Following a bombshell report from The Globe and Mail, serious and troubling questions have arisen as to whether members of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s staff pressured former Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to intervene in the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, Canada’s largest engineering firm.
If the allegations from The Globe and Mail’s unidentified sources are true, there is a very real possibility that one or more persons within the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) have committed the crime of obstruction of justice under the Criminal Code of Canada. Under s. 139(2) of the Criminal Code, a person who “wilfully attempts in any manner… to obstruct, pervert or defeat the course of justice” is guilty an indictable offence punishable by up to ten years in prison [my emphasis].
Trudeau has responded to a barrage of questions about the actions of his political staff by insisting repeatedly that neither he nor any of his staff “directed” Ms. Wilson-Raybould, whom he recently devoted to the post of Minister of Veterans Affairs, to intervene in the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin. However, the words “in any manner” are very broad and certainly capture conduct falling short of ‘direction’. Trudeau has steadfastly refused to answer the broader question of whether the PMO pressured Ms. Wilson-Raybould to intervene and to ensure that SNC-Lavalin is not convicted of a criminal offence in what is arguably the worst case of corporate corruption in Canadian history.
Citing solicitor-client privilege, Ms. Wilson-Raybould has declined to answer questions about whether the PMO did in fact pressure her to intervene in the SNC-Lavalin case. As I explain, however, Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s client (the government) is free to waive the privilege and to authorize her to respond to critically important questions about what actually happened.
Why hasn’t the Prime Minister waived the privilege?
With Sharmini Peries on The Real News Network, I discuss the legal implications of these allegations and the question of lawyer-client privilege. My discussion with Sharmini can be seen and heard here: