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  • Former Canadian Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould testifies before the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

    Former Canadian Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould testifies before the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. | Photo: Reuters

Published 28 February 2019

Jody Wilson-Raybould, Canada's first Indigenous justice minister, testified to a House of Commons committee and said that PM Trudeau and his inner circle had committed political interference. 

The political crisis surrounding Canadian Prime Minister (PM) Justin Trudeau has taken a turn for the worse, now that former justice minister and ex-attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould has broken her silence on the matter. 

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Wilson-Raybould, Canada's first Indigenous justice minister, testified to a House of Commons committee and said that while the actions of the PM and his inner circle were not illegal, they had amounted to political interference in the judicial system. 

The ex-justice minister had taken extensive notes during meetings before her resignation, earlier this month, which contributed to an extremely detailed description of meetings, conversations and emails regarding the criminal case of Quebec-based construction giant SLC-Lavalin Group Inc. 

The engineering and construction company was accused of paying millions of dollars to Libyan officials during the rule of Muammar Gaddafi.

Trudeau and his inner circle have been campaigning for a solution, specifically, a settlement that would prevent the company from going to court, and would only be slapped with a substantial fine. Trudeau justified the move by claiming his "government will always focus on jobs and our economy.” The Canadian leader's decision to defend SNC-Lavalin has been largely commended by the French-speaking province.

Wilson-Raybould said she did not succumb to pressure to intervene because of her desire to "uphold the principle of judicial independence and rule of law," according to the New York Times.

The former lead attorney also noted four months of being pressured by an inappropriate "barrage of people hounding me and my staff,” explaining “I raised how I needed everybody to stop talking to me about SNC, as I had made up my mind and that the engagements were inappropriate.” 

The series of "veiled threats" directed at Wilson-Raybould prioritized the prevention of negative economic effects over the prevention of impunity for corruption. Politicians feared that a conviction would prohibit the company from engaging in business with the Canadian government for a decade, making it vulnerable to a foreign takeover, most likely to London.

Wilson-Raybould's resignation beckons the possibility that David Lametti, the new justice minister, could negotiate a settlement. This possibility has become increasingly less likely due to the politicization of the case. 

A general election, scheduled for October, is approaching and the testimonial is already being used by the opposition to discredit Trudeau's Liberal Party, also resulting in the negative effects being reflected in national polls. The leader of the Conservative Party, Andrew Scheer, has called for Trudeau's immediate resignation.

The case marks the biggest scandal in Trudeau's political career and is rehashing scandals of his party's past. In 2006, the Liberals were involved in a scandal in which party officials received more than US$$760,000 (CAN$1 million) in kickbacks from Quebec-based marketing firms.

Professor Richard Johnston, a political scientist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver originally thought Trudeau's government might be able to handle the backlash following Wilson-Raybould's testimony, but after the four-hour proceeding, he stated, "it doesn't look good."

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