A senior Mountie testified Thursday he believes political inference was behind RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki’s determination to have police release details on the guns used in the Nova Scotia mass shooting.
Chief Supt. Chris Leather made the comment at the public inquiry into the rampage that took 22 lives on April 18-19, 2020, during cross-examination by Tom MacDonald, a lawyer who represents two family members of victims.
MacDonald asked if Leather believed, after the officer participated in a teleconference with Lucki following the shootings, that the commissioner’s comments reflected political interference in the criminal probe underway at the time.
“That’s my impression,” Leather responded. He said he came to that conclusion after gathering the facts about the “lead-up” to the meeting with Lucki.
RCMP Chief Supt. Darren Campbell has alleged that during a meeting on April 28, 2020, Lucki said she promised the Prime Minister’s Office that the information on the guns would be released in connection with the Liberal government’s “pending gun control legislation.”
The Liberal government was in the midst of drafting fresh gun control measures to reduce access to semi-automatic weapons in the weeks following the mass shooting. Campbell and Leather both testified this week that releasing the information on the guns would have interfered with the ongoing investigation into who provided the killer with the semi-automatic weapons.
Leather, who is the head of criminal operations in Nova Scotia, testified on Wednesday that he had received a call from Lucki on the evening of April 22 — three days after the mass shooting — and that she had asked him to send her details about the guns. The superintendent has said that a list of guns he had sent to Lucki was for internal purposes only.
Leather’s statement about the April 22 call with Lucki, and about a series of emails that followed, hadn’t come up in a July 6 interview with inquiry lawyers.
Mountie says he was told not to ‘proactively disclose’ call
During cross-examination Thursday by Michael Scott — a lawyer who represents the majority of the victims’ families — Leather said he hadn’t discussed the call with Lucki or the emails on July 6 because lawyers with the federal Department of Justice had suggested he take “a reactive posture.”
“The advice I received was not to proactively disclose the conversation [with Lucki] and the emails leading up to the meeting on April 28, ,” Leather testified.
“I knew from my notes and emails I had prepared and submitted that it was obviously relevant to what would become the infamous phone call of April 28 and was troubled by that and wanted their advice and was advised to take a reactive posture.”
Lori Ward, a lawyer for the federal Justice Department and the RCMP, told commissioners Thursday she believed there had been a “misunderstanding” from Leather about that advice. She said she and another federal lawyer had understood that Leather had a document relevant to the April 28, 2020, meeting with Lucki that they needed to review because it might contain privileged information.
“At no time did we advise [Chief Supt.] Leather not to speak about it and not to speak the truth,” she said.
Ward said the document in question, which she didn’t describe in detail, will be disclosed to the inquiry soon.
Lucki has denied interfering in the police investigation. She testified Monday before a House of Commons committee that she didn’t recall telling then-public safety minister Bill Blair that she had “promised” to have the details on the guns released. She said she remembered using different words with Blair.