Science

Prime Minister Trudeau Under Fire over SNC-Lavalin Claims

Prime Minister Trudeau Under Fire over SNC-Lavalin Claims

The Globe and Mail says former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould disappointed the Prime Minister's Office by refusing to help SNC-Lavalin avoid a criminal prosecution.

The company, based in Canada's Quebec province, was charged with corruption and fraud in connection with payments of almost 36 million USA dollars in bribes to public officials in the former Libyan government of late leader Muammar Gaddafi and defrauded Libyan organizations of an estimated 98 million dollars between 2001 and 2011.

The Liberal Government is under fire from the Opposition over claims that surfaced in a Globe and Mail newspaper report that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's office applied pressure to the Minister of Justice to drop investigations.

Wilson-Raybould, now minister of Veterans Affairs, said Friday she would not comment on claims that the Prime Minister's Office tried to pressure her to help SNC-Lavalin avoid criminal prosecution in pending legal action against the construction company. In return, the attorney general bears responsibility for decisions taken, and can't shift it to cabinet.

"Even more shocking, the prime minister may have fired her from her role as our country's first Indigenous justice minister and attorney general", said McLeod, the Conservative party's Indigenous Affairs critic.

The attorney general is thus allowed to direct prosecutors - but crucially, the direction must appear in a government publication called the Canada Gazette, which is viewable by the public.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Veterans Affairs Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould at a swearing in ceremony on January 14, 2019.

As attorney general, Wilson-Raybould could have become involved in the case against the company by directing federal prosecutors to negotiate a "remediation agreement", a way of holding an organization to account for wrongdoing without a formal finding of guilt.

The federal director of public prosecutions told SNC-Lavalin in October that negotiating a remediation agreement would be inappropriate in this particular case.




Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said the allegations suggest Trudeau demoted his attorney general for defying his orders, and he called on the prime minister to immediately reveal what he knew about the matter.

"His carefully crafted and legally vetted answers today fall far short in this regard", Scheer told reporters on Parliament Hill.

Given the jobs at stake, officials said, the government would have failed in its duty had there not been discussion about whether to intervene in the SNC-Lavalin case.

The prime minister wanted to avoid leaving the impression that no one ever discussed the issue, given that SNC-Lavalin was heavily lobbying government officials, the source said.

"Canadians deserve a government that is on their side, not on the side of a massive multinational corporation with deep ties to the Liberal Party", said NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh. Among other things, she wrote that "it is a pillar of our democracy that our system of justice be free from even the perception of political interference" and that, as attorney general, she believed she must be "always willing to speak truth to power".

And is Wilson-Raybould, who as attorney general was legal advisor to the government, truly bound by secrecy in responding to the allegation?

The Globe and Mail reported on Wednesday that Mr. Trudeau's office attempted to press Ms. Wilson-Raybould to get the Public Prosecution Service of Canada to shelve court proceedings against SNC Lavalin in favour of a negotiated deal without trial.

Wilson-Raybould's father, Bill Wilson, said in a Facebook post Thursday that his daughter's cabinet demotion "makes sense now - ugly political sense".

The fact that such directives must be done publicly is meant to constrain a justice minister from doing anything overtly political.


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