OTTAWA — The RCMP superintendent and a former communications director who said there was political interference in the investigation of the 2020 Nova Scotia mass shooting will be summoned to testify next month at a parliamentary committee digging into the allegations.
Supt. Darren Campbell and Lia Scanlan are on the witness list for the House of Commons public safety committee, which is also requesting RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki, Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair and their deputies appear at a meeting no later than July 25.
Blair was the minister of public safety at the time of the shooting.
Conservative MP Raquel Dancho requested the meeting to probe what she called "shocking revelations" coming out of the public inquiry investigating the tragedy.
She said the political interference allegations are separate from what the Mass Casualty Commission underway in Nova Scotia is looking at, and should be investigated by Parliament.
All parties at the committee supported calling the witnesses but disagreed for nearly two hours about when to hold the meeting.
Blair, Lucki and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have all said there was no interference in the investigation.
A report published Tuesday by the public inquiry into the massacre included handwritten notes from Campbell alleging that 10 days after the tragedy Lucki met with Nova Scotia RCMP and expressed disappointment that the types of weapons used had not yet been made public.
The notes say Lucki told those present she had promised the federal Public Safety Department and the Prime Minister's Office that information on the guns used by the shooter would be released because it was "tied to pending gun control legislation."
Blair said Wednesday Lucki had made no such promise to him.
During question period both Wednesday and Thursday, he repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, noting the Liberal promise to enact stiffer laws on guns long predated the tragedy.
"The vicious murder of 22 Canadians using firearms deepened our resolve to make Canadians safe and to keep our promise," he said.
A separate entry in the report says Scanlan, a former RCMP communications director, told inquiry investigators in an interview that Blair and Trudeau were "weighing in on what we could and couldn't say" during media briefings.
Speaking to reporters Thursday in Kigali, Rwanda, Trudeau said the government did not "put any undue influence or pressure" on the RCMP in Nova Scotia. He also said he has faith in Lucki, but when asked if her comments at the April 28, 2020 meeting were appropriate, he pointed to Lucki's own written statement.
In that statement, issued Tuesday night, Lucki said she did not interfere with the investigation but could have better handled the meeting on the flow of information coming out of the probe.
"It was a tense discussion, and I regret the way I approached the meeting and the impact it had on those in attendance," she said. "My need for information should have been better weighed against the seriousness of the circumstances they were experiencing."
Lucki will be asked to expand on her statements at the public safety committee. Also on the witness list is Chief Supt. Chris Leather, who was the critical incident commander the weekend of the shooting, assistant commissioner Lee Bergman, who was the commanding officer in Nova Scotia, and Sharon Tessier, a senior communications manager at RCMP headquarters in Ottawa.
Nova Scotia RCMP have been heavily criticized for their handling of the shooting, and a public inquiry is underway seeking answers about the RCMP’s actions during and after the 13-hour rampage.
The report that included the notes about Lucki’s comments at the April 28 meeting also asserted that key information about the case, including the names of victims and the types of weapons used by the killer, were withheld from the public longer than necessary.
The report noted that while the RCMP’s national headquarters was prepared to release a list of the victims’ names in the days after the shootings, Nova Scotia RCMP didn’t release that information and it only became public through media reports.
The types of weapons used only became public after media received information in a briefing note from the Prime Minister's Office more than seven months after the shooting.
Trudeau said Thursday 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 so families can actually learn what happened and we will continue to take responsible action."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 23, 2022.
Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press