HALIFAX — At the centre of the political firestorm erupting over the RCMP’s response to the worst mass shooting in Canadian history is a phrase used by police to justify withholding case information.
In the weeks after a gunman killed 22 people during a 13-hour rampage on April 18-19, 2020, Nova Scotia RCMP officers insisted that disclosure of key facts — including details about the weapons used — could “jeopardize the integrity” of their investigation.
But what does that phrase really mean? And were the Mounties’ reasons for keeping those details from the public valid?
Internal RCMP documents released Tuesday show that on April 28, 2020, the head of the RCMP, Commissioner Brenda Lucki, told a meeting of senior officers she was disappointed that details about the firearms had not been released at previous news conferences in Halifax.
According to notes taken by Supt. Darren Campbell, Lucki said she had promised the Prime Minister’s Office that the Mounties would release the descriptions, adding that the information would be “tied to pending gun control legislation that would make officers and public safer.”
In response, Campbell wrote that he told Lucki that disclosure of those details could “jeopardize ongoing efforts” to determine how the killer illegally obtained two rifles and two pistols.
When Campbell’s notes were made public Tuesday in a report prepared for the public inquiry investigating the tragedy, the opposition federal Conservatives and New Democrats accused the governing Liberals of interfering in a police investigation for political gain.
Lucki issued a statement Tuesday saying, “I would never take actions or decisions that could jeopardize an investigation.” As well, the Liberals have denied the allegation, saying Lucki wasn’t told to do anything.
Lost in the partisan bickering was any discussion over the public’s right to know about the firearms in question.
There can be little doubt that most Mounties, like Campbell, were opposed to saying anything about the weapons. They believed the information, if released to the public, could tip off those involved in illegally supplying guns to the killer.
“It is reasonable to believe the (RCMP) had an ongoing investigation into the source of the weapons,” said a retired Mountie who asked not to be named to protect his relationship with the RCMP. “It may have involved U.S. partners, which would have made them less inclined to provide any information that could threaten the investigation.”
In November 2020, seven months after the shootings, the National Post obtained a list of the killer’s guns, which was included in a briefing note prepared for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and obtained through the Access to Information Act.
Three firearms were illegally obtained from the United States: a .40-calibre Glock 23 semi-automatic pistol, a 9-mm Ruger P89 semi-automatic pistol and a 5.56-mm Colt Law Enforcement semi-automatic carbine. A Ruger Mini-14 semi-automatic rifle came from a gun shop in Winnipeg, but investigators determined it, too, was acquired illegally.
A.J. Somerset, author of the 2015 book, “Arms: The Culture and Credo of the Gun,” said the release of those details was unlikely to hobble the RCMP’s investigation.
“When the shooter is identified, then anybody who had any information about how those guns were obtained would immediately want to avoid talking to police,” Somerset sad in an interview.
“I don’t see how the identification of the weapons actually leads to that person becoming aware of something they weren’t already aware of.”
Somerset said the real problem is that law enforcement agencies in Canada have grown accustomed to using the jeopardized-investigation argument as a crutch.
“In Canada, the police don’t release information,” he said. “We’re kind of used to that, compared with the United States, where within an hour of a mass shooting, we know everything about what weapons were used.”
Somerset said a former Toronto cop once told him that as a police officer he believed the public had no right to know what police investigations uncover until there is a trial.
“In Canada, there’s a cultural difference around the idea of who the police are working for,” the author said. “Police in Canada, in general, don’t view themselves as accountable to the public …. We saw this in (the Nova Scotia mass shooting case). Warnings weren’t sent out to the public and the police appeared to be acting in their own interest.”
The public inquiry investigating the murders, known as the Mass Casualty Commission, has heard that police knew about an active shooter on the night of April 18, 2020, but no public warnings stating that fact were distributed until the next day — 10 hours after the killing started.
On Aug. 12, 2020, RCMP Sgt. Angela Hawryluk told a court hearing that search warrants used by the Mounties had to remain heavily redacted to ensure the investigation into the mass murder was not compromised.
Search warrants are supposed to be made public after they have been executed, with some exceptions. But in this case, the Crown produced redacted versions that were challenged in court by several media outlets, including The Canadian Press.
Those documents also contained information about the firearms and much of what the RCMP had learned during their investigation.
At one point, Hawryluk told the court, “I had no intention of any of the (search warrants) being revealed to the public.”
That kind of hardline approach stands in contrast to the way things used to be in Canada, said Blake Brown, a history professor at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax.
On Dec. 6, 1989, soon after a man fatally shot 14 women at Montreal’s École Polytechnique, the public was told about the gun he used: another Ruger Mini-14.
