PHOTO: Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair speaks during question period in the House of Commons on Wednesday, June 22, 2022. PHOTO BY JUSTIN TANG/THE CANADIAN PRESS
With Prime Minister Justin Trudeau away on an international trip, Blair was left to dodge questions from the opposition benches and deny all wrongdoing from the Prime Minister’s Office or from himself in the days following the tragedy.
Question period became so tense that the Speaker of the House of Commons scolded both Liberals and Conservatives to stop throwing insults at each other.
“If somebody says again ‘he did it first’… I feel like I’m in a kindergarten yard here,” said Anthony Rota in a moment of exasperation.
Documents and notes released Tuesday by the inquiry into the tragedy revealed a “tense” conversation between Lucki and RCMP officers in charge of overseeing the investigation days after a gunman dressed as a RCMP officer killed 22 people over 13 hours.
Lucki pressured the officers to publicly release information about the specific firearms used in the shooting in order to advance the federal government’s gun-control legislation, according to handwritten notes from Nova Scotia RCMP Supt. Darren Campbell, who was on the conference call with Lucki.
She stated, based on Campbell’s notes, that “she had promised the Minister of Public Safety and the Prime Minister’s Office” the RCMP would release this information.
Days after the conference call, Trudeau and Blair, who was public safety minister at the time, announced the ban of over 1,500 assault-style firearms. In the press release detailing the announcement, the government referenced the recent tragedy in Nova Scotia to emphasize the importance of combating gun violence.
Lucki denied Tuesday that she interfered in the investigation into the largest mass shooting in Canadian history, and said she regrets the way she approached the meeting at the time. But she has not denied that she made that request on orders from the Liberal government.
“It was a tense discussion, and I regret the way I approached the meeting and the impact it had on those in attendance,” she said in a statement. “My need for information should have been better weighed against the seriousness of the circumstances they were experiencing. I should have been more sensitive in my approach.”
Multiple attempts by interim Conservative leader Candice Bergen and MPs to get Blair to shine light on his conversations with Lucki over the N.S. mass shooting proved unsuccessful. The minister stuck to the RCMP commissioner’s statement, which he said was the “truth.”
“Independence of law enforcement operations is a key principle of our democracy. And it’s one that our government deeply respects and one that I have totally defended,” insisted Blair, as the Official Opposition roared with laughter on the other side of the House of Commons.
Bergen called it “disgusting” that Trudeau and his government would leverage the massacre to advance their political agenda on gun control.
Conservative MP Dane Lloyd tried to clarify if Blair discussed the upcoming gun legislation with the RCMP Commissioner in the immediate days after the tragedy in April 2020.
Blair responded that the Liberal Party of Canada had campaigned on a promise to strengthen gun control and to ban assault-style rifles during the 2019 federal election.
“In May of 2020, we kept that promise,” he said.
On more than one occasion, the minister said that he was routinely briefed by the commissioner and her staff on the events in Nova Scotia as is standard procedure, but never spoke directly to Campbell, the superintendent that is now making headlines with his revelations.
Nova Scotia MP Stephen Ellis asked for an emergency debate on the matter, saying that some of his constituents were being “re-victimized by the actions of some members of this House spreading disinformation,” but his request was refused by the Speaker.
MPs Raquel Dancho and Pierre Paul-Hus said they have requested an emergency meeting of the parliamentary committee on Public Safety and National Security to get to the bottom of the story.
Earlier that day, Bergen had dismissed the idea of a parliamentary committee probe, arguing that Liberals would work with their NDP partners to “cover up” the allegations. That is why she called for an “open and transparent” investigation.
“I think there has to be more independence and the ability for more of an independent investigation to happen. I don’t trust the NDP to not cover up for the Liberals.”