The federal deputy justice minister has defended his division’s attorneys after a former Supreme Courtroom decide raised “critical issues” concerning the recommendation they gave to a high-ranking RCMP officer within the Nova Scotia mass taking pictures inquiry, together with to not discuss sure proof until particularly requested.
Thomas Cromwell, the director of authorized counsel for the general public inquiry into the April 2020 bloodbath, wrote to Division of Justice lawyer Lori Ward two weeks in the past about Chief Supt. Chris Leather-based’s testimony final month.
“Some facets of his testimony have given rise to some critical issues that I need to elevate with you,” wrote Cromwell, who sat on the Supreme Courtroom of Canada from 2008 to 2016.
The Aug. 5 letter was disclosed by the Mass Casualty Fee this week. It’s main the inquiry into the mass taking pictures when 22 individuals, together with a pregnant girl, have been killed by a gunman as he drove a mock police automobile throughout the province.
Leather-based, who was the top of felony operations in Nova Scotia on the time of the shootings, has testified he obtained a name from RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki on the night of April 22, 2020, shortly after the killings. He mentioned Lucki requested him to ship her particulars concerning the weapons utilized by the shooter, and he did ship her an inventory for inner functions solely.
However Leather-based’s name and electronic mail correspondence with Lucki did not come up in a July 6 interview with inquiry attorneys. Leather-based testified on July 28 that attorneys with the federal Division of Justice, together with Ward, advised him to not “proactively disclose” his dialog and emails with Lucki.
“I knew from my notes and emails I had ready and submitted that it was clearly related to what would turn into the notorious telephone name of April 28  and was troubled by that and needed their recommendation and was suggested to take a reactive posture,” Leather-based mentioned.
When he testified final month, Leather-based advised the fee he had additionally sought “impartial authorized counsel” after the dialogue with the justice division attorneys.
Questions round whether or not Lucki was below political stress to launch the specifics of the gunman’s firearms have swirled for weeks, ever since Chief Supt. Darren Campbell’s notes from the April 28, 2020, name have been launched as a part of the inquiry.
Campbell wrote the commissioner was “unhappy and dissatisfied” and “had promised the minister of Public Security and the Prime Minister’s Workplace that the RCMP, [we] would launch this info.”
On Might 4, 2020, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau introduced a ban on some 1,500 makes and fashions of firearms, together with two of the weapons used within the Nova Scotia mass taking pictures. At the moment, police had not launched the details about the weapons used within the assaults.
The allegations have resulted in parliamentary hearings to handle allegations of potential political interference, together with a listening to in Ottawa on Tuesday.
If Leather-based’s testimony is correct, Cromwell mentioned it is regarding that federal attorneys would have given this recommendation when their shoppers have the “obligation” to assist the fee obtain their mandate within the public curiosity.
“Whereas I perceive that this type of recommendation is normal for witnesses in civil litigation … or at trial, it’s in my opinion not acceptable to present this recommendation to a senior officer of the RCMP taking part on this fee of inquiry,” Cromwell mentioned.
He additionally requested for Ward’s assurance that this type of recommendation “has not and won’t be given to different witnesses” showing for interviews or testimony earlier than the fee.
“Reasonably, I’d hope and anticipate that witnesses could be inspired to share the related info that they’ve,” Cromwell wrote.
Within the Ottawa listening to Tuesday, MPs requested Campbell about his conversations with justice attorneys. He mentioned he didn’t get the identical recommendation as Leather-based about how one can testify.
Cromwell additionally requested Ward whether or not different “clearly related materials” has been held again by justice attorneys as a result of it was not particularly requested, and famous that in relation to paperwork the fee’s normal subpoena stays in impact.
In an electronic mail to Cromwell a number of days afterward Aug. 9, 2022, Ward mentioned Leather-based’s testimony concerning the recommendation he’d been given by justice attorneys “can solely be the results of a misunderstanding.”
