Former Canadian justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould says she faced intense political pressure and veiled threats related to the SNC-Lavalin affair.
Wilson-Raybould said that she was warned directly by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about the negative consequences if the Quebec-based company faced criminal prosecution.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said the RCMP should open an investigation, and he called on Trudeau to resign as prime minister for his role in undermining the administration of justice and trying to overturn an independent decision by the attorney general. He said the prime minister has lost his moral authority to govern.
“I was sickened and appalled by (Wilson-Raybould’s) story of inappropriate and frankly, borderline illegal pressure brought to bear on her by the highest levels of Justin Trudeau’s government,” she said.
Testifying at the Commons justice committee probing alleged political interference in the prosecution of the Montreal-based engineering and construction company on February 27, Wilson-Raybould said she was contacted by 11 officials in the Prime Minister’s Office, the Privy Council and Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s office on the matter when she served as justice minister and attorney general.
“For a period of four months from September to December 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 in an inappropriate effort to secure a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) with SNC-Lavalin.”
Wilson-Raybould said she was “hounded” by various officials through phone calls, meetings and text messages.
“Within these conversations there were express statements regarding the necessity of interfering in the SNC-Lavalin matter, the potential of consequences, and veiled threats if a DPA was not made available to SNC-Lavalin,” she said.
Wilson-Raybould, who is still in the Liberal caucus, testified for nearly four hours as the key witness for the Commons justice committee in a packed room on Parliament Hill.
She chronicled a series of meetings, including one with Trudeau and Privy Council clerk Michael Wernick on September 17, 2018. She told him that she had made a decision not to overturn the decision from the director of the Public Prosecution Service Kathleen Roussel to proceed with criminal prosecution against SNC-Lavalin.
The prime minister cited potential job losses and the possible move by the company, and asked her to “help out.” The clerk then made the case for a DPA and reminded there was an election coming in Quebec.
“At that point, the prime minister jumped in, stressing that there is an election in Quebec, and that, ‘I am an MP in Quebec, the MP for Papineau,'” she recounted. ‘I was quite taken aback.”
At that point, Wilson-Raybould said, she posed a direct question to Trudeau while looking him straight in the eye, asking if he was politically interfering with her role and her decision as the attorney general.
“I would strongly advise against it,” she told the committee she warned Trudeau, who responded, “No, no, no, we just need to find a solution.”
Are you politically interfering with my role as the attorney general,” Wilson-Raybould says she asked Trudeau. “I would strongly advise against it.”