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Scheer demands PM let Wilson-Raybould talk about SNC-Lavalin discussions

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  • OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has written directly to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking him to waive solicitor-client privilege so former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould can publicly talk about what happened with SNC-Lavalin.

    The request is contained in an open letter dated Sunday, in which Scheer says he also wants all communications to or from the prime minister or members of his staff about the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin to be opened up to public scrutiny.

    “Solicitor-client privilege and the duty of confidentiality are important values in our legal system,” Scheer wrote.

    “But in the present situation, they must be subordinated to a higher value: the confidence of Canadians in the integrity, fairness and impartiality of our criminal justice system.”

    The request follows a Globe and Mail report last week that members of Trudeau’s office leaned on Wilson-Raybould to have federal prosecutors negotiate a “remediation agreement” with SNC-Lavalin rather than move ahead with a criminal prosecution.

    The Quebec engineering and construction giant has faced legal trouble over allegations it paid millions of dollars in bribes to get government business in Libya, which would be a crime under Canadian law and threaten its ability to win future federal work.

    Wilson-Raybould, who was demoted from her role as justice minister and attorney general last month, has said she cannot comment because in her role as the government’s top lawyer, she is bound by solicitor-client privilege.

    Government officials have acknowledged to The Canadian Press that Wilson-Raybould was involved in extensive, internal discussions last month about whether SNC-Lavalin should be allowed to avoid criminal prosecution.

    But they maintain there was nothing wrong with that, while Trudeau has publicly denied he or anyone in his office “directed” the minister on the matter.

    Wilson-Raybould’s refusal to comment publicly has nonetheless added fuel to the political fire, sparking opposition demands for transparency and accusations of government interference in a criminal case.

    In his letter, Scheer said Canadians deserve answers “as the allegations surrounding it strike at the very heart of fair and impartial law enforcement and prosecutorial functions, themselves vital to the rule of law and to our democracy.”

    While the Prime Minister’s Office did not respond to questions Sunday, a Toronto Star report cited unnamed senior government officials as saying the privilege would not be waived because the case against SNC-Lavalin remains before the courts.

    One senior official also reportedly told the newspaper that the government would not agree to Opposition demands for an emergency meeting of the House of Commons justice committee to hear from Wilson-Raybould and members of Trudeau’s staff.

    Parliamentary committees are supposed to be masters of their own domain because of their role in holding the government to account.

    The chair of the committee, Liberal MP Anthony Housefather, stated on Twitter on Sunday that “nobody has attempted to influence me” about the opposition’s attempts to hold hearings on SNC-Lavalin.

    “I intend to independently determine whether committee study of the issue will be useful for Canadians (and) colleagues will do same,” Housefather wrote, adding the committee will convene on Wednesday to discuss the issue.

    Liberal MPs nonetheless have a majority of members on the committee, meaning they could move to block any opposition request to conduct a probe.

    Current Justice Minister and Attorney General David Lametti, who replaced Wilson-Raybould, told CTV’s Question Period in an interview broadcast Sunday that he did not believe there was any justification for a committee hearing into the matter.

    “All we’ve heard are allegations in a newspaper,” said Lametti. “The prime minister has said that these allegations are false. We haven’t had any corroborating evidence there. There hasn’t been anything to my mind that justifies a committee investigation.”

    Wilson-Raybould, now veterans affairs minister, released a statement on Friday saying she is bound as the former attorney general by solicitor-client privilege and cannot publicly talk about aspects of the case.

    SNC-Lavalin has been charged with bribery and corruption over its efforts to secure government business in Libya and wants a deal, allowed under the law, to pay reparations rather than be prosecuted.

    A guilty verdict on bribery and corruption charges would result in SNC-Lavalin being barred from government contracts in Canada for 10 years. Officials have said it could also cause foreign government contracts to dry up, potentially putting it out of business.

    Consequently, they said, it was natural for internal discussions to have taken place after the director of public prosecutions, Kathleen Roussel, informed SNC-Lavalin last October that a remediation agreement would be inappropriate in this case.

    The company is challenging her decision in court.

