Jody Wilson-Raybould’s Directive On Civil Litigation Heralded As Historic Shift For Indigenous Rights

Michael Wernick called it a “profound change in Canada’s legal landscape.”

Jody Wilson-Raybould appears at the Senate legal and constitutional affairs committee on June 20, 2018. Jody Wilson-Raybould appears at the Senate legal and constitutional affairs committee on June 20, 2018. PATRICK DOYLE/CP

OTTAWA — Jody Wilson-Raybould’s text messages with Gerald Butts focused on the release of a historic directive on civil litigation involving Indigenous peoples, not just SNC-Lavalin, according to evidence submitted to the Commons justice committee.

The former principal secretary tabled texts between him and the former attorney general as evidence to the committee as part of its study of the SNC-Lavalin affair and allegations of political interference. Butts told the committee earlier that the directive was “the biggest contentious issue” between him and Wilson-Raybould around mid-December 2018.

Wilson-Raybould texted Butts on Nov. 28 to give him a heads-up that she intended to release a directive for civil litigation involving Indigenous peoples “at a big gathering in BC” the next day — formalizing a major government-wide policy shift to ditch adversarial litigation in favour of reconciliation.

“Even all the DOJ lawyers ([including] conservative ones) are good with it,” she wrote, adding that release of the directive “ticks off yet another mandate letter commitment.” MORE


The Attorney General of Canada’s Directive on Civil Litigation Involving Indigenous Peoples


Trudeau’s No Good, Very Bad Week

Gerald Butts was supposed to put the PM back together again. How did that go?

Cartoon by Greg Perry

Last Wednesday must now seem like an excruciating eon ago to Justin Trudeau and his team. When Gerald Butts gave his testimony to the justice committee, the prime minister and his office no doubt pinned great hopes on the moment.

They needed people to feel reassured, or at least more bored. “Nothing happened here beyond the normal operations of government,” assured Butts in a normal and boring tone of voice.

He was Trudeau’s longtime friend, advisor and engineer of his rise to power, and he was not testifying under oath. Still, the gamble was that Canadians would give Butts’ account weight equal to the starkly different version by Jody Wilson-Raybould. Chalk the whole thing up to, as Trudeau himself put it the next day, “a difference of perspective.”

Then could begin the process of rebuilding Trudeau’s brand as the sunny, feminist, thoroughly modern man running an inclusive and transparent government worthy of re-election this fall.

So how has that worked out? Let’s review: MORE

Gerald Butts’ quarrel with Jody Wilson-Raybould’s evidence falls short

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…Butts went on to insinuate that Wilson-Raybould was not up to the job of considering the SNC issue. He told the committee that she made her decision too quickly and, since deferred prosecution agreements were a new law that had never been applied before, any reasonable person would want a second legal opinion.

At this point, the double speak poisons Butts’ narrative because when there was criticism that the DPA regime was slipped into an omnibus budget implementation bill without study the government was quick to point out that it had consulted more than 370 participants and received 75 written submissions prior to enacting the DPA laws. Wilson-Raybould not only had the benefit of those submissions but the expertise of her department, a detailed briefing note from the prosecutors, SNC’s submissions and her own expertise.

Butts’ evidence that he just wanted Wilson-Raybould to consider other opinions stretches any notions of credulity. Butts suggested that they could seek a second opinion from former Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin. And what would McLachlin bring to the table on this issue — she has never dealt with the new remediation agreement provisions before either.

A second legal opinion, friendly newspapers articles and outside counsel are more clearly a tool of pressure to achieve a preferred result rather than some noble intellectual exercise. MORE

ANALYSIS: Despite protests from top Trudeau aide, Wilson-Raybould was right — SNC-Lavalin is about politics, not jobs

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But it’s a mystery, still unexplained despite nearly five hours of new testimony Wednesday from Butts and Wernick, why they thought McLachlin could help turn Wilson-Raybould around.

When Jody Wilson-Raybould was standing firm in her position that she would not overrule an independent prosecutor to cut a special deal with SNC-Lavalin, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his inner circle all argued she should seek outside counsel, get a second opinion.

“Someone like Beverley McLachlin,” Gerald Butts told the House of Commons Justice Committee Wednesday. Butts, the former principal secretary to Trudeau and one of his best friends for 30 years, was a ‘rebuttal witness’ to testimony Wilson-Raybould gave last week.

On Wednesday, he told the justice committee over and over and over again that he and the others who were pressing Wilson-Raybould were motivated by one thing — the imminent loss of 9,000 jobs if SNC-Lavalin should be found guilty at a criminal trial in of what amounts to fraud and bribery.

