Public inquiry in Nova Scotia seeking explanation from Ottawa over withheld notes

HALIFAX – The Nova Scotia mass shooting investigation wants to find out why the federal Justice Department withheld the notes of a senior Mountie for several months – and whether more revelations will follow.

“The committee sought an explanation… why four pages were missing from the original disclosure,” Barbara McLean, the investigation’s director of research, said in an email Friday.

“The committee also demands an explanation for all the material withheld.”

On Tuesday, the investigation released internal RCMP documents with notes from Supt. Darren Campbell during a meeting with senior officers and staff on April 28, 2020 — nine days after a gunman killed 22 people in northern and central Nova Scotia.

At the meeting, RCMP chief Commissioner Brenda Lucki said she was disappointed that details about the firearms used by the killer had not been released at previous press conferences in Halifax, according to Campbell’s notes.

Campbell claims Lucki said she promised the Prime Minister’s Office that the Mounties would release the descriptions, adding that the information would be “linked to pending gun control legislation that would make officers and the public safer”.

The inspector’s notes sparked controversy in Ottawa earlier this week, when the opposition Tories and New Democrats accused the ruling Liberals of meddling in a police investigation for political gain — claims denied by the government and Lucki.

Meanwhile, the Commission of Inquiry confirmed Friday that the Justice Department sent 132 pages of Campbell’s notes in February 2022, but that his notes about the April meeting were not included.

The missing notes were presented to the committee on May 31.

McLean says the commission is seeking assurances that nothing else has been held back, and she complained about RCMP documents that had already been made public.

“These documents have often been provided in a disjointed manner, requiring extensive review by the committee team,” McLean wrote in her email. “Our team continues to carefully review all disclosures for any gaps or additional information needed to fulfill our mandate.”

Michael Scott, a lawyer whose office represents 14 of the victims’ families, said he was concerned about the document’s delay.

“Any time documents are vetted, redacted or withheld in a way that’s not quite appropriate, it completely undermines the process as a whole,” he said in an interview on Friday.

Scott said that not only do we have to read thousands of pages of records, transcripts and notes submitted to the investigation, we now have to worry about not getting all the documents.”

The Conservatives released a statement Friday alleging a federal cover-up.

“Canadians will find it hard to believe that the Attorney General’s Department happened to miss those four critical pages of evidence,” the statement said. “This is no coincidence. This was not an accident.”

Kent Roach, a law professor at the University of Toronto, said delays in receiving information from the RCMP are causing the investigation to grapple with important issues late in its mandate. The final report of the study is due by November 1, and all submissions are expected in September.

“It’s a shame because public investigations need the full document ASAP so they can decide what to look at and what not to look at,” said Roach, author of “Canadian Policing: Why and How It Must Change.”

“Had the Mass Accidents Commission known about this sooner, it might have decided to conduct its hearings and investigations in a different way,” he said Friday.

The professor said Campbell’s comments raise questions about the RCMP’s structure and its competing mandates to be both a local and national police force whose commissioner serves “to the satisfaction” of the secretary of public security.

“My concern is that the citizens (of Nova Scotia) seem to be on the sidelines as there is tension and bickering between RCMP Nova Scotia and RCMP Ottawa,” he said.

The Canadian Press requested comment from the RCMP, but a response was not immediately available.

Campbell said in an email that he would not comment. He said he was waiting for an interview with the committee.

“My interview is scheduled and it will take place in the very near future,” he wrote.

“I also expect to be called as a witness before the Mass Casualty Commission sometime towards the end of July and I look forward to both opportunities. As such, it would be inappropriate for me to make public comments before making a statement under oath.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on June 24, 2022.

This story was made possible with financial support from the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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