Five things we learned from Wilson Raybould at the justice committee
More details from the former justice minister's testimony.
OTTAWA—Five things Canadians learned from former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould, in her testimony Wednesday at the House of Commons justice committee.
1. Wilson-Raybould said there were at least 10 phone calls and 10 different meetings, as well as several text messages, about the SNC-Lavalin case, between her or senior members of her staff and 11 people in the Prime Minister’s Office and other departments, between Sept. 4, 2018 and Dec. 18, 2018. One of those meetings was between her and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
She said she began to be concerned immediately about what she viewed as pressure on her to overturn the decision not to negotiate a remediation agreement with SNC-Lavalin but that her concerns were heightened as the calls and meetings continued even after she said she had made up he mind not to arrange for a deal.
2. Wilson-Raybould was informed on Sept. 4 that the director of public prosecutions had decided not to pursue a remediation agreement with SNC-Lavalin, but rather continue with a criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin. She said she conducted her own due diligence and by Sept. 16 had made up her mind that she would not overrule the director’s decision or take over the prosecution herself. The law gives her the authority to do either but Wilson-Raybould said an attorney general has never taken over a prosecution and directives to the public prosecutor have been used only for general policies, not specific cases.
Wilson-Raybould said it wouldn’t be appropriate to discuss what research she undertook, or why she made the decision she made, citing concerns about affecting ongoing court cases in the matter.
Wilson-Raybould said she felt once she had made up her mind, it was inappropriate to have further conversations about the matter.
Liberal MP Randy Boissonnault argued that decisions on prosecutions continue throughout a case and wondered whether Wilson-Raybould believed she should continue to accept information that might affect the case.
“I was entirely comfortable that I had the appropriate context in which to make my decision,” she said.
3. The conversation Wilson-Raybould had with Trudeau on Sept. 17 alarmed her when he talked about SNC-Lavalin’s importance in Quebec, and the fact that he is a Quebec MP. She believed that distracted from appropriate concerns in considering a remediation agreement, such as saving the jobs of innocent people or the public interest more broadly. She asked him if he was interfering in her role as an independent attorney general and that she would strongly advise against that. She said Trudeau said, “No, no, no, we just need to find a solution.”
4. Wilson-Raybould believed Privy Council clerk Michael Wernick was issuing “veiled threats” to her in a phone call they had on Dec. 19, 2018, in which he told her that the prime minister was still concerned and wanted to know why a deferred-prosecution agreement wasn’t being pursued. She said Wernick told her: “I think (the prime minister) is going to find a way to get it done one way or another. He is in that kind of mood and I wanted you to be aware of it.”
5. The Liberal MPs on the committee asked Wilson-Raybould many times why, if she had so many concerns about being improperly pressured regarding the SNC-Lavalin prosecution, she didn’t resign earlier as the attorney general, and why she accepted a new cabinet job as the minister of veterans affairs when she felt she was being shuffled for not doing what the prime minister wanted.
Wilson-Raybould’s response continued to be that she was doing her job as the attorney general, and upholding the integrity of the office. She told the committee if a directive to proceed to a deferred prosecution had been made while she was the veterans-affairs minister, she would have resigned from cabinet immediately. She did end up resigning on Feb. 12 but said she could not say why, saying an order freeing her from obligations of cabinet confidentiality and solicitor-client privilege did not extend to the period after she was no longer the attorney general.