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RCMP releases less than half of promised investigation records into obstruction of SNC-Lavalin prosecution by Trudeau Cabinet

RCMP disclosure in May false in every way – records show failure to obtain key records, acceptance of Cabinet’s claims, two-year delay by top officers

Public inquiry needed into why RCMP’s national command tried to cover up its investigation, and why they rolled over and didn’t prosecute anyone

Monday, October 16, 2023

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch released the 1,815 pages of records contained in 19 documents that the RCMP recently disclosed in response to it’s July 2022 Access to Information Act (ATIA) request for all records of the RCMP’s investigation of the allegation that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Liberal Cabinet officials obstructed justice by pressuring then-Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould to stop the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin in 2018 (now operating under the name “AtkinsRéalis”).

Seven of the 19 documents have not been disclosed before. Three are fully redacted (Records #5-7 containing the RCMP’s legal opinion); one has several pages redacted (Record #4) and another a few pages (Record #2). The other 12 documents are already public. Click here to see the list and links to the records.

The RCMP’s Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) Branch sent Democracy Watch an email and letter on July 20th to say that it had more than 4,000 pages of investigation records to review. This directly contradicted the Branch’s May 25, 2023 letter to DWatch responding to its ATIA request which attached only 96 pages of records and a letter that claimed, falsely, that 86 of the 96 pages were fully redacted because the RCMP’s investigation of the matter was still ongoing (in fact, the RCMP had concluded its investigation in January 2023).

The ATIP Branch sent Democracy Watch a letter on September 22nd disclosing the 1,815 pages of records, and stating that it is still reviewing and processing the rest of the investigation records (more than 2,185 pages) to determine if the ATIA secrecy exemption for Cabinet confidences applies to the records (Record #2, paras. 179-181 (p. 55); Record #4, pp. 43-75). The September 22nd letter does not say when the more than 2,185 pages will be disclosed, and the ATIP Branch did not respond to a follow-up email from Democracy Watch requesting an estimate of when the records will be disclosed.

The records show that, over an almost four-year period, the RCMP’s investigating officers only spoke to three witnesses concerning the obstruction allegation, Ms. Wilson-Raybould, Ms. Prince, and former Deputy Minister of Justice Nathalie Drouin (who became Deputy Clerk of the Privy Council Office on August 23, 2021). The RCMP never considered prosecuting anyone for breach of trust. Click here to see a summary of the content of the records.

The records also show that the RCMP continued to call the investigation an “assessment” so that it could say to the media that it wasn’t investigating, even though it is clear the officers were investigating (only in a very superficial way).

The records also show that the RCMP accepted the Trudeau Cabinet’s restricted disclosure order and didn’t apply to court for a search warrant or try to obtain secret Cabinet documents or the internal communications on all computers, phones and other devices used by the Prime Minister and other Cabinet officials, despite all of the suspicious and questionable actions by these people and SNC-Lavalin lobbyists (Record #2, paras. 82-83 (p. 30), 300-301 (p. 126) and 331-334 (p. 134); Record #3, paras. 5 (p. 2) and 21-23 (p. 7)).

Instead, the RCMP relied entirely on the public claims made by all these people which, of course, were all aimed at trying to make it seem like they had done nothing wrong. The RCMP also characterized all of the statements by all these people in a favourable way whenever possible, and always argued in favour of doubts concerning the success of a prosecution (Record #2, paras. 259 (p. 117); 278 (p. 121); 295-299 (pp. 125-126); 313-334 (pp. 130-134 – especially paras. 318, 320-32, 323-326, 328-330; Record #3, subparas. 9(e), (g) and (h) (pp. 3-4); paras. 15-18 (pp. 5-6), and; 19-20 (pp. 6-7)).

In addition, the records show that the investigating officer initially established that, to prove obstruction of justice in court, pressure must have been placed on someone to obstruct a proceeding in the justice system, and that such pressure had been put on Ms. Wilson-Raybould by Prime Minister Trudeau and various other Cabinet officials (Record #2, paras. 234 (p. 87); 239 (p. 88), and 249 (p. 111)) to obstruct the proceeding of a prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.

However, the investigating officer then switches the standard to require proof of “a corrupt intent to interfere” before a prosecution for obstruction would be pursued (Record #2, paras. 250-301 (pp. 111-126 – especially paras. 287-290)).

Finally, the records show that the RCMP’s national command took from March 2021, when it received the investigation report, until January 2023 to make its decision to conclude the investigation without prosecuting anyone. The RCMP has redacted key parts of the records that contain the actual legal reasons for the decision not to prosecute anyone (Record #2, para. 267 and part of para. 268 redacted (pp. 116-117); and Records #5-7 are fully redacted).

Overall, the records raise the following serious questions:

  1. Why did the RCMP not even try to apply to court to obtain a search warrant for any of the Trudeau Cabinet documents and records of communications (or parts of the documents or records) that were claimed to be “Cabinet confidences” even though they could have likely obtained some or some parts of the documents and records?
  2. Why did the RCMP national command wait almost two years to make its decision to end the examination of the situation without even doing a full investigation, let alone prosecuting anyone?
  3. Why did the RCMP national command try, through its almost two-year delay, to bury and cover-up its investigation?
  4. Who exactly in the RCMP was involved in making the delay decision and the decision not to prosecute anyone?
  5. Who did they communicate with while making these decisions, and did they communicate with anyone in the Trudeau Cabinet? and;
  6. What were the actual legal reasons no one was prosecuted?

“The records show the RCMP is a negligently weak lapdog that rolled over for Prime Minister Trudeau by doing a very superficial investigation into his Cabinet’s obstruction of the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, not trying to obtain key secret Cabinet communication records, and burying the investigation with an almost two-year delay,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “The RCMP also misled the public by claiming it wasn’t investigating, violated the open government law by keeping investigation records secret much longer than is allowed, and is refusing to disclose the legal details why no one was prosecuted.”

“Given pressure by the Prime Minister and Cabinet officials to obstruct a prosecution is a situation that has not been revealed publicly before, and given no past court ruling makes it clear that the RCMP and Crown prosecutors could not win a prosecution, they should have tried to get a search warrant for secret Cabinet communications, and prosecuted so a judge could decide in an open court whether obstruction had occurred instead of making a behind-closed-doors and very questionable decision to cover up their investigation,” said Conacher.

“A public inquiry, with a fully independent, non-partisan inquiry commissioner chosen by all party leaders, is needed to determine why the RCMP’s national command tried to cover up its investigation, and exactly how and why they and Crown prosecutors decided not to prosecute anyone,” said Conacher.

“All of the RCMP’s conflicting actions and statements and the problems and delays with the investigation in Trudeau-SNC-Lavalin scandal are due to their systemic culture of excessive secrecy and lack of independence from the Prime Minister and Cabinet ministers who handpick the RCMP Commissioner through a secretive process,” said Conacher. “The RCMP consistently fails to enforce Canada’s anti-corruption laws in a timely, effective way, which shows the need for key changes that many experts have called for to make the RCMP more independent, effective and publicly accountable, especially when it is investigating politicians or government officials, or even better to establish a new fully independent anti-corruption police force including prosecutors..”

If the RCMP was committed to transparency and independent, effective law enforcement, it would have made it clear back in 2019 when the allegations were first made that an independent special prosecutor, appointed by all party leaders, would oversee the investigation and issue a public report when it ended that provided a summary of the investigation and details about prosecution decisions.

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Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Cell: 416-546-3443
Email: [email protected]

Democracy Watch’s Government Ethics Campaign, Open Government Campaign and Stop Unfair Law Enforcement Campaign