As if the inner workings of the RCMP couldn’t be any more mysterious, a new document has surfaced which indicates the RCMP’s director of media relations at national headquarters is now the focus of an internal investigation for a potential security breach.
The breach involves the recording of a controversial April 28, 2020 conference call in which Commissioner Brenda Lucki scolded Nova Scotia senior Mounties and communications staff for failing to follow her instructions to make public the makes and models of weapons used by a gunman during the worst mass murder in Canadian history.
According to the affidavit made public by the Mass Casualty Commission yesterday, the RCMP were unaware a recording existed until two years later, on June 24, 2022. That’s when someone discovered National Headquarters media relations director Dan Brien had accidentally recorded part of that meeting on his personal cellphone.
The unauthorized recording of an operational RCMP meeting on a personal device is a breach of the RCMP’s internal security rules and as of July 7, 2022 Dan Brien has been away on sick leave.
The review of the security breach continues but the circumstances about how this recording came to light reeks of foot-dragging and possible coverup.
Here’s a Coles Notes description of those circumstances in the affidavit filed by the RCMP’s deputy chief security officer, Supt. Jeffrey Beaulac.
— June 24, 2022: National Headquarter RCMP media relations director Dan Brien tells the RCMP liaison officer supplying information to the Mass Casualty Commission that he had recorded some of the April 28 meeting on his personal cellphone which had since been stolen. Brien is also interviewed by his direct supervisor, Jolene Bradley, and he tells her the recording was made “inadvertently” and he no longer had use of that personal cellphone. The next week Bradley files the paperwork that launches an internal RCMP review of whether Brien is responsible for a security breach.
— August 22, 2022: an RCMP internal security investigator asks to meet with Dan Brien. Brien says he can’t meet until he sees his doctor in a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, he agrees to handover his RCMP laptops and cellphone so they can be searched to see if there is any recording of the April 28 telephone conference call. No audio recordings are found.
— Sept 20, 2022: Brien is interviewed by an internal security investigator for the RCMP. Brien says he didn’t intend to record the telephone conference call and doesn’t recall doing so. He indicates he does still have the personal cellphone on which the recordings were made, a statement that seems to contradict his earlier statement the phone had been stolen. Brien tells the interviewer a cellphone had been stolen for him and given the two-year time-lapse, he may have confused what contents were on which mobile phone. Brien says he can’t access the recordings because he has since deleted the app in order to free up more storage capacity. He agrees, verbally, to allow the RCMP to do a forensic examination of the cellphone to try and find any audio recordings of the phone call.
(Note: This is now the last week of the MCC public proceedings)
— Oct 14, 2022: The MCC is notified by the RCMP it has obtained 23 minutes of recordings from the April 28 telephone conference call as a result of a forensic examination of Brien’s cellphone. Three separate audio files were located on Oct 13, the previous day. The three-week time lag was due to Brien’s absence from Ottawa and a legal requirement to obtain written consent from the owner of the phone before it can be searched. I guess the Mounties couldn’t track him down or should have got his signature back on Sept 20. Go figure.
Why it matters
The surfacing of the audio recordings of the April 28 conference call appear to confirm the detailed handwritten notes made by Nova Scotia Supt. Darren Campbell and Nova Scotia media relations director Lia Scanlan immediately following the meeting.
Campbell had been reluctant to share publicly information about the precise model of a couple of the guns used in the shootings because at the time — less than 10 days after the murders — the RCMP were working with Canadian Border Services Agency and the FBI to determine who procured the illegal guns for the gunman.
Questions remain about Commissioner Lucki’s leadership and whether her determination to put the information out there it might have compromised the active criminal investigation regarding the source of the firearms.
The handwritten notes taken after the April 28 phone call by Campbell and Scanlan state Lucki said she had “promised” the Prime Minister’s Office and the Minister of Public Safety that this information would be made public in order to assist the government with the passage of gun control legislation. Lucki expressed her disappointment her orders had not been followed.
Lucki later apologized to Nova Scotia officers after blaming a communications mix-up between her staff and people in this province. Minister Bill Blair continues to insist he did not pressure the RCMP to reveal specific information but merely received regular briefings.
However, the emergence of Brien’s secret recordings have revived the lingering question around possible political interference, in other words, whose idea was it to lean on the Nova Scotia force to reveal more information about the illegal weapons? Lucki’s — to possibly make herself look good when it was clear the RCMP pursuit of the killer had failed? Or Bill Blair’s — to help get traction in the House of Commons for a bill that was still a long way from becoming law?
Some (like the editor of the Examiner) say the answer doesn’t matter. Others, including the members of the House of Commons Public Safety Committee, intend to give it one more go.
Sometime between today and November 4 — a firm date has yet to be set — both Blair and Lucki will be summoned before the committee for a second time to be questioned about their involvement in the aftermath of what was a truly horrific series of events.