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Timeline: SNC-Lavalin and Jody Wilson-Raybould

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OTTAWA — Feb. 19, 2015 — The RCMP lays corruption and fraud charges against Montreal-based engineering and construction firm SNC-Lavalin, over allegations it used bribery to get government business in Libya. SNC-Lavalin says the charges are without merit and stem from “alleged reprehensible deeds by former employees who left the company long ago.” A conviction would bar the company from bidding on Canadian government business, potentially devastating it.

Oct. 19 — The Liberals win a federal election, taking power from the Conservatives. Two weeks later, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau names Jody Wilson-Raybould minister of justice and attorney general of Canada. She is the first Indigenous person to hold the post, which combines duties as a politician (heading the Department of Justice) and a legal official (overseeing prosecutions).

Spring 2018 — The federal Liberals table and pass a budget bill that includes a change to the Criminal Code allowing “remediation agreements,” plea-bargain-like deals between prosecutors and accused corporations in which they can avoid criminal proceedings by making reparations for previous bad behaviour. SNC-Lavalin lobbies for such an agreement, including by meeting with officials in the Prime Minister’s Office.

Oct. 9, 2018 — Federal prosecutors refuse to offer SNC-Lavalin a remediation agreement, a decision the company challenges in court. That challenge is ongoing.

Jan. 14, 2019 — Trudeau shuffles his cabinet after the resignation of treasury board president Scott Brison. Wilson-Raybould is moved from Justice to Veterans Affairs, widely seen as a demotion. David Lametti, a Montreal MP who was formerly a law professor, becomes justice minister. Wilson-Raybould posts a long letter outlining her record as justice minister and noting that a great deal of work remains to be done toward reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.

Feb. 7 — Citing unnamed sources, the Globe and Mail newspaper reports that Trudeau’s aides “attempted to press Jody Wilson-Raybould when she was justice minister to intervene in the corruption and fraud prosecution of Montreal engineering and construction giant SNC-Lavalin Group Inc.,” and that exasperation with her lack of co-operation was one reason for shuffling her out of the justice portfolio. Trudeau denies any impropriety. Citing solicitor-client privilege, Wilson-Raybould refuses to speak about dealings she had on the case when she was attorney general.

Feb. 11 — Federal ethics commissioner Mario Dion says he’s beginning an investigation. At a public appearance in Vancouver, Trudeau says he’s spoken to Wilson-Raybould and confirmed with her that he said any decision on the SNC-Lavalin prosecution was entirely hers. Her continued presence in his cabinet speaks for itself, he says.

Feb. 12 — Wilson-Raybould resigns as Veterans Affairs minister and says she’s hired former Supreme Court justice Thomas Cromwell to advise her on the limits of solicitor-client privilege in this case. In Winnipeg, Trudeau says he’s surprised and disappointed that Wilson-Raybould has quit, and that if she felt undue pressure in her role as attorney general, she had a duty to report it to him.

Feb. 13 — The House of Commons justice committee debates its own probe of the issue. Liberals use their majority to call one closed-door meeting and hear from senior officials (Lametti as justice minister, the top bureaucrat in his department, and the clerk of the Privy Council) who can talk about the tension between the minister of justice’s duties as a politician and his or her responsibilities as attorney general of Canada. The Liberals say this is a first step in a cautious investigation; the opposition calls it a coverup.

Feb. 15 — Trudeau says in Ottawa that Wilson-Raybould asked him in September whether he would direct her one way or another on the SNC-Lavalin question; he says he told her he would not.

Feb. 18 — Trudeau’s closest adviser and longtime friend Gerald Butts resigns as his principal secretary. He denies any impropriety but says his continued presence in the Prime Minister’s Office has become a distraction.

The Canadian Press


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Seamus O’Regan faces calls to visit Attawapiskat during state of emergency

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Dwelling in Attawapiskat

OTTAWA — Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O’Regan is facing calls from the federal NDP to visit the northern Ontario community of Attawapiskat First Nation.

Earlier this month, the community declared a state of emergency over concerns about chemical levels in tap water.

NDP MP Charlie Angus, who represents the federal riding encompassing the reserve, is meeting with the community today and says O’Regan needs to see the impacts of the issue first-hand, including that community members are worried about being able to safety bathe their children.

Attawapiskat has drawn national attention for its 2012 housing crisis and it has also faced issues with youth suicide.

Former chief Theresa Spence, who launched a high-profile protest over the housing situation, has also started a hunger strike over water concerns.

O’Regan’s office says that addressing the water issue in full partnership with the First Nation is a top priority, adding it knows recent test results have raised concerns.

 

 

The Canadian Press

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Trudeau to push trade pact in EU leaders’ summit as France moves ahead on CETA

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Trudeau to push trade pact with EU

MONTREAL — Lawmakers in France begin their ratification of the comprehensive trade agreement between the European Union and Canada as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomes the leaders of the 28-country bloc to Montreal today.

Trudeau has been pushing hard for a win on trade and foreign policy after two difficult years marked by a rough renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement with the Trump administration and the deterioration of political and trade relations with China.

Trudeau will talk up the merits of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or CETA, with European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in a series of events in Montreal over the next two days.

But Wednesday’s legal development when the French National Assembly begins its consideration of France’s ratification bill is also a prime focus for Canada’s Liberal prime minister, who will be fighting a federal election this fall.

Sources in France and Canada, who were not authorized to speak publicly about the talks, say Trudeau lobbied French President Emmanuel Macron for more than a year to introduce the bill, and that those efforts finally paid off last month in Paris during their most recent face-to-face meeting.

Almost all of CETA — in excess of 90 per cent — went into force in September 2017 under what is known as provisional application, but individual ratifications by EU member countries will bring it fully into effect.

That would mean a win for the international trading order that has been under assault by U.S. President Donald Trump.

“It’s an essential step. We’re very pleased with our co-operation with the French government,” International Trade Minister Jim Carr said in an interview.

Carr will be meeting his EU counterpart Cecilia Malmstrom in Montreal. He said the French move towards ratification is a significant step in Canada’s broader goal of diversifying Canada’s export markets.

Trudeau was in Paris in early June after attending the 75th anniversary commemorations of D-Day in France and Britain, and he and Macron emerged with news that France would move forward with CETA’s ratification. The introduction of the bill in the National Assembly is a first step in a process that the French government hopes will lead to full ratification by the end of 2019.

Macron and Trudeau have talked about the agreement repeatedly — in Paris in April 2018, in a telephone conversation a year later, and other face-to-face meetings. Macron is a staunch Europhile and open supporter of CETA, but he has had to tread cautiously because of populist opposition to trade deals in France and across Europe.

Canada has lobbied French lawmakers, businesspeople and farmers, an effort that included more than two dozen visits to various regions of France by Isabelle Hudon, the Canadian ambassador.

Trudeau also made a direct appeal to French lawmakers in an April 2018 speech to the National Assembly, the first time a Canadian prime minister addressed that body.

“Let us ask ourselves this question: If France cannot ratify a free-trade agreement with Canada, what country can you imagine doing it with?” Trudeau asked.

CETA gives Canadian businesses preferred access to 500 million European consumers, and a $24 trillion market. In 2018, Canada’s exports to the EU increased by seven per cent to more than $44 billion.

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press


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