May 29, 2023 10:03 pm

Nova Scotia shooting: Inquiry releases audio of RCMP commissioner call

An inquiry into Canada’s worst mass shooting has released audio of a call that lead to political interference claims in the massacre investigation.

The head of the RCMP, the federal police force, was accused of pressuring local officers to help advance the Trudeau government’s gun control plans.

The accusation stemmed from notes from the call first released in June as part of the inquiry.

Commissioner Brenda Lucki has denied any meddling in the investigation.

On Thursday, the Nova Scotia mass casualty commission posted “partial audio recordings” and transcripts of the conference call between Ms Lucki and local RCMP personnel.

The 28 April 2020 recording was made by a media relations officer at RCMP headquarters who was on the meeting, the commission said.

The meeting was held some 10 days after a gunman, posing as a police officer, killed 22 people, including an RCMP officer, in the province of Nova Scotia. The suspect died in a stand-off with police.

The call also took place days before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government announced a ban on semi-automatic weapons.

Notes released in June by the inquiry were from Nova Scotia RCMP Superintendent Darren Campbell, who wrote them after the conference call with Ms Lucki – Canada’s top police officer.

Mr Campbell recalled in the notes how the commissioner had been angry that his press conference in the days after the massacre did not disclose more details about the types of weapons used during the rampage.

His notes say Ms Lucki had promised the minister of public safety and the Prime Minister’s Office that the RCMP would release that information and “that we didn’t understand that this was tied to pending gun control legislation that would make officers and the public safer”.

Mr Trudeau has said his government “did not put any undue influence or pressure” on police and his minister of public safety at the time of the shooting, Bill Blair, has also denied wrongdoing.

According to the transcripts and recordings released on Thursday, Ms Lucki tells local staff: “Does anybody realise what’s going on in the world of handguns and guns right now?”

“The fact that they’re in the middle of trying to get a legislation going, the fact that legislation is supposed to actually help police and the fact that the very little information I asked to be put in speaking notes… could not be accommodated?”

She also says that, while she understands the “protocol” of keeping some information from the public during investigations she “felt completely disrespected by the fact that I was told that Darren was going to talk about the guns in his speaking note and as soon as I got confirmation I advised the Minister’s office and then it wasn’t there”.

She says it was only a “fluke” that guns came up during the press conference because the issue was raised by the media.

“Had the question not been asked, nothing about the guns would have been mentioned. And I was told that it would be mentioned.”

She also expresses frustration overall at how the force handled communications, saying she is aware that “the people on the ground are working tirelessly, but it didn’t get reflected to the outside world” and she had to “watch the media chew us up, eat us up and spit us out”.

In a statement on Thursday, the federal force said information sharing between the federal government and police is normal and “necessary” after a high-profile event such as a mass shooting “and does not impact the integrity of ongoing investigations or interfere with the independence of the RCMP”.

A final report into the mass shooting from the inquiry is expected in March.

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