“Counsel didn’t present such recommendation,” Ward mentioned.
Ward mentioned Leather-based’s emails exhibiting that he despatched the firearms particulars to the assistant RCMP commissioner, who then despatched them to Lucki, have been disclosed to the fee on Might 19, 2021. She additionally mentioned notes of the April 28, 2020, assembly had been disclosed by that time and the assembly’s context was already out in public — so there would have been no “logical motive” to advise Leather-based to not communicate freely on the difficulty.
The one time they suggested Leather-based to chorus from providing info was when he mentioned the April 28 assembly with Lucki was additionally introduced up in an inner office evaluation in Nova Scotia, Ward wrote.
François Daigle, deputy minister of Justice and deputy Lawyer Common of Canada, echoed Ward’s place earlier than the Home of Commons committee Tuesday.
Daigle mentioned because the justice attorneys had not heard something concerning the inner assessment till Leather-based introduced it up, their recommendation was “do not elevate it if they do not elevate it.”
Justice attorneys additionally did not be taught of Leather-based’s name with Lucki on April 22 till he testified to that publicly, Daigle mentioned, so for Leather-based to recommend the justice division advised him to not deliver up a gathering they did not find out about “would not make sense.”
“My conclusion is that he misunderstood the recommendation. Our recommendation was solely particularly with respect to the … report as a result of we did not know something about it,” Daigle mentioned.
Ward wrote that it is “important” to notice that when it got here to senior officer’s interviews, the fee counsel had reminded them to inform the RCMP officers they need to concentrate on “answering the questions posed” as a result of time was brief.
Because of this, Ward mentioned justice attorneys would have shared that recommendation with Leather-based “with the caveat that he ought to be at liberty to share no matter extra info he believed to be related.”
However Leather-based’s recollection of the recommendation additionally alarmed Bruce Pitt-Payne of British Columbia, a retired RCMP officer.
He mentioned this can be a prime instance of battle of curiosity “rearing its ugly head,” and reveals that justice division attorneys shouldn’t be representing events with various pursuits like Leather-based, Lucki, federal ministers and the prime minister.
“All could possibly be in battle right here due to this setup,” Pitt-Payne mentioned.
As a substitute, Pitt-Payne mentioned separate justice attorneys with separate privilege must be assigned to every of these events. He mentioned choices are at the moment being made “that are not essentially within the curiosity of the investigation.”
Pitt-Payne has filed an official criticism about Ward’s conduct with the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society, citing her recommendation to Leather-based and alleged battle of curiosity.
Given the dimensions of the inquiry to research one of many worst massacres in Canadian historical past, Pitt-Payne mentioned it might be a disgrace if the fee wasn’t capable of meet their goals by “unethical authorized video games.”
“My worry is that one thing is perhaps lined up so as to defend one of many [justice department’s] entities, which can in all probability be increased up the meals chain than the Chris Leathers and the Darren Campbells,” Pitt-Payne mentioned.
“That, I feel, must be everyone’s concern when you will have such an necessary fee happening.”
35 pages of notes held again by justice attorneys
The fee has additionally launched emails between Cromwell and Ward on why the 4 essential pages of Campbell’s notes on the April 28, 2020, assembly with Lucki have been initially lacking when the Division of Justice initially despatched them to the fee, with out clarification.
On June 22, Cromwell requested why the justice division didn’t inform the fee about these key pages, and in addition requested for whether or not another supplies have been at the moment being held again and being checked for “privilege.”
Ward agreed in a June 24 electronic mail that they’d not defined they might be holding again pages of Campbell’s notes and so they “ought to have finished so.” She mentioned at that time, of the 35 pages of senior officers’ notes initially held again to test for privilege, solely three pages remained below assessment from Chief Supt. Janis Grey who oversaw the Halifax RCMP district and is now retired.
It seems that as of Tuesday, all of Grey’s notes have been posted on-line by the fee.