Ethics Scandal Threatens Canada’s Golden Boy

Justin Trudeau lost another minister, and now the survival of the Canadian leader — who once enjoyed near rock-star status — may hinge on whether she’s the last.

The resignation … of Jane Philpott, a star minister at the Treasury Board, was the second high-profile woman to quit the cabinet over a raging ethics controversy. The departures are devastating for Trudeau and his brand, built in part on gender inclusivity.

The scandal was sparked by his one-time attorney general, Jody Wilson-Raybould, who says he and key aides pressured her to end the prosecution of the construction firm SNC-Lavalin Group on corruption charges. She didn’t, was later shuffled into a different post and then quit. Trudeau says he was just trying to save jobs at the company. 

As he joined other key ministers in a climate rally in Toronto, Trudeau thanked Philpott but said his Liberals must stay the course and that voters “need our total commitment to tackling the big things and getting them right.”

Trudeau led the Liberals from third place to victory four years ago. But with his party’s poll numbers dropping and a sluggish economy ahead of elections in October, his future depends on whether his lawmakers still see him as their best bet for a repeat. MORE

What Justin Trudeau doesn’t understand about Indigenous-government relations

OPINION: By offering Jody Wilson-Raybould the position of Minister of Indigenous Services, the prime minister signalled that he still has a lot to learn about reconciliation, writes Charnel Anderson

Jody Wilson-Rabould

Former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould serves as an MP for the riding of Vancouver Granville. (Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

One of the federal Liberal government’s stated priorities is to renew the relationship between Indigenous peoples and Canada. It’s among the most important relationships to this country, according to Justin Trudeau — but recent events involving Jody Wilson-Raybould call into question the prime minister’s commitment to reconciliation.

Last Wednesday, during his testimony to the justice committee about the SNC-Lavalin affair, the prime minister’s former top aide, Gerald Butts, revealed that, in January, Trudeau had asked Wilson-Raybould — then the attorney general — to lead Indigenous Services Canada. The offer was more than a political faux pas: it demonstrated an unmistakable ignorance about the government’s relationship with Indigenous peoples. It was an offer she could, and did, refuse.

Wilson-Raybould, a member of We Wai Kai Nation, in British Columbia, hasn’t been shy about her opposition to the Indian Act, which she would have been tasked with administering had she taken up Trudeau’s offer. In 2016, she said that “the Indian Act is not a suitable system of government; it is not consistent with the rights enshrined in our constitution, the principles set out in [the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples], or calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.”

On the face of it, Trudeau’s desire to appoint an Indigenous person to lead ISC may seem fitting — who better to administer the government’s Indigenous portfolio than an Indigenous person who is aware of the cultures and values of Indigenous peoples in Canada? But even a cursory look at relations between this country and Indigenous communities over the past 150 years reveals why this interpretation is misguided.

Truth comes before reconciliation.

It’s worth reminding readers that the Indian Act, first passed in 1876, was designed to assimilate Indigenous peoples.

This is what Sir John A. Macdonald — who, for nearly 10 years, beginning in 1878, was the Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs (the 19th-century equivalent of Minister of Indigenous Services) — had to say about the Indian Act: “The great aim of our legislation has been to do away with the tribal system and assimilate the Indian people in all respects with the other inhabitants of the Dominion as speedily as they are fit to change.”

The Canadian government has historically tried to wipe out Indigenous people’s cultures: that is the basis of Indigenous-government relations; it’s also the reason why more than one Indigenous person has told me that they’re vehemently opposed to working in the public sector.  MORE

Six things you need to know about Justin Trudeau’s apology to Inuit communities

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau embraces an Inuit elder at an event in which he delivered an apology in Iqaluit for Canada’s treatment of Inuit people following outbreaks of tuberculosis from the 1940s to the 1960s. PMO photo by Adam Scotti

It was an apology decades in the making.

Initially delayed for a day by a storm, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrived in Iqaluit, capital of the Arctic Canadian territory of Nunavut, on March 8, to deliver an historic apology to Inuit communities.