“But at some point, police stopped doing that,” said Brown, author of “Arming and Disarming: A History of Gun Control in Canada.”
“I don’t understand why that information can’t be released faster by police. One of the themes of the Mass Casualty Commission has been highlighting the tendency of the RCMP to hand out very little information and to treat the public like they don’t need to know much.”
Both Lucki and Campbell are expected to testify before the inquiry later this summer.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 23, 2022.
Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press
I was placed in ESL classes despite being fluent in English. It made me feel less Canadian – CBC.ca
This First Person article is the experience of Alvin Ma, a second-generation Chinese Canadian. For more information about CBC’s First Person stories, please see the FAQ.
I tried to avoid eye contact and slump in my chair, but it didn’t work. It was the start of my Grade 4 school year and for the fourth consecutive year, my name was called to receive “additional English language instruction.”
It didn’t matter that I could fully comprehend the Guinness Book of Records I purchased from the Scholastic Book Fair or that I read the Vancouver Sun sports section every morning. I was going back to ESL.
I was born in Canada and grew up speaking English with my parents. My Chinese-born mother immigrated to Canada as a high school student and my father, also an immigrant from Hong Kong in the 1970s, taught culinary classes in English. However, my grandparents and other elderly family members were not fluent in English and spoke predominantly Cantonese at home.
It’s why my parents put down Cantonese as the language most spoken at home when filling out my public school registration form.
It’s also the reason we believe I was placed in English language learner classes (ESL) despite the fact I was born in Canada and spoke English fluently.
I don’t have negative memories of these ESL classes or teachers themselves.
But as a kid, being placed in those classes made me feel less than a full-fledged Canadian.
I just wanted to be treated like the “CBC” (Canadian-born Chinese) classmates who did not require these ESL classes. Some of these students would occasionally flaunt their English abilities and poke fun at those perceived to be “fresh off the boat.” I don’t remember making fun of people, but I do remember wanting to prove that I was better than others in English — thinking a superior grasp of the language would make me somehow more “Canadian.”
Even if I secretly found ’90s Cantonese pop songs such as 每天愛你多一些 and Sugar in the Marmalade catchy, I listened to Shania Twain. I unfailingly watched every Hockey Night in Canada broadcast. Twenty-two years before Simu Liu’s rendition at the Juno Awards, I was able to effortlessly recite the “I AM CANADIAN” rant in its entirety.
I distanced myself from my Chinese heritage and purposely failed assessments at Chinese school to prove I was more Canadian than Chinese. My mother knew I would only speak to her in English, and there was an unspoken understanding that she was to speak only English to me when she came to my school to pick me up.
When I asked my mother if she thought it was odd that I was placed in ESL for so many years, she shrugged.
Considering that my grandparents supervised me during weekdays, my parents reasoned that “additional English language instruction” would help my education in the long term.
Then one day and without any explanation, I was put into the regular stream of Grade 5 students. My student record simply noted that my ESL status had been delisted. I felt relieved, but I remained self-conscious of my pronunciation of words and tried to avoid a stutter that would label me as anything but a born-in-Canada Canadian.
Years after I graduated, my elementary school faced allegations that it falsely inflated the number of English learners in order to get more government funding.
As an adult, I know now that neither my fluency in Cantonese nor perceived accent makes me any less Canadian. Years of academic research and presentations made me a confident speaker in multiculturalism-related issues.
But I hadn’t really considered the impact of those ESL classes until I met a 10-year-old student through a tutoring job. As his mom left the room, she said these parting words: “你需要努力，進步你的英文分” (you must work hard to improve your English mark).
He indignantly responded in English, “Stop bothering me in Chinese if you want me to improve!”
That student was a mirror of my younger self: a second-generation Canadian who desperately tried to prove his English fluency by shunning Chinese.
Although I wanted to avoid confrontation, I plucked up my courage. I told him — and by extension my younger self — that knowledge of another language is a strength; not an embarrassment to hide. My student nodded, but if my journey is an indicator, it might take many years for him to comprehend my message. I just hope the message sinks in eventually.
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Philippines’ new President promises policies that will benefit everyone
The new President who was sworn in yesterday said he would work on healing divisions in the country, to grow the economy, recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and lead a more unified prosperous country.
“This is a historic moment for us all! You picked me to be your servant, to enable changes to benefit all. I fully understand the gravity of the responsibility you put on my shoulders. I do not take it lightly but I am ready for the task.
I am here not to talk about the past, I am here to tell you about our future. A future of sufficiency, even plenty, of readily available ways and means to get done what needs doing. I will get it done,” said Marcos Jr.
In addition, the President said he would improve food sufficiency, infrastructure, waste management and energy supply, and give full support to millions of overseas Filipino workers.
