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‘We need to be more transparent’: RCMP Commissioner Lucki says police must modernize

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HALIFAX — The head of the RCMP says she wasn’t aware for several months that a report documenting morale problems among officers in Nova Scotia had been completed.

Commissioner Brenda Lucki took the witness stand on Tuesday at the inquiry that is examining how a gunman driving a replica police car carried out 22 murders over 13 hours on April 18-19, 2020.

Lucki said it was only in June of this year that she saw the “wellness report” that had been prepared for the RCMP about its Nova Scotia division. The report by Ottawa-based consultant group Quintet Consulting Corp. was completed in September 2021.

”I was surprised that it had been out for months, like six to eight months, and I wasn’t aware of it,” Lucki testified.

The report included comments by staff members who said that there were “dysfunctions” at H-Division before the mass shootings and that they felt abandoned by their superiors in the aftermath of the murders. The redacted summary released this week by the inquiry also included confidential interviews describing top regional leaders as “a small clique of officers in a mutually supportive group … with others treated as outsiders.”

Commission counsel Rachel Young asked Lucki why the report hadn’t been shared with commanding officers in Nova Scotia and hadn’t been acted upon by national headquarters in Ottawa.

“I just think someone dropped the ball or it fell through the cracks among 100 other things,” she said. “How are you going to fix something if you don’t follow through? That needed to be done better.”

Lucki said that as of July, an action plan has been in the works to address the findings in the report.

Also on Tuesday, the inquiry released a transcript of an Aug. 4 interview Lucki gave to inquiry lawyers. During the interview, the RCMP commissioner said the force must become a more transparent organization.

The 131-page transcript included her discussing her regrets about an April 28, 2020, meeting with regional staff, nine days after the murders. Lucki scolded staff over their decision to withhold detailed information about the semi-automatic guns that the killer used.

She has repeatedly denied allegations she wanted those details released because of political pressure from the federal Liberals, who were working on gun-control legislation. Lucki said that her push to release the information about the killer’s weapons was linked to her desire to be more open with the public.

“When you talk about culture, our culture is to be less transparent … we hold things in because we can,” she told the inquiry lawyers.

She said in the Aug. 4 interview that she went too far in criticizing her exhausted subordinates during the April 28, 2020, call. “When I think about it before I go to bed, I honestly can’t sleep.

“We’ve always felt that because things are under investigation, that we can’t release things. That’s not the case anymore. There are things that can be released even within an investigation. We just have to make sure what is being released does not compromise (the investigation).”

The RCMP’s difficulties in swiftly and forthrightly communicating with the public and media have been revealed in testimony from officers and civilian employees during the inquiry.

On the night the mass shooting began in Portapique, N.S., the police force didn’t directly contact media to tell them an active shooting was underway. Instead, the force used a single tweet on April 18, 2020, at 11:32 p.m., which referred to the incident as a “firearms complaint” — even though the Mountie overseeing the response knew an active shooter had killed people and was on the loose.

RCMP Staff Sgt. Steve Halliday — who was helping oversee the response the next morning — confirmed in testimony that at 8 a.m. on April 19, 2020, he decided a photo of the replica car driven by the killer should be released, and he testified he expected this to occur in “the immediate future.” However, the photo wasn’t distributed publicly until 10:17 a.m., and during that delay at least six deaths occurred.

Lucki told the commission, “we have been doing a lot of work to be more transparent, giving our commanding officers more media training, giving them training so that they can be more forthright in the information instead of saying, ‘No comment,’ or ‘I can’t speak about that.’”

“We need to be more transparent with the Canadian public,” Lucki told the commission lawyers in her Aug. 4 interview.

The commissioner said in her interview that she has regarded modernizing the RCMP as central to her mandate since she was appointed in 2018. She cited initiatives such as introducing courses on systemic racism and allowing rank-and-file members to send her critical emails, as part of a “change” process.

