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Trudeau denies claims PMO pressured justice minister to help SNC-Lavalin avoid prosecution

Last Updated Feb 7, 2019 at 4:31 pm CDT

(Cormac Mac Sweeney, NEWS 1130 Photo)
Summary

Globe and Mail: former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould refused PMO request to help SNC-Lavalin avoid prosecution


The Globe reports SNC-Lavalin repeatedly lobbied Justin Trudeau's aides for a deal


OTTAWA — 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 Quebec engineering and construction giant has been facing legal trouble over allegations it paid millions of dollars in bribes to get government business in Libya, which would be a crime under Canadian law.

As justice minister, Wilson-Raybould could have gotten involved in the case against the company by directing federal prosecutors to negotiate a “remediation agreement,” a way of undoing damage without admitting the company itself was at fault for things particular employees did.

The Globe reports that SNC-Lavalin repeatedly lobbied Justin Trudeau’s aides for a deal and Trudeau’s office leaned on Wilson-Raybould to make it happen.

No such agreement was ever reached and Wilson-Raybould was moved to be minister of veterans affairs in a January cabinet shuffle.

Meantime, Trudeau is denying the serious claims being levelled in the report.

“At no time did I or my office direct the current or previous attorney general to make any particular decision in this matter,” he told reporters on Thursday.

Conservatives respond

Calling the reports “disturbing”, Opposition leader Andrew Scheer says the prime minister needs to come clean immediately, and believes Trudeau’s answers today fall short of him doing so.

“What’s perhaps even more shocking, however, is that the prime minister himself appears to have fired his own attorney general for refusing to bow to his demands,” Scheer said. “We’ve seen this elsewhere on the world stage when leaders dismiss their attorneys general for defying their orders.”

Scheer adds “nothing short of full disclosure” will be accepted.

When asked whether Scheer believes Trudeau’s claims that the allegations are false, the federal Conservative leader said “it obviously sounded like those words were written by a lawyer, not the prime minister’s own words.”

Scheer says his party will explore every option if Trudeau “continues to fail to be transparent with Canadians.”

Former judge suggests criminal investigation may be warranted

It hasn’t taken long for someone to suggest a criminal investigation needs to be done if these reports are true.

A former judge who now teaches law at UBC — Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond — says, if nothing else, an investigation would restore public confidence in the justice ministry in the wake of the shocking report.

“Minister Wilson-Raybould, not only is she an extremely competent individual, she was Canada’s first Indigenous attorney general, and I was concerned when she was moved from that position that there was something of a whisper campaign out of the centre of government that she was not competent or she was not a team player.”

Turpel-Lafond believes Wilson-Raybould is a person of principle, which is why she’s expecting police to get involved.

“Even just to restore public confidence. But I’m just very proud of her as a British Columbian, standing up for the values that are very important in our society which is doing the right thing and making sure the legal process, courts, and prosecutions do their job and keeping your nose out of them so that they can be protected to do their job.”

Meantime, SNC-Lavalin says it has no comment on the reports.