Just over two months before Canada’s federal election, the country’s ethics commissioner has determined that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tried to influence Jody Wilson-Raybould’s involvement in the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, infringing on section 9 of the Conflict of Interest Act.
"The Prime Minister, directly and through his senior officials, used various means to exert influence over Ms. Wilson‑Raybould,” conflict of interest and ethics commissioner Mario Dion said in a statement.
“The authority of the prime minister and his office was used to circumvent, undermine and ultimately attempt to discredit the decision of the director of public prosecutions as well as the authority of Ms. Wilson‑Raybould as the Crown's chief law officer."
Trudeau responded to the findings in the report, maintaining that he does not support the commissioner’s analysis.
“The Commissioner took the strong view that all contact with the Attorney General on this issue was improper. I disagree with that conclusion, especially when so many people’s jobs were at stake,” the prime minister said in a statement.
“My objective was, and always will be, to stand up for people’s jobs and livelihoods across the country, while upholding the rule of law and respecting the role of the Attorney General...That said, the buck stops with me, and I take full responsibility for everything that happened, and accept the report.”
The SNC-Lavalin scandal
Back in February 2015, Montreal-based engineering firm SNC-Lavalin was charged with criminal offences related to business in Libya between 2001 and 2011. The company tried to strike a deferred prosecution agreement but on September 4, 2018, the director of public prosecutions told the attorney general’s office that SNC-Lavalin would not be able to negotiate a possible remediation agreement.
The attorney general’s office, led by Wilson-Raybould at the time, notified the Prime Minister’s Office and the ministry of finance. Trudeau then directed his staff to “find a solution that would safeguard SNC-Lavalin’s business interests in Canada,” according to the report.
Wilson-Raybould told the prime minister that she would not intervene in the director of public prosecutions’ decision but senior staff members continued to engage with SNC-Lavalin’s legal council, the attorney general’s office and Wilson-Raybould herself, under Trudeau’s guidance, in an attempt to influence her decision.
“The evidence showed that SNC-Lavalin had significant financial interests in deferring prosecution,” the report states. “The actions that sought to further these interests were improper since they were contrary to Shawcross doctrine and the principles of prosecutorial independence and the rule of law.”
Canadians quickly took to social media to share their opinions of Trudeau and their personal comments on the report:
I’m quite sure that either @JustinTrudeau didn’t read the report or actually rejects it. Because while he says he accepts it, all of his subsequent answers are actually him arguing with Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion and claiming that he is wrong. #cdnpoli #lavscam pic.twitter.com/PZhsDErvm3— Brian Lilley (@brianlilley) August 14, 2019
It is mind-boggling to hear Justin Trudeau say over that he broke the law to “protect Canadians” - he means Canadians who happen to be running for the Federal Party in October since no other Canadians were genuinely protected by his intentional attempt to obstruct justice.— Edward Prutschi (@Prutschi) August 14, 2019
Hello Mr. Trudeau. Welcome to Niagara. Feel free to drop by - as the former Attorney General, I can give you a few pointers on how Canada’s justice system works.— Rob Nicholson (@HonRobNicholson) August 14, 2019
Quick reminder: When @NathanCullen asked if Mr. Trudeau understood conflicts of interest re: SNC— Jonathan Cassels 🇨🇦 (@JMCassels) August 14, 2019
The Liberals responded: We should respect the independence of the Ethics Commissioner and their work.
I do respect the work of the ethics commissioner. Do the Liberals?#cdnpoli pic.twitter.com/3xHjTtnouQ
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