One of Canada's top Mounties says there was a recording of a conference call with the RCMP commissioner that sparked concerns of political interference — but it has since been deleted.
Deputy Commissioner Brian Brennan testified Friday about the recording before the Mass Casualty Commission leading the public inquiry into the 2020 Nova Scotia mass shootings.
Brennan said Dan Brien, director of media relations with the RCMP, recorded at least some of the phone call. Brennan was also on the April 28, 2020 call between with Commissioner Brenda Lucki and high-ranking Nova Scotia RCMP officers and civilian staff.
Brennan said he was aware of an internal RCMP investigation into where the recording was and whether it could be retrieved, but has been told the recording is gone.
"It doesn't exist because Mr. Brien has deleted it from whatever phone he was using," Brennan said.
There has been disagreement about what happened during that April 28 call.
Four Nova Scotia RCMP team members have told the commission that Lucki was angry that details about the gunman's firearms were not released at a news conference earlier that day.
Chief Supt. Darren Campbell's notes from that day said Lucki had "promised the minister of public safety and the Prime Minister's Office" the RCMP would release the details ahead of the Liberal government's pending gun legislation.
But Brennan has told the commission he didn't remember legislation being mentioned during the call.
Lucki has said that Bill Blair, then public safety minister, never directed or ordered her to disclose the makes and models of the guns.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said the government did not put any "undue" pressure on the RCMP.
Brennan said he didn't learn until April or May of this year, two years after the call, that Brien had recorded it.
RCMP spokesperson Robin Percival confirmed in an email to CBC News on Tuesday that a recording was made of "some part" of the April 28 phone call. She said RCMP senior management was "recently made aware of the recording" and the commission was "promptly" informed of the situation.
"The RCMP has been informed the recording is no longer available," Percival said.
She said the RCMP is reviewing the matter under the applicable privacy and security regimes "to determine what further actions are required," but as that review is ongoing the RCMP cannot not comment further on the issue.
Brennan made no mention of this recording in his appearance before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security (SECU) meeting in July around allegations of political interference, or his August interview with the commission.
Michael Scott, a lawyer with Patterson Law representing many victims' families, suggested to Brennan it would have been helpful to know about this recording before now to clear up the "glaring discrepancy" between what Lucki and what the Nova Scotia team say happened on that call.
"I don't disagree. It never came up in terms of the meeting — and I don't have a lot of information about the recording," Brennan said.
Scott told CBC News that Brennan's comments caught his attention because it seems the existence of this recording has been known for months.
Scott said his team would be asking commission counsel about how they are pressing the federal justice department to get a clear answer on the issue.
"I don't think we'll be satisfied until we get either a copy of the recording, or a lot of details about how an electronic recording of a meeting with the RCMP national headquarters could have gone missing," Scott said.
When Scott asked Brennan last week why it's taken so long to figure out what happened to the recording, Brennan agreed that it's "not that complicated" to order that Brien's phone should be retrieved, but he didn't know where that process stood.
Even if the recording has been deleted, Brennan said he had no idea about whether it could still be recovered from the cloud, or whether a search warrant might be needed for the phone.
If a recording of the entirety of the April 28 call does exist, Brennan said it would "bring absolute clarity" to all the questions that are being asked by the commission and House of Commons committee.
"There would be no doubt, no room for interpretation, if it's there in its entirety," Brennan said.
Brien requested by committee
The Mass Casualty Commission is continuing to follow up with the Attorney General of Canada about "whether such a recording still exists, and if so to obtain a copy," investigations director Barbara McLean said in an email Tuesday.
The SECU has requested to hear testimony from Brien, but he did not appear at either of their meetings into the possible political interference issue in July or August.
The committee will next meet sometime before Sept. 30 to determine if it wishes to continue the current study of this issue, and what witnesses they should hear from.
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