMP Commissioner for answers about the 2020 shootings.
It was a shocking mass shooting at the first peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the RCMP’s response raised more than a few questions – which is why an inquiry, the Mass Casualty Commission, is looking into it now. The way information was released by the force, including by Commissioner Lucki, raised questions, too. Mr. Trudeau and his ministers had a right to ask what was going on.
But there is a red line – instructing or pressuring police on how to conduct operations – that cannot be crossed. And it is doubly bad if the line is crossed for crass political purposes.
RCMP Superintendent Darren Campbell’s notes of the 2020 conference call said Commissioner Lucki upbraided officers for failing to release details on the guns used in the mass shooting – a disclosure that Supt. Campbell believed would hamper the investigation. According to those notes, Commissioner Lucki said she had promised the Prime Minister and Mr. Blair that the information about the guns used in the shootings would be released, as it was connected to the government’s pending gun legislation.
This week, the Mass Casualty Commission released a letter to Commissioner Lucki written by Lia Scanlan, a former director of strategic communications for the RCMP in Halifax, penned a year after the events. Ms. Scanlan said that in the conference call, Commissioner Lucki spoke about the pressures she faces, the conversations she had with Mr. Blair and the government’s plan to table gun legislation. Ms. Scanlan wrote that she felt “disgust” when she realized those political considerations were the “catalyst” for the conference call.
So? Did Commissioner Lucki talk about political pressure as she complained investigators weren’t releasing details about the guns used in the incident? Did she mention the government’s political agenda and imminent gun legislation?
She hasn’t really told us. She has issued statements saying she did not face political pressure. But she hasn’t told the full story of that conference call.
On Tuesday, Commissioner Lucki sent out another statement in which she conceded she handled that conference call poorly, again denied political interference and failed to explain what happened.
That can’t go on. She is the top officer in the national police force. This is a serious allegation. And the commissioner can’t keep the public trust if she keeps us guessing.
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