However, Lucki was also questioned by inquiry lawyers about why some prior recommendations from earlier public studies of the force haven’t been implemented, including a 2021 recommendation by retired Supreme Court of Canada justice Michel Bastarache that officers have at least two years of post-secondary training.

Lucki said the force was “looking at” that recommendation, adding that police didn’t want to exclude recruits coming from trades backgrounds and from diverse populations who might not have had the opportunity to attend university.

She said purchasing new equipment, such as body-worn cameras, has proven to be a slower process than expected. “The body-worn cameras, we haven’t deployed them yet. There’s so many steps,” she told the inquiry in her interview.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 23, 2022.

 

Michael Tutton and Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press

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Canada boosts capacity of key supply hub for weapons to Ukraine – CBC News

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Defence Minister Anita Anand says Canada is boosting its capacity at a key transportation hub in Scotland, so weapons and other supplies can more easily be shipped to Ukraine and other countries in eastern Europe.

Canadian forces have been responsible for delivering four million pounds of cargo since March, and the Prestwick, Scotland hub will now be expanded into an air mobility detachment with a third CC-130 aircraft and 55 Canadian Armed Forces members present.

“We are expanding the ways in which we are assisting Ukraine and getting military aid to Ukraine by delivering even more aid,” Anand told CBC chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton in an interview airing Sunday.

CBC News reported earlier this week Ukraine has written to the Canadian government to request armoured vehicles, howitzers and winter clothing.

Canada has promised to deliver 39 armoured troop carriers, and Anand said she’d be meeting with industry partners in Canada to talk about the issue of supply.

Anand said NATO countries are all trying to strike a balance between arms shipments to Ukraine and maintaining supplies to their own armed forces.

“This is front and centre in my mind,” she said.

Canada must say yes to Ukraine: Rae

Canada has committed or delivered $626 million in military aid to Ukraine since February.

Asked about Ukraine’s list of weapons requests in an interview on CBC Radio’s The House that aired Saturday, UN Ambassador Bob Rae said Canada would be hard pressed to deny the asks.

“It may be a career-limiting move for me to say this, but I don’t believe we could say anything less than yes,” Rae said.

“That’s been my consistent advice to whoever, whoever, whoever is listening. Obviously, governments have to decide the pace at which they can do it.”

LISTEN | UN Ambassador Bob Rae discusses latest developments in Ukraine war:

Some NATO countries have struggled to strike the balance Anand described Sunday, due in part to a lack of robust inventory.

“Since the end of the Cold War, not only have allies considerably restructured their armed forces, they also don’t hold the stockpiles anymore that they used to have,” Christian Leuprecht, a political science professor at the Royal Military College of Canada, told CBC News earlier this week.

“And so, effectively, most of what you ended up giving away today comes out of your current stockpile. So this is equipment that you’re actually going to be actively short.”

The calls for more aid from Ukraine come as offensives in both the country’s east and south continue, but also as Russia announced a partial mobilization to bring hundreds of thousands more soldiers into its ranks. Russian President Vladimir Putin also threatened this week that Russia was prepared to use nuclear weapons to defend itself.

Russia also announced and rapidly began referendums in occupied Ukrainian territories.

Anand said Putin’s decision to raise the threat of nuclear war and mobilization were “acts of desperation.”

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Atlantic Canada begins assessing, cleaning up damage from Fiona – CBC.ca

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People across Atlantic Canada are beginning to assess the damage and clean up after post-tropical storm Fiona swept through the region Saturday.

As of 9 a.m., remnants of Fiona are over southeastern Labrador and have merged with a trough — a long region of low atmospheric pressure.

Fiona spent early Sunday morning moving inland in southeastern Quebec as a post-tropical storm, according to Environment Canada. It’s expected to dissipate over the Labrador Sea.

The agency said winds were at 80 km/h and all wind warnings associated with the storm have ended.

In Newfoundland, some homes were washed away or flattened, others were flooded, roads were washed out and people were evacuated. The damage was most striking in Port aux Basques, where boulders and debris were scattered across the community.

