5 things we learned from Wilson-Raybould at the justice committee
5 things we learned from Wilson-Raybould at the justice committee
Ex-Canada minister says she confronted PM Trudeau over SNC-Lavalin case
28 February, 2019, 14:12
Canada's former attorney general testified Wednesday she experienced a consistent and sustained effort by many people in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government to inappropriately interfere in the prosecution of a major Canadian engineering company and said the effort included "veiled threats".
In her testimony, Wilson-Raybould said the interventions, in some ten phone calls and an equal number of meetings, played on similar themes: SNC-Lavalin would pull out of Quebec.
Wilson-Raybould said that she believed she was shuffled because she would not bow to the relentless pressure.
"For a period of approximately four months, between September and December of 2018, I experienced a consistent and sustained effort by many people within the government to seek to politically interfere in the exercise of prosecutorial discretion in my role as the attorney general of Canada", she told a Parliament justice committee.
Wilson-Raybould's testimony in front of the House of Commons justice committee were her first public remarks since allegations were published three weeks ago in The Globe and Mail that she had faced undue pressure from the Prime Minister's Office in the matter. They repeatedly raised concerns about the risks to the company if it were convicted of corruption and fraud in relation to work it sought in Libya.
Addressing media in Montreal later in the day, Trudeau said he disagrees with Wilson-Raybould's characterization of any involvement the PMO might have had in the SNC-Lavalin matter.
Opposition lawmakers accuse Trudeau of trying to cover up an attempt by officials to help SNC-Lavalin, which could be banned from bidding for federal contracts for a decade if found guilty.
Trudeau also rebuffed a call to resign from Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, who said in Ottawa that Wilson-Raybould's testimony brings up the possibility of attempted illegal interference in a public prosecution.
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In the wake of the allegations, Wilson-Raybould, who was shuffled to the veterans affairs department last month in a move that was widely seen as a shocking demotion, resigned.
Citing her chief of staff's account of the exchange, Wilson-Raybould quoted Butts as saying: "There is no solution here that does not involve some interference".
Despite these warnings, Wilson-Raybould said she continued to face "extraordinary pressure, which "raises serious red flags in (her) view".
According to her testimony, Wernick was present at a meeting that she expected would be a one-on-one with Trudeau.
"At long last, we were able to hear her speak with great courage, with dignity and strength", he told CTV.
"I strongly maintain, as I have from the beginning, that I and my staff always acted appropriately and professionally", Trudeau told a televised news conference in Montreal.
She added that Mr Michael Wernick, the clerk of the privy council, also warned her that the company "will likely be moving to London" without an intervention. The story she told Wednesday at the Commons justice committee is so vastly different from everything the prime minister has said until now that the two versions simply can't be reconciled. "That political considerations are more important than the rule of law, from a prime minister that has been arguing about how important the rule of law is for months, and months and months", Cullen said. What Wilson-Raybould's testimony drives home is that she reached the conclusion that she should not intervene with the prosecution service quite early; that she emphasized to the PM and his office that her decision was final and firm; that she explicitly discouraged further discussions about revising the decision; and that the discussions stubbornly kept happening anyway, over her forceful protests. "He is in that kind of mood and I wanted you to be aware of it".
At one point, Ms. Raitt asked Ms. Wilson-Raybould how she felt about how she was treated.
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