Thank you for inviting us to appear before the committee today. As introduced, Owen, who's joining me today, is the acting assistant deputy attorney general responsible for the national litigation sector in the department.
Before I begin, I would like to offer my deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims of the shooting in Nova Scotia in April 2020. I want to acknowledge their loss and the impact of those events on the community.
My remarks today will focus exclusively on the process led by the Department of Justice to produce documents to the Mass Casualty Commission. The Department of Justice and its lawyers were not involved or consulted on whether to disclose firearms information at the April 28, 2020, press conference, nor were we involved in the teleconference with the RCMP commissioner that followed that day.
As a result, I really don't have any relevant information to provide on your questions on allegations of political interference in 2020. I will therefore focus my remarks on the role of the Department of Justice before the commission and on the document review and production process, including the disclosure of four pages of officers' notes related to that April 28, 2020, teleconference.
Given that our time is short and that document production processes are complex and detailed, I sent to the committee last Friday a letter providing more information about the document production process and our role before that commission.
Department of Justice lawyers represent the Government of Canada in the inquiry before the commission. One of the primary responsibilities of our lawyers and paralegals is to disclose relevant documents for the purposes of the inquiry, which is standard procedure in investigations of this kind, public inquiries or even civil litigation.
The disclosure of documents in any investigation is a significant task. The government has already disclosed over 75,000 documents to the commission. The magnitude of the work is significant, given the logistical challenges of collecting, reviewing and disclosing each of those documents. This is a technical and complex process that requires a great deal of effort and time. I would like to acknowledge the dedication of the Department of Justice employees who have done this work to date.
In the context of this inquiry, disclosure of documents is an ongoing process. The government began disclosing documents to the commission in February 2021, and as the commission continues its investigation, new issues are raised that result in new document requests. This is customary in this type of investigation.
As a result, our team of lawyers and paralegals receives new requests for documents from the commission on a regular basis, as well as new sets of documents for review from the various government departments and agencies. The departmental team sorts through these requests based on the commission's immediate needs and the priorities of upcoming hearings.
A standard feature of document production in this inquiry and in civil litigation generally is the review of documents for legally privileged information. Privilege can apply to entire documents or to portions of documents, according to common law or statute—for example, the Canada Evidence Act.
I want to be very clear with the committee that this document review and production process to the commission is managed by the lawyers and paralegals in the Department of Justice. The Minister of Justice and the minister's office are not involved in this process.
As part of the document production process in early 2022, we reviewed the handwritten notes of four senior RCMP officers in order to produce them to the commission. There were over 2,400 pages of handwritten notes. As outlined in my letter, our team flagged 35 pages among those 2,400 as containing potentially privileged content. Knowing that there were hearings coming up with these officers, we decided to authorize the disclosure of the 2,400 pages, with the exception of the 35 pages that we were still reviewing for privilege.
Unfortunately, we did not alert the commission to the fact that we had not produced the additional 35 pages because they were being further reviewed. We've exchanged letters and spoken to commission counsel. I think the oversight was acknowledged and understood.
Only four of the 35 pages relate to the April 28 meeting—