Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday February 26, 2019
PM waives attorney-client privilege in SNC-Lavalin affair
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has waived attorney-client privilege and cabinet confidence to allow Jody Wilson-Raybould to speak openly when she appears before the House Justice Committee as part of its study into the SNC-Lavalin affair.
The government made the directive in an Order in Council posted Monday evening. The order authorizes her, as well as “any person who directly participated in discussions with her,” to speak to the committee and ethics commissioner, about the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.
“We obviously take very seriously the right of everyone to share their perspectives in various ways,” Trudeau told reporters on his way to the Commons Monday, before first signalling that Wilson-Raybould would be able to “address relevant matters at the committee while ensuring that the two active court cases are not jeopardized.”
The order relates to any information or communications that have to do with Wilson-Raybould’s time as the attorney general and exercising her authority under the Director of Public Prosecutions Act, and only in regards to the two ongoing probes of the matter, and not a blanket permission for Wilson-Raybould to speak.
As well, the order states that Director of Public Prosecutions Kathleen Roussel is exempted from this waiving of privilege and any information or conversations between Wilson-Raybould and Roussel cannot be disclosed, “in order to uphold the integrity of any criminal or civil proceedings,” the prime minister’s office states in the Order in Council.
The prime minister has faced calls to waive solicitor-client privilege in the matter to allow Wilson-Raybould to speak publicly about allegations of political pressure being placed on her by members of the PMO in regards to an ongoing criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.
Citing unnamed sources, The Globe and Mail reported on Feb. 7 that Trudeau’s office pressed Wilson-Raybould to drop a criminal prosecution against SNC-Lavalin when she was attorney general. It was alleged that the PMO wanted Wilson-Raybould to instruct federal prosecutors to change course and pursue a remediation agreement rather than criminal prosecution in the corruption and fraud case against the Quebec engineering and construction giant. CTV News has not independently verified the story.
When she was attorney general, Wilson-Raybould had the ability to direct federal prosecutors to take a different route with the charges against SNC-Lavalin but she did not, despite several meetings and conversations on the matter before and after federal prosecutors decided to carry on with the criminal case in the fall.
In January, Wilson-Raybould was shuffled into the veterans affairs portfolio, and was replaced as attorney general and justice minister by David Lametti, a Quebec MP. Wilson-Raybould accepted her new position, but then resigned from cabinet days after the Globe story broke. So far, she’s maintained solicitor-client privilege as the reason she’s yet to speak out publicly about the allegations, though she’s signaled a desire to “speak my truth,” and reportedly told cabinet members when she met with them last week at her request, that the pressure was improper. (Source: CTV News)