Conservatives ask if Trudeau used 'get out of jail free card' before 2016 Aga Khan vacation

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with the Aga Khan on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 17, 2016. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press - image credit)
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with the Aga Khan on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 17, 2016. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press - image credit)

The RCMP examined the possibility of charging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with fraud after investigating his 2016 family vacation on the Aga Khan's private island in the Bahamas, according to internal documents concerning the investigation.

The police force ultimately decided not to pursue a criminal investigation of the trip, which was separately examined by former ethics commissioner Mary Dawson.

The RCMP's decision responded, in part, to a nuance in the law that makes it possible for sitting prime ministers to grant themselves consent to receive gifts that otherwise would constitute fraud against the government.

The relevant section of the Criminal Code says no government employees or officials can receive or demand gifts from a person "who has dealings with the government … unless they have the consent in writing of the head of the branch of government that employs them."

As prime minister, Trudeau theoretically could have given himself permission to accept the paid vacation.

The RCMP report notes that Dawson never determined if written consent for the trip was granted, and police themselves did not pursue that evidence.

Details of the RCMP investigation were first reported by The Globe and Mail. The documents were provided to CBC News by the Conservative Party.

During question period on Monday, Conservative MP James Bezan asked the Liberals if Trudeau granted himself a "get out of jail free card" prior to the trip, which cost the government more than $215,000.

"Did the prime minister give himself the power to break the law?" Bezan asked. "His silence is deafening."


Government House Leader Mark Holland responded by citing the ethics commissioner's report, which found that Trudeau violated four sections of the Conflict of Interest Act.

"That report made all of the matters clear. The prime minister responded appropriately," Holland said. He later accused the opposition Conservatives of wanting to "drag in partisan politics and play games" by resurfacing a controversy now five years old.

The RCMP documents also indicate that the force did not pursue criminal charges because of Dawson's investigation.

The internal documents say that if Dawson had decided that Trudeau committed an offence under the Criminal Code, she would have been required to "notify the relevant authorities."

Because that never happened, the RCMP said "it can be reasonably inferred" that Dawson did not believe Trudeau committed a violation. Police investigators are not bound by the findings of an ethics commissioner, but the report notes that such investigations "should be given some deference."

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