“It was, and is, the attorney general’s decision to make,” Butts said (Wilson-Raybould was then attorney general and justice minister but resigned from cabinet last month.). “It would, however, be Canadians’ decision to live with — specifically, the 9,000-plus people who could lose their jobs, as well as the many thousands more who work on the company’s supply chain.We did what those 9,000 people would have every right to expect of their prime minister….What we needed to do in order to look people in the eye who stood to lose their jobs was to make sure we had a good reason and to build process around that, and the absolutely bare minimum was to get the best advice you can when a decision affects that many people.”

And that’s why they needed someone like a Beverley McLachlin, the former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. You don’t need a Supreme Court chief justice for that. You need someone who knows Bay Street, Wall Street, trading floors, deal-makers, financiers. Tundra, even. But definitely not jurists.

In any event, Butts could not point to a single report, document, statistic, prognostication, or written record where someone said “a minimum of 9,000 jobs” was out the window if Wilson-Raybould did not do as encouraged. MORE


What would a 10-year ban on federal contract bids mean for SNC-Lavalin?

Trudeau tries to change the channel on SNC-Lavalin, part VII

Politics Insider for March 6: Trudeau to show ‘contrition’ over SNC-Lavalin affair

Justin Trudeau


Last month, a day after Gerald Butts resigned as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau‘s principal secretary, Canada’s ambassador to the United States David MacNaughton happened to be sitting for a #MacleansLive Q&A when Paul Wells asked a simple question: Is that a job opening for you? After which MacNaughton spent close to two minutes not saying “no”.

He may not have the title, but MacNaughton might as well have been auditioning for the role Tuesday. He spent the day huddled with Trudeau in the PMO trying to find a way for the Federal Liberals to get out of the mess they’re in with SNC-Lavalin and Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott. The Prime Minister had avoided reporters and cancelled events in Saskatchewan earlier in the day. By the afternoon Liberal sources were telling any reporter who’d listen that Trudeau was ready to try a new approach: a statement of “contrition” and showing “some ownership over the actions of his staff and officials” towards former attorney general Wilson-Raybould. (CBC News)

If the show of contrition comes, it would follow Trudeau’s initial claims that the Globe and Mail‘s political interference story was first, “false” and then second, a misunderstanding. MORE

SNC-Lavalin lawyers rushed to prosecutors before MPs knew of proposed law change

Representatives for SNC-Lavalin hustled to connect with federal prosecutors after the Liberal government quietly introduced a proposal last year to allow corporations to strike settlement deals and avoid criminal prosecution, court documents show.

The company’s lawyers acted so quickly to position their client for a so-called remediation agreement that they contacted prosecutors weeks before lawmakers, even Liberals, were even aware the Trudeau government had tucked the legislation into its 582-page omnibus budget bill.

The Montreal-based engineering and construction firm is at the centre of a controversy that has enveloped the Prime Minister’s Office. Since last week, the government has seen the high-profile resignations of one cabinet member — former justice minister and attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould, who became the minister of veterans affairs in January — and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s principal secretary, Gerald Butts.

SNC-Lavalin worked hard to avoid criminal proceedings by proposing a remediation agreement, but in September the prosecutor’s office declined to invite the company to negotiate. A guilty verdict on bribery and corruption charges has been characterized as an existential threat for SNC-Lavalin and its employees because the company would be barred from bidding on government contracts in Canada for 10 years. Much of its work is in designing, building and operating public infrastructure. MORE

Trudeau’s principal secretary, Gerald Butts, resigns amid SNC-Lavalin furor

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to Gerald Butts as he arrives to speak at the Royal York Hotel in 2015. Butts, Trudeau’s top policy aide and closest confidant since their university days at McGill University, stepped down Monday.  (STEVE RUSSELL / TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO)

OTTAWA — Gerald Butts, Justin Trudeau’s principal secretary and long-time friend, has resigned amid allegations that the Prime Minister’s Office interfered to prevent a criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.

In a statement, Butts unequivocally denies the accusation that he or anyone else in the office improperly pressured former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to help the Montreal engineering giant avoid a criminal case on corruption and bribery charges related to government contracts in Libya.

Nevertheless, Butts says the allegation is distracting from the “vital work” Trudeau is doing so it’s in the best interests of the Prime Minister’s Office for him to step aside.

Butts has confirmed that Wilson-Raybould briefly raised the matter of SNC-Lavalin during a meeting in December; he advised her to speak with the clerk of the Privy Council, Michael Wernick. MORE


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