Alleged interference in Nova Scotia shooting investigation ‘beneficial’: Polytechnique survivor – National

Former Public Safety Minister Bill Blair was asked again on Wednesday about his government’s interference in the investigation into the April 2020 shooting in Nova Scotia – an issue that has captured political attention in Ottawa for over a week.

Blair and the Prime Minister’s Office are accused of pressuring RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki to release details of the type of weapons used by the shooter, with two RCMP officials alleging Lucki told them said the information was related to upcoming gun legislation.

The government announced the ban on assault-type weapons on May 1, 2020, after Cabinet approved an Order in Council enacting the changes.

The Conservatives accused the Liberals of using a tragedy to advance their agenda. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said in a statement last week that it was completely unacceptable for any government to « use this horrific act of mass murder to gain support for its gun policy. »

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Mass shooting in Nova Scotia: Blair will ‘of course’ stay in cabinet despite interference allegations

But that’s not how a survivor of another mass shooting sees it.

Heidi Rathjen was a student at École polytechnique de Montréal in December 1989 when a gunman killed 14 women and injured 14 others at the school.

She said the response to the mass shootings should be « political and immediate ».

“The Conservatives and the gun lobby have crumbled saying that the (Orders in Council) were some kind of underhanded, self-serving political maneuver that exploited a tragedy, when for the majority of Canadians, banning firearms assault is the right thing to do. to prevent mass shootings,” she said in an email to The Canadian Press.

« If it took tragedy to spur the government to take long-awaited action on gun control, that may be a sad commentary on politics, but it’s certainly good for public safety. »

Rathjen, who heads an advocacy group called PolySeSouvient, said he « wishes » the government had reacted immediately to what happened at Polytechnique.

“Unfortunately, it took six years of advocacy before reasonable gun control legislation was passed, and the families of the victims are still fighting for a comprehensive ban on assault weapons – three decades later. «

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Click to play video: “At no time did I cross that line,” Blair tells reporters amid questions about interference in the RCMP investigation into a shooting in Nova Scotia.  »

‘At no time did I cross that line,’ Blair told reporters amid questions about interference in the RCMP investigation into a Nova Scotia shooting.

‘At no time did I cross that line,’ Blair told reporters amid questions about interference in the RCMP investigation into a Nova Scotia shooting.

Blair said his office worked with the RCMP on the prohibited weapons list for months before the announcement, but those conversations were « unrelated » to discussions of the shooting.

“The RCMP was of course involved in these discussions from the beginning, as they are responsible for the administration of the Canadian Firearms Program,” he said.

Allegations of government interference were revealed by evidence released by the public inquiry into the shooting, in written notes from the superintendent. Darren Campbell and a letter to Lucki written by RCMP Director of Strategic Communications Lia Scanlan regarding a meeting held 10 days after the shooting.

Scanlan’s letter, which was written almost a year later, said Lucki referred to « pressure and conversations with Minister Blair, which we clearly understood to be related to the upcoming passage of firearms legislation. Scanlan’s perception that the commissioner was under political pressure left her disgusted.

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« It was appalling, inappropriate, unprofessional and extremely demeaning, » Scanlan wrote.

Lucki acknowledged that she « expressed her frustration with the flow of information » during the meeting.

Blair and Lucki denied that there was pressure to publish a list of weapons used in the shooting, and neither they nor the Nova Scotia RCMP released this information to the public before it was reported. by the media in November 2020.

Former police officer Michael Arntfield said that if the alleged interference had occurred, it is unclear how it would have impacted operations or the investigation.

But more importantly, he says, the “juicy political scandal” distracts from what is supposed to be an investigation into why and how a man dressed as a police officer and armed with illegal weapons was able to evade police and continue to kill for more than 13 hours.

“The broader conversation about systemic issues in the RCMP operationally, administratively, has been paved over,” said Arntfield, a professor of criminology at Western University.

Blair said he had questions for Lucki when they spoke, and stressed that the government « heard very clearly the concerns of the people of Nova Scotia » about the actions of the RCMP.

He said that’s why the public inquiry _ which he initially opposed calling _ was tasked with exploring the RCMP’s disclosure.

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The force posted limited information to the public on Twitter during the shooting.

He sent a single tweet on April 18 warning of a « gun complaint » in Portapique, even though the communications manager on duty that night knew that several people had died and the location of the shooter was unknown.

Thirteen people were killed that night and several buildings were set on fire. The following morning, the gunman killed nine other people as he drove through rural parts of the province, evading police until shortly before noon.

The inquest heard it took 27 minutes to get Scanlan’s approval that morning for a tweet warning the public that the shooter was driving a fake RCMP car and wearing a police uniform.

Meanwhile, Kristen Beaton and Heather O’Brien were murdered on the side of the highway in Debert, Nova Scotia. Beaton was pregnant when she was killed. Her husband, Nick Beaton, and O’Brien’s daughter, Darcy Dobson, led calls for a public inquiry into what went wrong in July 2020.

« When you’ve taken the oxygen out of (an investigation) that’s been organized at the request of bereaved families for answers about what’s wrong with the RCMP, it distracts from the original motivation of the investigation, » Arntfield said, adding questions about what went wrong. gone wrong is « the life or death of Canadians ».

© 2022 The Canadian Press


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