Federal Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion has found that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau broke the Conflict of Interest Act.
In a report released August 14, 2019, Dion stated that Trudeau violated the law by exerting improper influence on then justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould regarding the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, a Quebec company.
Wilson-Raybould later resigned from the cabinet, and was subsequently removed from Trudeau’s Liberal Party.
SNC-Lavalin was facing criminal charges for its activities in Libya, and the company wanted to avoid trial.
Reacting to the report, Trudeau said that he “can’t apologize” for what the federal ethics commissioner has now ruled was improper political influence in the SNC-Lavalin scandal.
“I can’t apologize for standing up for Canadian jobs,” the prime minister said.
Andrew Scheer, Leader of Canada’s Conservatives and of the Official Opposition, released a statement following Dion’s report.
“Justin Trudeau is guilty again,” Scheer said. “Heading into this election, Trudeau had already become the only Prime Minister in Canadian history to be found guilty of breaking ethics laws. Now, we know he has done it again.
“Earlier today, and for the second time in just four years, the Ethics Commissioner has found Trudeau guilty of violating the Conflict of Interest Actin connection with his role in the SNC-Lavalin corruption trial,” Scheer said. And today, Justin Trudeau has been found guilty of illegally interfering to block the fraud and bribery trial of a Liberal linked corporation.
“What we have now is a clear picture of who Justin Trudeau truly is,” Scheer said. “And it’s not who he promised he would be.”
“He promised he would accountable and ethical,” Scheer said. “Instead, time and time again, he has used the power of his office to enrich himself, reward his friends, and punish his critics.”
“And on the eve of this election, the choice before Canadians has never been more clear. Between a Prime Minister who abuses his power, bends the law for his friends, attempts to silence his critics and destroys their reputations. And a Conservative government led by a Prime Minister who will uphold the rule of law, respect our democratic institutions, and help all Canadians get ahead,” Scheer said.
Wilson-Raybould, who is the MP for Vancouver Granville, welcomed Dion’s report.
“I am grateful for Commissioner Mario Dion’s thorough Report,” Wilson-Raybould said in a statement. “It represents a vindication of the independent role of the Attorney General and of the Director of Public Prosecutions in criminal prosecutions – and reinforces for Canadians how essential it is to our democracy to uphold the rule of law and prosecutorial independence.”
“The Report confirms critical facts, consistent with what I shared with all Canadians, and affirms the position I have taken from the outset,” Wilson-Raybould said. “The Commissioner was not distracted by inaccurate information about the events or about me personally – and drew conclusions based on the true facts of what occurred.”
Dion had said because any potential public interest in the case was intrinsically linked to the private interests of the company, Trudeau should not have waded in at all to argue for any particular considerations to be given more study.
Dion specifically looked at Section 9 of the Conflict of Interest Act, which bars public office holders from “using their position to seek to influence a decision to improperly further the private interests of a third party, either by acting outside the scope of their legislative authority, or contrary to a rule, a convention or an established process.”
As Dion noted in his report, it was not enough just to seek to influence someone else for an action to break the rules.
There had to be a specific desire to “improperly further the interests of SNC-Lavalin.”
Dion said that’s exactly what he found to be the case.
“The evidence showed that SNC-Lavalin had significant financial interests in deferring prosecution. These interests would likely have been furthered had Mr. Trudeau successfully influenced the Attorney General to intervene in the Director of Public Prosecutions’ decision,” wrote Dion.
“The actions that sought to further these interests were improper since they were contrary to the Shawcross doctrine and the principles of prosecutorial independence and the rule of law.”
He added: “There is no doubt that SNC-Lavalin’s considerable financial interests would have been furthered had Mr. Trudeau successfully influenced Ms. Wilson-Raybould to issue a directive that SNC‑Lavalin be invited to negotiate a remediation agreement.”
SNC-Lavalin faces up to a decade of being ineligible for bidding on government contracts if it is found guilty of the corruption and bribery allegations against it over its business activities in Libya from 2001 to 2011.
Last year, the Liberals changed the law to introduce a legal mechanism called a deferred prosecution agreement after heavy lobbying from SNC-Lavalin.
A deferred prosecution agreement would let a company admit wrongdoing and face a fine or other administrative or financial penalties rather than a criminal conviction, if invited to negotiate such a deal by the director of public prosecutions.
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said that it is “absolutely outrageous that Prime Minister Trudeau violated the trust of Canadians to further the interests of his corporate friends”.
“This report proves that the Liberal government has put the wealthy and the well-connected above the law – and the Prime Minister himself is directly responsible,” said Singh.