RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki initially recommended the federal government not share information on the types of guns used in the Nova Scotia mass shooting — a stance she apparently shifted a few days later.
Emails released Monday by a public inquiry indicate Lucki wrote to then-public safety minister Bill Blair’s chief of staff and deputy minister on April 23, 2020, days after the gunman killed 22 people using multiple firearms.
She lists the names of two semi-automatic pistols and two semi-automatic rifles that the killer used, and says the information shouldn’t be sent any further than the prime minister and the minister, as the information is “directly related to this active investigation.”
However, by the time of an April 28 news conference, Lucki’s stance had shifted, as she appeared displeased that RCMP Supt. Darren Campbell had declined to provide reporters with details on the weapons.
She commented in an email to Blair’s chief of staff that afternoon that Campbell’s refusal to disclose the information was “not the execution I was expecting.”
Blair and the Prime Minister’s Office are accused of pressuring Lucki to release details about the type of weapons used by the gunman, with two RCMP officials — including Campbell — alleging Lucki told them that information was connected to upcoming gun legislation.
After the allegations surfaced at the public inquiry into the April 18-19, 2020, mass shooting, the Conservatives and NDP accused the Liberals of using a tragedy to further their gun-control policy.
Lucki has acknowledged in a statement she did “express frustration with the flow of information” in a meeting with Nova Scotia RCMP in the hours after the April 28 news conference.
However, both Blair and Lucki have denied there was any pressure to release a list of the weapons used in the shooting, and in fact neither they nor the Nova Scotia RCMP revealed that information to the public before it was reported by the media in November 2020.
Some experts on guns and criminal investigations have suggested that lost in the partisan bickering was the issue of the public’s right to know about the firearms in question.
A.J. Somerset, the author of a book on gun culture, told The Canadian Press that people who knew they’d been involved in selling the mass killer a gun would avoid contact with police, regardless of whether details of the guns had been released.
However, the public inquiry has recently issued additional subpoenas to the RCMP, following concerns the federal police force has withheld documents. The public inquiry continues to “seek assurance that nothing else is being held back,” Emily Hill, the senior commission counsel, said in an email last week.
The government announced a ban on assault-style weapons on May 1, 2020, after cabinet approved an order-in-council enacting the changes.