The apology, on behalf of the Crown, was related to the federal government’s mismanagement of tuberculosis in the Arctic from the 1940s to the 1960s.

“For too long, the government’s relationship with Inuit was one of double standards, and of unfair, unequal treatment,” he said. “Canada must carry that guilt and that shame.”

Here’s what you need to know about the issue and why it matters. MORE

The hidden key to the SNC-Lavalin scandal

Left: Muammar Gaddafi in Addis Abeba on February 2, 2009, photo by Jesse B. on Wikimedia Commons. Right: File photo of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau by Alex Tétreault

SNC-Lavalin, a Canadian corporate giant with an established history of corruption, is charged with bribing the Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s brutal regime over many years, in exchange for lucrative contracts.

This case is the most serious and important prosecution of corporate corruption in modern Canadian history, and we’re arguing about jobs and whether Jody Wilson-Raybould is hard to get along with.

It is not only appropriate, but essential that this matter go to trial in an open and public hearing, so that Canadians can see how the world’s bloodiest tyrants are cossetted, indulged, and enabled.

Perhaps the most depressing spectacle of the entire affair is watching Justin Trudeau, a man who clearly aspires to greatness, debase himself and this nation, by begging, pushing, imploring Canada’s attorney general to let this company off the hook. Then effectively firing her when she wouldn’t comply, and allowing her credibility to be undermined. MORE

Trudeau’s verbal porridge and serene smile have carried him along. Until now: Neil Macdonald

He either doesn’t think the public deserves a straight answer, or just isn’t capable of delivering one


Trudeau could have answered his former justice minister fact for fact. Instead, his statements have been as stilted and contrived as the optics. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

If you’re looking for some instructive reading, go look up an aggregation of utterances by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Some are already famous for their loopiness: budgets balance themselves, the government shouldn’t call honour killings barbaric, we need to rethink the definitions of space and time, we should say “peoplekind” instead of “mankind” (he may actually have been making fun of himself with that one).

Most, though, are just syrupy, unmemorable banalities about values and optimism and respect and caring for one another.

Like this masterpiece of tautology the day he was sworn in as prime minister: “The diversity that makes this country so strong is a diversity of views that will carry us forward.”

Trudeau’s happy blather was digestible enough at first, particularly after nearly a decade of Stephen Harper. Like tapioca after heartburn. But as it kept coming, picked up and amplified by his cabinet ministers, it began grating on the nerves, the way retail Christmas-carol Muzak does by late November. Eventually, it became clear that our prime minister didn’t really have much else to say. MORE

Justin Trudeau, imposter

Paul Wells: The phoniness of the Prime Minister’s handling of the SNC-Lavalin file is a trait he shows the Canadian people all too often

Prime Minister Trudeau in his Centre Block office in Ottawa on Dec. 8, 2016. (Adam Scotti/PMO)

The story a few Liberals were telling privately, in the early hours after Jody Wilson-Raybould delivered her extraordinary testimony to the Commons justice committee about the endless procession of men who tried to make her cancel a criminal trial for SNC-Lavalin, was that she just didn’t get it.

The former attorney general is a nice enough sort, the story went, but she doesn’t really understand the way the world works. The whole point of amending the Criminal Code to provide for deferred prosecution agreements (DPAs) was to make that option—a sort of negotiated fine in lieu of a trial for fraud and bribery—available to SNC-Lavalin. And if the option was available, why not use it? Jobs were at stake. Elections were at stake. Elections, plural, for Pete’s sake. First an election in Quebec last autumn, then a federal election this autumn.

So you could drag SNC through the mud of a court trial, long after the individual executives who actually did any frauding and bribing had fled the company, for what? To visit punishments upon everyone else in the company? To maybe scare it out of Montreal for good? To endanger the jobs of thousands of fine upstanding Quebecers and other Canadians? On the eve of elections? Plural? MORE


Trudeau and senior Liberals kept linking SNC-Lavalin prosecution to elections
 SNC-Lavalin’s allies in its push to avoid prosecution
Why we broke our electoral reform promise. Signed, a Liberal MP.