Marcos Jr won last month’s Presidential election with 31.6 million votes, or 58.77 percent of ballots cast, a margin not seen in decades and replaces outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte.
His running mate, Sara Duterte-Carpio, the former President’s daughter, was sworn in as Vice-President on June 19, and they will both serve until 2028.
According to human rights groups, during his father’s reign between 1965 and 1986, tens of thousands of people were imprisoned, tortured or killed for perceived or real criticism of the government.
As a result, activists and survivors of the martial law era under his father protested against Marcos Jr’s inauguration. Nevertheless, more than 15 000 police, soldiers and coast guard personnel were deployed across the capital to ensure security.
Canada Day: Parties, protests planned in Ottawa | CTV News – CTV News Ottawa
Thousands of people wearing red and white and waiving Canadian flags packed downtown Ottawa to celebrate Canada’s 155th birthday, while police monitored the crowds for possible protests against COVID-19 vaccines and restrictions.
It’s the first in-person Canada Day in Ottawa in three years, after COVID-19 restrictions forced the cancellation of events in 2020 and 2021.
“We have missed two years already,” said Rebecca Lau, while standing in front of Parliament Hill. “We used to come here every year to celebrate for Canada Day, but the last two years because of the pandemic we had to stay home.”
The main events include a daytime ceremony and evening show at LeBreton Flats, activities for families and fireworks at 10 p.m. The Canadian Forces Snowbirds were forced to cancel the annual fly-by over Ottawa on Canada Day following a recent technical issue.
Two kilometres away from LeBreton Flats, Parliament Hill and the streets around the parliamentary buildings were packed with people marking Canada Day.
“It is fabulous to see everybody here celebrating and enjoying Canada Day. It’s nice to see all the patriotism going on; the good kind, the positive kind,” said Todd Salter, visiting Ottawa from Erin, Ont. “There’s protesters here; but they seem calm right now which is a nice change. It feels a little bit normal and really nice to be back.”
Canada Day festivities come months after “Freedom Convoy” protesters occupied streets around Parliament Hill protesting COVID-19 vaccine mandates. A protest march against the mandates and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is scheduled for later this afternoon.
The Freedom Fights Canada website says a “March to Freedom” will be held at 3:30 p.m., followed by speeches, live music and DJs on Parliament Hill from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Just before 1 p.m., dozens of people gathered on Wellington Street in front of Parliament Hill and chanted “Free Pat King.” Pat King was one of the organizers of the “Freedom Convoy”, and remains in jail on charges connected to his involvement in the three-week protest.
A “Family Day Picnic” hosted by the group Police on Guard for Thee at a nearby park was cancelled, with organizers citing “a recent incident in Ottawa.” However, there were no further details provided.
A small crowd gathered at Strathcona Park despite the picnic being cancelled, and People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier planned to deliver a speech to supporters in the area. Several vehicles with Canadian Flags were parked in the parking lot, while police patrolled the area.
There is a visible police presence patrolling the parliamentary precinct and the roads around downtown Ottawa, with a motor vehicle control zone set up to prevent vehicles from stopping or engaging in protests.
Any vehicles stopping or parking in the control zone will be ticketed and towed, while police say any vehicles participating in protests will be prohibited from entering the area.
As of Friday morning, Ottawa Bylaw Services officers issued 275 parking tickets and towed 72 vehicles from the vehicle control zone. Bylaw officials have also increased fines for the unusual noise, shouting, urination or defecation on roads and sidewalks, blocking a highway and idling. Fines are now $1,000.
Despite their presence, Ottawa police says it is safe for families to come downtown for Canada Day events.
“Come, don’t be worried. This is a festival. This is to celebrate Canada, that’s why we’ve gone to the extent we have to put the plans in place and the resources around it,” interim Chief Steve Bell told The Evan Solomon Show on Thursday. “It’s going to be a safe environment, that’s why we’re here to ensure that.”
Four people were arrested following an incident at the National War Memorial Thursday, shortly after Canadian Forces veteran James Topp completed his cross-country march to protest COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
“We are reviewing video and investigating the incident at the National War Memorial this evening,” police said on Twitter Thursday evening. “The initial investigation finds that an interaction with officers became confrontational and 1 officer was choked. Other officers immediately responded, 4 people were arrested.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is calling on Canadians to recommit to the country’s values on Canada Day, including respect, hope and kindness.
In his official Canada Day message, the prime minister said July 1 is an opportunity to commit to the values that the Maple Leaf represents.
“It’s also a promise — a promise of opportunity, a promise of safety for those fleeing violence and war, and a promise of a better life,” he said.
With files from The Canadian Press and CTV News Ottawa’s Natalie van Rooy
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