Canada

Liberals knew exact details of guns used in Nova Scotia massacre within days

Trudeau received a briefing document dated April 24, prepared by his then national security advisor, detailing what weapons were used and how they were acquired

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OTTAWA – The Prime Minister’s Office was in possession of a list of the firearms used in the 2020 Nova Scotia shooting spree days before the RCMP commissioner allegedly pressured local officers to publicly release the list to help with government gun-control messaging.

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RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki has come under a barrage of criticism from opposition parties after handwritten notes from Nova Scotia Superintendent Darren Campbell presented to the Mass Casualty Commission were released this week. The commission is looking into the police response and other aspects of Canada’s worst mass shooting, which occurred over the course of two days and left 22 people dead.

Campbell’s handwritten notes, from a conversation on April 28 with Lucki 10 days after the incident, indicated Lucki was upset that police had not revealed during a press briefing that day the model names and details of the weapons used in the April 18–19 shooting spree. Campbell has yet to testify at the commission, but in his notes he said he told Lucki he could not release those details because it would interfere with the ongoing investigation.

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The notes also allege Lucki told the RCMP in Nova Scotia she had “promised” then minister of public safety Bill Blair and the Prime Minister’s Office that the RCMP would release the firearm details, something she said “was tied to pending gun control legislation” the Liberal government was preparing.

However, days before Lucki’s conversation with Campbell, the prime minister received a briefing document on the Nova Scotia shootings, prepared by his then national security advisor Vincent Rigby. The note, which is dated as April 24, details exactly what weapons were used and how they were acquired.

When Campbell’s allegations were published by the Mass Casualty Commission earlier this week, Conservative MPs said the possibility of political interference into a police investigation demands an investigation.

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“Our police need to be able to do their important work without politicians making attempts to steer or influence them in any way, said opposition public safety critic and Conservative MP Raquel Dancho. “Not only is this critical to ensuring there is faith and trust in our institutions, but Canadians expect nothing less.”

The April 24 briefing note to the prime minister indicated the police already knew what weapons were used in the massacre and where they had come from. The shooter, Gabriel Wortman, who police killed during a standoff, didn’t have a firearms licence, making all of the weapons in his possession illegal and most had been smuggled illegally into Canada.

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Two of the guns were rifles, a Colt Law Enforcement Carbine and Sturn Ruger Mini-14. The Colt rifle had been smuggled into Canada after being purchased in California and the Ruger had been purchased at a Canadian gun shop, according to the briefing note.

The other weapons he had at the time of the shooting were handguns, both illegally smuggled into Canada after having been purchased at gun shops in Maine.

Both the Colt Carbine and the Sturn Ruger were banned by the Liberals when they introduced new gun-control measures on May 1, 2020. But the models of the weapons used in the Nova Scotia shooting were not made public until November 2020, when the National Post acquired the briefing note through an access-to-information request.

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The public safety minister was asked about the type of weapons used in the shooting during the May 1, 2020 press conference announcing the new measures, and said it was up to the RCMP to identify them.

“The responsibility for identifying the weapons that were used in Nova Scotia is with the RCMP and the release of any information pertaining to those is theirs,” Blair said. He did, however, reveal that the government was banning the weapons Wortman had used, but did not specify which ones they were among the roughly 1,500 guns affected by the new bans.

“I can say with some confidence that the two long guns that were involved in that investigation without identifying them, are included on today’s list.”

Blair has said this past week, he was kept informed of the investigation, but no one in the government interfered in the case.

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“At no point in time could there ever be any interference in an ongoing investigation and that includes the communications with respect to that investigation,” said Blair, now minister of emergency preparedness.

Then-Public Safety Minister Bill Blair speaks in the House of Commons on April 20, 2020.
Then-Public Safety Minister Bill Blair speaks in the House of Commons on April 20, 2020. Photo by Blair Gable/Reuters/File

Lucki released a statement saying she regretted her language in the meeting with Campbell, but also insisted there was no political interference.

“It was a tense discussion, and I regret the way I approached the meeting and the impact it had on those in attendance. My need for information should have been better weighed against the seriousness of the circumstances they were experiencing.”

Adam Rodgers, a Nova Scotia lawyer who has been closely following the mass casualty commission, said he believes this debate over the commissioner’s role is a distraction from the Mounties’ larger failings.

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“The RCMP is in real trouble here and people in Nova Scotia who have been following it know that,” he said. “I think the RCMP is making a move here to sacrifice the commissioner in favor of the brand. I think that’s where all this is leading.”

Rodgers said there is a real push in the province to abandon the RCMP and create a provincial police force. He said on the issue of revealing the type of weapons used, the RCMP should have been more forthcoming.

He said if there was an active investigation they should say more about where it led.

“They’ve lost the benefit of the doubt. So if they’re going to lean on that explanation, they need to reveal what active investigation is ongoing.”

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