    SNC-Lavalin has heavily lobbied ministers, government officials and even Scheer and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh to make its case for avoiding a prosecution. Quebec Premier Francois Legault has also pressured Trudeau to intervene on the company’s behalf.

    Scheer’s office confirmed to the Star on Sunday that the Conservative leader met with the head of SNC-Lavalin last year to discuss the case against the company and a possible remediation deal. Scheer’s spokesman Brock Harrison did not respond to emails.

    Under the law, the attorney general may issue a directive to the director of public prosecutions on how to handle a specific case, provided the directive is in writing and made public.

    — Follow @leeberthiaume on Twitter.

    Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press



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    PR firm suspends contract with former B.C. premier amid groping accusation

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  • VANCOUVER — A global communications marketing firm says it is suspending its contract with former British Columbia premier Gordon Campbell in light of an allegation in a British newspaper that he groped a woman in the United Kingdom.

    Edelman says in a statement that Campbell has served as a special adviser to the firm since last July, and was engaged on a part-time basis as a consultant through a retainer agreement.

    However, the company says it and Campbell have “mutually decided to suspend their consulting arrangement” until a police investigation in the United Kingdom is complete.

    On Friday, the Daily Telegraph reported that London police are investigating a complaint from a woman who was an employee at the Canadian High Commission when Campbell was high commissioner to the U.K.

    The newspaper says the complainant alleges she was groped in 2013 and filed a complaint with police in January.

    The Metropolitan Police in London could not be reached for comment on Friday or Saturday.

    Campbell also could not be reached for comment, but a spokesman issued the following statement on his behalf:

    “This complaint was transparently disclosed and became the subject of a full due diligence investigation at the time by the Government of Canada and was found to be without merit.”

    The Daily Telegraph story includes the woman’s name, but The Canadian Press does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault without their active consent and was not able to contact the woman.

    Campbell was premier of British Columbia from 2001 until 2011. He was appointed high commissioner to the U.K. in 2011 and left the diplomatic post in 2016.

    The Canadian Press


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    International rules must be enforced, Freeland says after Munich conference

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  • Canada will continue to meet with like-minded nations as it aims to bridge divides between countries at a time of simmering international tensions, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said from Germany on Saturday.

    The approach is necessary as Canada strives to reinforce the “rules-based international order,” Freeland said in a conference call with reporters as she wrapped up her time at the Munich Security Conference.

    “We also think we need to … bring together specific coalitions around specific issues,” she said, listing the Lima Group — which helped empower Venezuela’s opposition in its fight against President Nicolas Maduro — as an example of Canada doing just that.

    The group helped identify the politician Canada and its allies recognize as Venezuela’s real leader, Juan Guaido, as a contender to bring down Maduro’s regime.

    “There is now a very long list of countries who have recognized Juan Guaido as interim president,” she said. “That is a sign that the international community is coming together around democracy in Venezuela.”

    But she added that Canada is not — and should not be — leading the fight against Maduro.

    “This is a process led by the people of Venezuela,” she said. “They are the ones who need to win this effort. Our job as the international community is to support them, and that is very much what we’re doing.”

    She said that beyond seeking out like-minded countries, Canada will continue to name and shame those involved in human rights abuses, listing the country’s involvement in protesting the genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar as an example of such an approach.

    The federal government has appointed former Liberal MP Bob Rae as Canada’s special envoy to Myanmar and pledged $300 million over the next three years to combat the crisis there. Last September, Parliament voted unanimously to strip Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, of her honorary Canadian citizenship for failing to stop the atrocities committed against the Rohingya people.

    Freeland’s public push for a rules-following international order also comes in the midst of an ongoing dispute between Canada and China, following what she called the superpower’s “arbitrary” detention of two Canadians in apparent retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.

    Freeland said the detention of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig was central to her discussion with Rob Malley, president of the International Crisis Group, and is yet another example of nations rallying together.

    “The ICG has been a very important partner in working to build international support,” she said.

    Numerous countries — including Germany, France, the Netherlands, the U.K., Australia, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia — have spoken against the men’s detention. Earlier this week in Munich, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham said the American response had not been strong enough.

    Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press


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