Lead investigator in N.S. mass shooting says he stands by political interference accusations
OTTAWA -- The senior Mountie who made allegations of political meddling in the investigation into the 2020 Nova Scotia mass shooting defended his position to members of parliament Tuesday.
Nova Scotia RCMP Chief Supt. Darren Campbell maintains his conversation with RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki on April 28, 2020 — which has since spurred accusations of political interference in the police investigation of the mass shooting — happened as he detailed in his handwritten notes.
Campbell said he has a “distinct recollection of the content of that discussion,” and reiterated the commissioner said she’d made a promise to the government, tied to pending gun legislation.
Campbell testified before the House of Commons Public Safety and National Security Committee on Tuesday as part of ongoing meetings looking into allegations of political interference in the investigation of the 13-hour shooting rampage in 2020 in Portapique, N.S., which left 22 people dead.
Seven people were slated to appear before the committee Tuesday, including Campbell, Deputy Minister of Justice and Deputy Attorney General of Canada François Daigle, and Lia Scanlan, a strategic communications director.
Campbell and Scanlan have both made accusations of political interference, saying officials put pressure on police to release details about the gunman’s weapons following the shooting in an effort to push new gun legislation.
As part of the Mass Casualty Commission — an ongoing independent public inquiry created to examine the worst mass shooting in Canadian history — documents were released showing Campbell had handwritten notes from a meeting with Lucki in the days following the shooting. The notes indicated Lucki said she’d assured Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair and the Prime Minister’s Office the RCMP would release information about the gunman’s firearms.
Campbell has said releasing that information would have jeopardized the investigation into the killings.
“It was never my intention to enter into a political or public disagreement or discussion as to what took place in that meeting, nor was my response to the meeting based on any personal issues with a commissioner or indeed any other individuals. Nor was it based on politics,” he said. “At the heart of the issue was a matter of principle and sound investigative best practices related to protecting the ongoing investigation, which at the time was in its early stages.”
Campbell added he never had any direct conversations with anyone from the government on the issue.
Blair and Lucki have both repeatedly denied pressuring the RCMP or interfering in the investigation. Lucki told the Public Safety and National Security Committee in July it was a ‘miscommunication’ during the meeting.
But Campbell is sticking by what he wrote following the meeting.
“The commissioner made me feel as if I was stupid and I didn't seem to understand the importance of why this information was important to go out, information specific to the firearms as it was related to the legislation,” Campbell told MPs on Tuesday. “She didn't seem to appreciate or recognize the importance of maintaining the integrity of an investigation.”
Scanlan, who was also on the April 28 call, said she interpreted the meeting — and Lucki’s alleged comments — in the same way Campbell did.
“It was a feeling of disgust,” Scanlan said. “I was embarrassed to be a part of it. I was embarrassed to be listening to it. And message received, I understood exactly what was being said.”
Meanwhile, earlier in Tuesday’s committee meeting, Canada’s deputy attorney general said that though lawyers and paralegals working for the Department of Justice are responsible for reviewing and delivering documents to the Mass Casualty Commission, the justice minister and ministerial staff had “no involvement whatsoever” in that process.
While Campbell said he turned over his notes relating to the investigation early on, they were not discovered by the commission until June 2022.
Daigle told the committee there were 2,400 pages worth of handwritten notes to be presented to the Mass Casualty Commission as part of its inquiry.
Thirty-five pages of those notes were withheld pending a review to examine whether some of the information was privileged. Of those, 13 were written by Campbell, and four detailed the April 28 conversation between Campbell and Lucki.
Daigle emphasized to the commission that Justice Minister David Lametti and ministerial staff were not involved in the process of withholding, reviewing or producing any documentation to the Mass Casualty Commission.
The RCMP has faced criticism for its lack of communication with the public during and after the shootings, and a 126-page document released by the commission in June states there were significant confusion and delays.
The Public Safety and National Security Committee is set to meet next at the end of September.
With files from CTVNews.ca’s Rachel Aiello and The Canadian Press
An earlier version of this story stated that the Department of Justice is not involved with reviewing and providing documents to the Mass Casualty Commission, when in fact it is the justice minister and ministerial staff that are not involved in that process.