The federal government is defending Lisa Banfield’s lawsuit, arguing it was “lawful, reasonable and just” for the RCMP to investigate how the Nova Scotia mass shooter acquired his guns and ammunition.

As first reported by the Halifax Examiner, Banfield filed a notice of action against the federal and provincial governments in October 2022.

The RCMP charged Banfield in December 2020 for transporting ammunition to the killer, who the Examiner refers to by his initials, GW. The Crown withdrew the charges as part of a restorative justice process in July 2022. Banfield alleged those charges were designed to distract from the RCMP’s failures.

Banfield’s lawyer, Moncton-based Brian Murphy, called the RCMP’s investigation “baseless,” and the provincial Crown’s charges a “malicious prosecution.” Murphy further alleged the RCMP failed to properly notify Banfield she was a suspect. He claimed she wasn’t informed of her right to counsel during multiple interviews. Banfield only learned she was under investigation when the RCMP announced charges, Murphy alleged.

Federal government defends

In a statement of defence filed in Amherst Supreme Court on Feb. 1, federal Department of Justice lawyers Patricia MacPhee and Ami Assignon claim otherwise.

“Canada denies the Plaintiff’s claim that it only became apparent to her that she was the subject of the RCMP investigation upon the announcement that they were laying a criminal charge on December 4, 2020,” MacPhee and Assignon wrote.

“The RCMP cautioned her on every occasion that she was questioned about any involvement she might have had in assisting the Perpetrator acquire ammunition. Further, she had legal counsel since at least April 20, 2020.”

The lawyers admit that Staff Sgt. Greg Vardy told Banfield’s lawyer on April 21, 2020 that “the RCMP had no reason to believe she had involvement in the mass casualty and wanted to speak to her as a witness to further its investigation.” That was Vardy’s only contact with the lawyer, MacPhee and Assignon wrote.

“Throughout its investigation, the RCMP employed a trauma-informed approach with all the witnesses involved, be they victims, members of the public or potential suspects,” MacPhee and Assignon wrote.

Charges ‘in the public interest,’ lawyers claim

Banfield agreed to multiple interviews in April, July, and October 2020, including the reenactment later shown during the Mass Casualty Commission. The RCMP had no obligation to inform Banfield of her right to a lawyer during those interviews, MacPhee and Assignon wrote, because she wasn’t under arrest or detained.

“Canada further denies that the RCMP instigated a baseless investigation into the Plaintiff’s involvement in the mass casualty. It was lawful, reasonable and just for the RCMP to investigate how the Perpetrator acquired the firearms, associated equipment and/or ammunition to carry out the mass casualty,” MacPhee and Assignon wrote.

“Canada denies the allegations of malicious prosecution and conspiracy. The RCMP made the decision to lay the criminal charge against the Plaintiff after determining that there were reasonable and probable grounds to believe she committed the offence and that laying the charge was in the public interest. The decision to proceed with the prosecution was within the discretion of the [Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Service].”

The provincial government has not filed a defence. In December, it filed a demand for notice instead. It seeks “notice of everything done in this proceeding, every written communication with a judge or the court, and every document filed.”

The federal government wants the case dismissed with costs.

Zane Woodford is the Halifax Examiner’s municipal reporter. He covers Halifax City Hall and contributes to our ongoing PRICED OUT housing series. Twitter @zwoodford

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  1. “The RCMP had no obligation to inform Banfield of her right to a lawyer during those interviews, MacPhee and Assignon wrote, because she wasn’t under arrest or detained.”

    Cops do stuff like this and act surprised when people won’t talk to them without a lawyer. Don’t talk to cops.