Top civilian Mountie rebukes RCMP Commissioner for ‘appalling’ behaviour at behest of federal government

Lia Scanlan, director of strategic communications for the Nova Scotia RCMP, testifies at the Mass Casualty Commission inquiry into the mass murders in rural Nova Scotia on April 18/19, 2020, in Truro, N.S. on June 8.Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

A senior civilian Mountie sent a strongly worded letter to RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki last year, accusing her of bowing to political pressure and displaying “unprofessional and extremely belittling” behaviour to officers investigating the worst mass shooting in Canadian history.

The Mass Casualty Commission, which is conducting an inquiry into the April, 2020, killing of 22 people in Nova Scotia, on Tuesday released the rebuke from Lia Scanlan, a former director of strategic communications for the RCMP in Halifax.

In the letter, dated April 14, 2021, Ms. Scanlan backs up Superintendent Darren Campbell’s allegations that Commissioner Lucki tried to push her Nova Scotia commanders to publicly release details about the weapons used in the shootings in order to bolster the federal government’s gun-control agenda.

She recounts an April 28, 2020, conference call – just 10 days after the shootings – during which Commissioner Lucki told senior Nova Scotia Mounties about conversations she had had with then public safety minister Bill Blair related to “the upcoming passage of gun legislation.”

She says Commissioner Lucki suggested Nova Scotia Mounties had “let down” two boys whose parents were killed by the gunman by failing to release information about the firearms.

Ms. Scanlan writes: “I remember a feeling of disgust as I realized this was the catalyst for the conversation and perhaps a justification for what you were saying about us.”

She says the officers were focused on the victims of the shootings and were taken aback when their superior berated them for refusing to release details about the weapons, as she had instructed them to do.

“The political lens was not our sole focus,” she writes. “I could not believe what you, the leader of our organization, was saying and I was embarrassed to be privy to what was unfolding.”

She adds: “It was appalling, inappropriate, unprofessional and, extremely belittling.”

Ms. Scanlan says she objected to revealing the types of guns used in the shootings because the victims’ families had not yet been informed and she wanted to “prevent them from being revictimized by hearing new information from the media.”

Four pages of notes from Supt. Campbell’s investigative file were released last week, triggering a day of parliamentary hearings next month into potential political interference in a police investigation.

The notes allege that Commissioner Lucki berated Supt. Campbell when he refused to prematurely release details of the weapons. She told her officers she had promised the “Minister of Public Safety and the Prime Minister’s Office” that the RCMP would reveal what kinds of firearms were used in order to build support for the government’s gun-control proposals.

Supt. Campbell said in his notes that he did not want to release those details because the RCMP were working with U.S. authorities on the case and doing so might have jeopardized the investigation. Three of the weapons had been smuggled in from Maine.

In a statement last week, Commissioner Lucki said she regretted the way she “approached the meeting and the impact it had on those in attendance.” She has yet to confirm or deny the allegations in Supt. Campbell’s notes.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said there was no “undue influence or pressure” on the Commissioner. Mr. Blair, now Emergencies Preparedness Minister, has also denied pressuring Commissioner Lucki to help build the case for the government’s ban on 1,500 types of firearms.

In previous testimony, Ms. Scanlan told the investigation that federal officials, including Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Blair, “were weighing in on what we could and couldn’t say” during media briefings.

The transcript of her remarks was heavily redacted in some sections before its release, so some details of the testimony remain secret.

At another point, she talked about Commissioner Lucki’s conduct in an interview and attributed it to “political pressure,” adding, “That is 100 per cent Minister Blair and the Prime Minister.”

She then told investigators: “We have a Commissioner that does not push back.”

Meanwhile, the federal Justice Department said it turned over a further 17 pages of RCMP investigative files Friday to the Mass Casualty Commission. Ms. Scanlan’s cover e-mail, which included the date of the April 14, 2021, letter was part of that package, according Kristen Lipscombe, a spokesperson for the commission.

Justice Department spokesman Ian McLeod said another three pages are still being reviewed to determine if they should be disclosed to the inquiry.

He said department lawyers had initially withheld 35 pages and turned over 12 documents to the commission on May 30, including Supt. Campbell’s four pages of notes.

Mr. McLeod said the office of Justice Minister David Lametti had no say in the decision to withhold the documents, as Justice Department lawyers routinely review such documents for cabinet confidences, solicitor-client privilege and other personal information.

The commission has demanded to know why Ottawa withheld any documents after it subpoenaed the RCMP’s entire investigative file last June.

Conservative public safety critic Raquel Dancho has accused the government of engaging in a cover-up. She wants Mr. Lametti to appear before the Commons public safety and national security committee next month to explain what happened.

The committee voted last Thursday to hold a hearing in July and call Commissioner Lucki and other Mounties involved in the April 28, 2020, discussion. The committee also wants to hear from Mr. Blair.

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