Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Good afternoon. I'm speaking to you from the traditional territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe people.
This isn't the first time I've testified on the perception of political interference. The released audio recording of the April 28, 2020, meeting makes it abundantly clear: I did not, nor did I attempt to, interfere in the criminal investigation into the 2020 mass casualty event in Nova Scotia on behalf of Minister Blair or the Prime Minister.
There was no political interference. I was neither asked, directed nor pressured by government officials to release information specific to the firearms used by the perpetrator in these horrific attacks. I had the information on the firearms, and I had the authority to release it publicly—I did not. I respected the views of my employees that releasing it at the time could impact the investigation.
In all my interactions with government officials, I'm aware of my responsibilities as commissioner and the importance of ensuring foundational principles of police independence. This is so important for the RCMP, for all police services.
I would encourage this committee to consider the difference between law enforcement's sharing information versus the perception of political interference. As I outlined for this committee in July and at the Mass Casualty Commission, there were requests for information on all aspects of the attacks, including information related to the firearms. The requests for information were reasonable and did not raise any concerns of political interference or impact the operational independence of the RCMP.
As commissioner, it's my responsibility to provide accurate, relevant, and timely information to government counterparts, elected officials and their offices. These were the expectations that I was outlining in the April 28 meeting with my colleagues in Nova Scotia. I was not being briefed with the necessary information about the ongoing operation, and it was for this reason that the meeting was called. Those who have listened to the recordings heard that I was frustrated with the information flow from Nova Scotia RCMP, be it related to victims, sites and the supports provided to RCMP employees. This is in line with my previous testimony before the committee and the MCC. In the lead-up to the April 28 press conference, I provided government officials with an overview of the information that was being made public. The sharing of the information in briefings with the Minister of Public Safety are necessary, particularly during significant operations or incidents. It is common practice and does not impact the integrity of ongoing investigations or interfere with the independence of the RCMP.
It was at this time that I was asked if the information about weapons would be included. Following a briefing from my team at national headquarters, confirming the information was to be publicly released, I, in turn, advised government officials of the same. There was a miscommunication, and this is clear on the recording. Sharon Tessier notes that she likely told me that Darren Campbell was going to speak about the weapons in the upcoming press conference, and then acknowledged that she had, in fact, misinformed me.
During the call, you hear me reference pending gun legislation to help provide context on why it was important to be clear on what we would share. I was not suggesting that the weapons information was needed to inform or support the pending legislation. It was simply about providing context for my employees.
In addition to the legislation, there was considerable public interest in knowing about the firearms used in the attacks. This is something seen following other mass shootings, both here and in Canada and in other countries around the world. The desire to keep the public informed was part of the reason I wanted the information released. We were getting questions at press conferences, and I wanted to be sure that I was providing clear and accurate information about what we could and would say at different points in the days and weeks following the event.
As I have already stated, once I was informed by my team that the releasing of information would jeopardize the ongoing investigation, the matter was closed, and I passed this along to the minister's office.
I know how important today's discussions are, but I want to reiterate and be very clear for the record: I did not interfere with the investigation. I did not receive direction. I was not influenced by elected or government officials in relation to the direction of the investigation or the release of the information to the public.
I love the RCMP, and I am so honoured to be the commissioner. I'm so incredibly proud of the great work my employees do from coast to coast to coast each and every day, and I'm so thankful for them. I would never impact the operational independence of my organization. Maintaining integrity is absolutely paramount.
Following today's testimony, it's my hope that we can quickly move past this conversation in order to help the people of Nova Scotia continue to heal and to keep the focus on those impacted.
These discussions are important.