RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki told a House of Commons committee that a miscommunication between her subordinates and herself resulted in a controversy over whether the government interfered in a police investigation.
Blair and Lucki were testifying at the House of Commons public safety and national security committee on allegations Blair, or his office, pressured Lucki to release details on the guns used in the 2020 Nova Scotia mass shooting.
Blair and Lucki appeared before the committee this summer, where they both denied meddling in the RCMP's investigation. They were responding to reports the Prime Minister's Office and Blair's office wanted information about the weapons to be released publicly in order to advance the Liberal government's gun control agenda.
Earlier this month, the RCMP released audio of an April 2020 call between Lucki and RCMP staff. In that call, Lucki expresses disappointment that investigators didn't disclose the make and model of the weapons, adding that she'd told Blair's office that would happen. Investigators were concerned that publicly releasing that information could compromise their investigation into the massacre.
Before the committee, Lucki said the audio of the call makes it clear that there was no political pressure. Instead, Lucki said RCMP staff made an error by telling her details about the guns would be released.
"There was a miscommunication, this is clear on the recording," Lucki told the committee. "I was not suggesting that the weapons information was needed to inform or support the pending legislation."
Lucki said she spoke with government officials prior to the news conference and that in response to a question from Blair's chief of staff, she said information about the guns would be released because, Lucki said, RCMP staff had told her that is what would happen.
"They didn't ask me to do anything, they just asked a simple question," Lucki said. "There was no direction whatsoever."
The information about the make and model of the guns was not part of the news conference. Lucki said she was expressing her disappointment in the call that her staff had misinformed her.
"The desire to keep the public informed was part of the reason why I wanted the information released," Lucki said. "Once I was informed by my team that releasing the information would jeopardize the ongoing investigation, the matter was closed, and I passed this along to the minister's office."
"It's never pleasant to have a conversation when somebody is not meeting your expectations, " she added.
Lucki said in the April 2020 call that she planned to apologize to the minister. At committee Monday, she said the apology was for misinforming the minister's office about what information the press conference would include.
"It was about an apology of misinformation," Lucki said.
WATCH | RCMP commissioner testifies at committee on 2020 Nova Scotia mass shooting
Raquel Dancho, the Conservative public safety critic, said it was inappropriate for minister's chief of staff to have asked the question.
"To us, that's political pressure from the minister's office. That's the concern here ma'am," Dancho said.
"I appreciate your perception, but your perception is incorrect," Lucki replied.
Liberal MP Pam Damoff said she sympathized with Lucki's frustration in the April 2020 phone call.
"What I read, and what I heard, was a commissioner who was echoing the frustration that all Canadians had about the lack of communication being provided by the Nova Scotia RCMP," Damoff said at the committee.
Lucki replied by expressing concern about the controversy's effect on her reputation.
"I find it difficult, especially when my integrity is being questioned, because as a police officer I pride myself on my integrity," she said. "And having over 37 years of policing, to have my integrity questioned, by anybody, I find it a bit offensive, actually."
Blair denies directing RCMP commissioner
Testifying before Lucki, Blair repeated his earlier denials.
"At no point did I direct the RCMP in any operational matter, including on public communications," Blair said. "I did not ask them to release any specific information, nor did I receive a promise from them to do so."
Blair, a former Toronto police chief, repeatedly said he respects police independence.
"That line is crystal clear in my mind; not to give direction to the RCMP, and it's a principle I have always respected."
Blair also denied the Prime Minister's Office pressured Lucki. He cited the RCMP Act, which says that only the minister of public safety can give direction to the RCMP commissioner.
WATCH | Blair testifies at committee on 2020 Nova Scotia mass shooting:
Both Blair and Lucki said most of their communication is done in-person, and that Lucki mostly communicated with staff at Blair's office.
Blair told the committee he didn't think it was necessary for the RCMP to release information about the weapons at the news conference.
Dancho told Blair she found the discrepancies between Blair and Lucki's recollection of the events to be troubling.
"You've denied all the words that [Lucki] said to be true, and yet you have not fired her. I find that shocking," Dancho said.