On Sunday morning, CBC meteorologist Ashley Brauweiler said the bulk of the damage in Port aux Basques was caused by storm surge.

The Salvation Army has co-ordinated an emergency shelter for people displaced from their homes in the Port aux Basques area at the local school.

In Nova Scotia, hundreds of thousands of customers were without power on Sunday, and the Canadian Armed Forces has been called in to help restore electricity.

Nova Scotia Power president Peter Gregg said in a statement Sunday that the utility knows “there will be customers who face outages for multiple days” given the damage created by the storm.

Two municipalities in Cape Breton declared a state of emergency. The fastest winds clocked in at 171 km/h in Arisaig, just north of Antigonish.

The devastation of a day: Scenes of Fiona’s damage across Atlantic Canada

6 hours ago

Duration 3:05

Within hours, post-tropical storm Fiona caused destruction and upheaval in all four Atlantic provinces, as well as in eastern Quebec. See some of the impact as gathered by CBC News crews.

Ottawa has also approved Nova Scotia’s request for funding for disaster assistance to help municipalities repair damaged infrastructure, and to assist individuals and small businesses pay for uninsured losses

On Prince Edward Island, winds hit 150 km/h and almost 100 millimetres of rain fell, homes and businesses were damaged and flooded, and at one point about 95 per cent of Maritime Electric customers had lost electricity.

Premier Dennis King said Sunday that his province’s road to recovery “will be weeks or longer” since the damage may have been “the worst we’ve ever seen” from a tropical storm. 

Residents in Charlottetown are now being asked to stay off the roads and shelter in place after the storm rushed over the Island. 

In New Brunswick, roads were flooded, a bridge was destroyed and tens of thousands were without electricity. Residents there are also being asked to stay away from dangerous, storm-ravaged areas.

Bill Hogan, the province’s public safety minister, said it will take time to fully calculate the damage caused by post-tropical storm Fiona, but he expects help will be made available to affected residents.

Power outages are still widespread on Sunday morning, with more than 365,000 customers in the dark across the four Atlantic provinces, including more than 260,000 in Nova Scotia.

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Officials across Eastern Canada set to begin assessing full scope of storm damage

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After hammering Atlantic Canada, post-tropical storm Fiona has moved inland in southeastern Quebec, with Environment Canada saying the storm will continue to weaken as it tracks across southeastern Labrador and over the Labrador Sea.

As of 6 a.m. local time, nearly 267,000 Nova Scotia Power customers were still affected by outages, 82,414 Maritime Electric customers remained in the dark and more than 20,600 homes and businesses in New Brunswick were without power, with some provincial utility companies warning it could be days before the lights are back on for everyone.

Newfoundland Power reported outages affecting more than 3,600 customers, as high-end tropical storm force winds knocked down trees and power lines, although Environment Canada said winds would diminish in the morning.

In an early Sunday morning update, Environment Canada said strong winds continued over the northern Newfoundland, southeastern Labrador and parts of southeastern Quebec.

A wind warning remained in effect for the western part of the Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland, while storm warnings are in place for parts of the Northeast Gulf and Strait of Belle Isle marine areas.

As Fiona continued to weaken, government officials across Eastern Canada prepared to survey the full scope of the damage left behind.

Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston, along with several members of his cabinet, were scheduled to tour some of the hardest hit areas of Cape Breton by helicopter Sunday morning.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who cancelled his planned visit to Japan for the state funeral of former prime minister Shinzo Abe, said he will visit as soon as possible, while noting he doesn’t want to displace any emergency teams who are focused on important work on the ground.

Defence Minister Anita Anand said Saturday members of the Canadian Armed Forces had begun preparing to respond before receiving the request for assistance from Nova Scotia, and troops will be deployed to other provinces that ask for help.

No details were provided on the number of troops being deployed, but Anand said reconnaissance was underway to ensure they go where and when they are needed most.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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