OTTAWA – The Canadian ethics watchdog has investigated allegations that the prime minister's office has put pressure on former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould to help construction giant SNC-Lavalin prevent criminal prosecution, even if Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Wilson- Raybould told personally last fall that the decision of her was to make.
Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion confirmed his investigation Monday in a letter to NDP MPs Charlie Angus and Nathan Cullen, who raised possible violations of the Conflicts of Interest Act.
In the letter, Dion said that he "has reason to believe that a possible violation of section 9 (of the law) may have occurred." This section prohibits the office bearers from trying to influence decisions that may "affect improper personal interests of others". "
In an interview with journalists in a Vancouver house advert, Trudeau said he welcomed the survey because "it is extremely important that Canadians can continue to have confidence in our system."
He said he had met Wilson-Raybould twice, representing a downtown Vancouver drive, as he arrived in town on Sunday, although she was not present with him at the announcement. He said he still has full confidence in Jody & # 39; and said she recognizes that he confirmed her independence as a lawyer-general at a meeting months ago.
"We talked about our shared goals for our country and for this government," he said. & # 39; She confirmed for me a conversation we had this fall and in which I told her directly that decisions about matters involving the director of the prosecution were only for her. & # 39;
A last week's Globe and Mail report mentions sources without a name that said Prime Minister Wilson-Raybould's office encouraged federal prosecutors to negotiate a deal with SNC-Lavalin that would have resulted in a fine in place of a criminal trial.
The company in Quebec was accused in 2015 of bribing Libyan officials between 2001 and 2011 in exchange for construction contracts.
De Post has not independently confirmed the allegations of political interference.
Subsequently, interim commissioner for public integrity Mario Dion in Ottawa, Tuesday, December 13, 2011.
Adrian Wyld / CP
Wilson-Raybould, who was kicked out of the justice portfolio last month, said little publicly about the allegations, citing the lawyer-client's right. On Sunday, the conservative leader Andrew Scheer wrote to Trudeau to demand that he abandon that privilege and permit Wilson-Raybould to speak openly.
But Trudeau said that the issue of waiving privileges "is not easy." He said he asked the current Attorney General David Lametti for recommendations for him.
In Ottawa, Lametti held a speech at a Canadian Bar Association conference Monday, in which he pointed to his dual role as cabinet member working on justice policy and the government's most important legal adviser overseeing the prosecutor's office. "It is important to remember that while the Attorney General is at some distance from his cabinet colleague, he, in contrast to other countries, does not work in isolation from them in Canada," he said. "But there is a line that can not be exceeded, telling the attorney general what a decision should be: that would be interference."
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses those present during the Liberal fundraising event at the Delta Hotel in Toronto, Ontario, on Thursday 7 February 2019.
Tijana Martin / CP
Lametti later refused to answer several questions from reporters, saying that it would be inappropriate to comment as an attorney general, since the case of SNC-Lavalin is in court.
The ethical investigation comes at the moment the House of Commons Justice Committee prepares for an emergency meeting on Wednesday to debate a motion calling upon Wilson-Raybould and several senior officials in the PMO to testify about the accusations of political interference. On the weekend, the Toronto Star reported that the majority-liberal committee is likely to block the opposition's attempt to testify. In response, two-chairman of the committee and Liberal MP Anthony Housefather tweeted that he will "independently determine" whether a commission study of the problem is needed. "No one has tried to influence me," he wrote.
On Monday, he told the reporters in Fredericton that the Liberals should let the committee go, regardless of ethical research. "If Justin Trudeau decides to stone us or close the committee on Wednesday, we will use all the legal and law enforcement tools we have at our disposal," he said.
Earlier on Monday, Wayne Long, a New Brunswick liberal MP, broke the ranks and joined the conservatives and the new Democrats by asking the court to investigate. "I am also looking for answers that purify the air about exactly what has happened here, and because I have been brought up to believe that full transparency is always the best approach to address such uncertainty, I am of the opinion that a complete and Transparent research is needed to ensure that my constituents, and all Canadians, can rely on the correctness of those answers, "he said.
The Liberals have insisted that they do not put Wilson-Raybould under pressure to sign a deal with SNC-Lavalin, known as a deferred prosecution agreement. Last week Trudeau told the reporters that the accusations were incorrect. "At no time did I or my office mandate the current or previous Attorney General to make a particular decision in this case," he said.
On Sunday, Lametti told CTV's demand period that it is still possible that he could run the prosecutor's office to sign a deal with SNC-Lavalin to prevent a criminal trial, but said he would continue would not comment if the case comes before the court. The Attorney General can issue guidelines for federal prosecutors, but the guidelines must be published in the Canadian State Gazette, the federal clerk.
In October, the director of the public prosecutor told SNC-Lavalin that it would not be appropriate to negotiate a deferred prosecution agreement. The company has requested a judicial review of that decision. If SNC-Lavalin is convicted in criminal proceedings, it can be excluded from government contracts in Canada for 10 years.
Liberals have introduced postponed prosecution agreements in the latest budget law. Similar measures already exist in the United States and the United Kingdom.
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