Group also pursuing lawsuit challenging Ethics Commissioner’s ruling that let everyone off except PM Trudeau for pressuring Attorney General to stop the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin
Group also filed request in March 2019 with Lobbying Commissioner for investigation into lobbying by former PCO Clerk Kevin Lynch for SNC-Lavalin, and all SNC-Lavalin lobbying since 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Thursday, February 11, 2021
OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch released the letter it has sent calling on the RCMP and Crown prosecutors to issue a full, public explanation of the state of the investigation into the allegation that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, former Finance Minister Bill Morneau, some members of their staff, and former Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick obstructed justice by pressuring then-Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould to stop the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.
The letter sets out several reasons why the public deserves, and has a right to, a public explanation of the state of the investigation, and all decisions concerning the investigation, and any decisions concerning prosecutions. One of the main reasons is that two years have passed since the situation was first made public, and many of the facts of the situation have also been known for almost two years, and so an update is long overdue.
“Given the evidence, and that two years have passed since the situation was made public, and 18 months since the Ethics Commissioner’s ruling revealed many of the facts concerning Prime Minister Trudeau and other government officials pressuring the Attorney General, the public has a right to an update on the RCMP’s investigation, and any decisions that have been made concerning prosecuting anyone involved in the situation,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch and Ph.D. student at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law.
“Are the RCMP and prosecutors waiting for another election to pass, or doing what so often happens in Canada when powerful politicians and government officials are involved in alleged illegal activities – delaying with the hope that they can eventually bury the results of the investigation?” said Conacher.
Other reasons set out in the letter why the RCMP’s silence on the situation since August 2019 is unacceptable, include:
- Obstruction of justice is a serious criminal offence.
- Obstruction of justice is even more serious when committed behind closed doors by government politicians and officials, as it is then also an act of government corruption.
- As summarized in the letter, all of the elements needed to prove obstruction of justice (subsection 139(2) of the Criminal Code) are present in the actions of the Prime Minister and others as they pressured the Attorney General multiple times to stop the prosecution.
- Concerning intent, federal Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion concluded in 284 of his August 2019 ruling that “Mr. Trudeau knowingly sought to influence Ms. Wilson-Raybould both directly and through the actions of his agents.”
- Many legal and political experts dispute the claim by the Clerk of the Privy Council, and Prime Minister Trudeau, that it is proper for Cabinet to refuse to waive Cabinet confidence and prohibit the RCMP (and the Ethics Commissioner) from seeing all documents and records concerning the actions of the Prime Minister and the other government officials in this situation, and prohibit all government witnesses to provide full testimony, as can be seen in a September 13, 2019 Globe article.
- Prosecutors in Canada have, in recent years, usually provided public explanations of investigation and prosecution decisions in such cases (for example, B.C. special prosecutors in several recent cases, and the Commissioner of Canada Elections concerning the robocalls situation).
Democracy Watch also sent a letter in March 2019 to Commissioner of Lobbying Nancy Bélanger requesting an investigation into whether former Clerk of the Privy Council Kevin Lynch violated the Lobbying Act and the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct by failing to register as a lobbyist for SNC-Lavalin, and into all of SNC-Lavalin’s lobbying of the federal government since 2014. The letter also requested that Commissioner Bélanger delegate the investigation to a provincial commissioner or someone independent of her and the Trudeau Cabinet, because she was handpicked by the Trudeau Cabinet through a secretive, dishonest process.
Democracy Watch is also pursuing a court case in the Federal Court of Appeal challenging Ethics Commissioner Dion’s ruling that let everyone off the hook, except Prime Minister Trudeau, for pressuring the Attorney General. Daniel Tucker-Simmons of Avant Law is representing Democracy Watch in the case, Federal Court of Appeal File #A-331-19.
DWatch is challenging this part of the ruling in court because in paragraphs 262-281 (pages 41-44) the Ethics Commissioner summarizes the actions of PMO officials, Cabinet ministers and their staff that put pressure on the Attorney General. However, in paragraphs 282-286 (page 44), the Ethics Commissioner then excuses the actions of everyone except Prime Minister Trudeau on the very questionable basis that the other officials “could not have influenced the Attorney General” and were acting “under the direction or authority of the Prime Minister…”
As the Ethics Commissioner ruled, by attempting to influence the Attorney General PM Trudeau violated section 9 of the Conflict of Interest Act. Morneau, Wernick, and PMO and Finance Minister staff also attempted to influence the Attorney General. It is irrelevant whether they had the same power over the Attorney General as the PM has.
“The Ethics Commissioner made the right ruling by finding Prime Minister Trudeau guilty of violating the ethics law for pressuring the Attorney General to drop the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, but he should have also found other PMO and government officials guilty because they also pressured the Attorney General,” said Conacher. “The Ethics Commissioner’s ruling set a dangerous precedent because it says Cabinet staff aren’t covered by the federal ethics law, and can do things that Cabinet ministers are not allowed to do, so hopefully the courts will reverse the Commissioner’s ruling so everyone who violated the law will be found guilty.”
Democracy Watch’s case also argues that Ethics Commissioner Dion should have delegated the investigation and ruling on the situation to a provincial ethics commissioner who had no ties to any federal party, given that he was chosen by the Trudeau Cabinet after a secretive, Cabinet-controlled process that failed to consult with opposition parties as required by the Parliament of Canada Act. Mr. Dion also had a record 8 unethical and questionable actions when he was federal Integrity Commissioner.
“Ethics Commissioner Dion should not be ruling on any situations involving Liberals as he was hand-picked by the Trudeau Cabinet through a secretive, very questionable process, and has an unethical past enforcement record, and so he should delegate investigations to a provincial ethics commissioner,” said Conacher.
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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179