SNC-Lavalin dispute deepens as Wilson-Raybould testimony at odds with PM’s take

Former AG supported by opposition MPs, challenged by her own colleagues

PMO staffers Mathieu Bouchard and Elder Marques were “kicking the tires, I said no, my mind had been made up and they needed to stop, this was enough,” Wilson-Raybould said. 0:41

Jody Wilson-Raybould said she wanted to tell her truth on the SNC-Lavalin story. The story she told Wednesday at the Commons justice committee is so vastly different from everything the prime minister has said until now that the two versions simply can’t be reconciled.

The former attorney general spoke of veiled threats if she didn’t intervene in the criminal prosecution of the giant Montreal construction firm. She spoke of constant and sustained efforts over a four-month period last fall by some of the most powerful people in government to ensure SNC-Lavalin avoided a trial.

The pressure began right at the top, she said, starting with Justin Trudeau, his top adviser and the country’s most senior bureaucrat.

All of them have denied doing, saying or counselling her to do anything improper. MORE



Wilson-Raybould says she put justice ahead of politics in SNC-Lavalin affair
John Ivison: Wilson-Raybould’s convincing testimony may cost Trudeau his job
Susan Delacourt: The days of ‘sunny ways’ are over for Justin Trudeau



Justin Trudeau: What is SNC-Lavalin scandal – How Canada has turned into House of Cards

JUSTIN Trudeau’s reputation is under fire as he is forced to deny any wrong-doing in the escalating SNC-Lavalin scandal – but what is it all about?


Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is facing allegations senior aides within his Liberal Party acted inappropriately. The claims first surfaced two weeks ago but have gained traction within the last few days after a second official left the government this week. Mr Trudeau’s right-hand man Gerry Butts quit as the Liberal’s principal private secretary on Monday, stressing he had no involvement in the SNC-Lavalin scandal. But a Liberal legislator, who spoke to Reuters under the condition of anonymity, stressed the seriousness of the situation.

The crisis centres on Canada’s former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould who was allegedly pressurised to drop planned charges against a large construction company.  Ms Wilson-Raybould is said to have been told to ditch bribery and corruption trial charges against SNC-Lavalin Group Inc concerning projects in Libya and levy them with a fine instead. MORE


No ‘inappropriate’ pressure in SNC-Lavalin case: Wernick; Lametti says AG independent but ‘not an island’
Wilson-Raybould sought to limit PMO involvement in judicial appointments

Petition: You Deserve Answers on SNC-Lavalin

Canadians expect their government to work for them – yet when it comes to real action on the housing crisis, medication coverage for all or protecting workers, people are told to wait for help while corporate insiders are given a direct line to the Prime Minister.

Add your name and call for a public inquiry into Prime Minister Trudeau’s SNC-Lavalin scandal HERE

The House: The damage done by the SNC-Lavalin scandal

SNC-Lavalin is at the centre of a claim that former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould was pressured by Trudeau government officials to help the organization avoid prosecution. (Christinne Muschi/Reuters )

In the week since the SNC-Lavalin story broke, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has changed his talking points several times.

After the story first hit, Trudeau insisted that the allegation in the Globe and Mail story — that Jody Wilson-Raybould had been pressured by the Prime Minister’s Office while serving as minister of justice to help the Quebec-based engineering firm SNC-Lavalin avoid criminal prosecution in a bribery case — was false. He said Wilson-Raybould’s continued presence in cabinet, as minister for Veterans Affairs, spoke for itself.

Then she quit — and the message changed. Wilson-Raybould, Trudeau said, had never raised with him the suggestion that the PMO was pressuring her to go easy on SNC-Lavalin, and he made it clear to her that any decisions on the file were hers alone to make.


The shifting nature of Trudeau’s explanations suggests a recognition that the government’s messaging has gotten out of hand and a correction was needed to contain some of the blowback, said one member of former prime minister Paul Martin’s inner circle. MORE


Canada ‘falling behind’ on fighting corruption abroad: Transparency International director

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in a 1996 case that if government ethics laws are not strictly and strongly enforced, Canada will not be a democracy.