This week, the House of Commons justice and human rights committee held an emergency meeting to probe allegations that the Prime Minister’s Office applied pressure to the minister of justice to help the Quebec-based engineering firm SNC-Lavalin avoid criminal prosecution in a bribery case.
During that meeting, Liberal, Conservative and NDP MPs sparred over which witnesses would appear before the committee. Nine key names came up in that debate; some are high-profile political figures, while others are more obscure to anyone outside the Ottawa bubble. Here’s a who’s-who list for the upcoming committee hearings.
Wilson-Raybould, the former justice minister sent to Veterans Affairs in the recent cabinet shuffle, resigned from cabinet days after the Globe and Mail quoted anonymous sources saying members of the Prime Minister’s Office tried to get her to help Quebec construction giant SNC-Lavalin avoid criminal prosecution on bribery and fraud charges through a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA), sometimes referred to as a remediation agreement.
SNC-Lavalin is before a court in Montreal, charged with fraud and corruption in connection with payments of nearly $48 million to public officials in Libya under Moammar Gadhafi’s government and allegations it defrauded Libyan organizations of an estimated $130 million.
During the political firestorm that followed the report, Wilson-Raybould refused to comment on the case, saying she was still bound by solicitor-client privilege. She has since retained former Supreme Court justice Thomas Cromwell as counsel to advise her on what she is allowed to say publicly.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has publicly stated that the allegations in the Globe and Mail report are false.
Gerry Butts, Trudeau’s principal secretary
Gerry Butts, Trudeau’s most senior adviser, did — according to the lobby registry — meet with officials from SNC-Lavalin early in 2017. Both the NDP and the Conservatives want Butts to appear at committee. The Liberal majority on the committee, however, voted down a motion that would have made this possible.
Cameron Ahmad, a spokesman for Trudeau, told the Globe and Mail that Butts had spoken to Wilson-Raybould about the SNC-Lavalin case. Ahmad went to say that Butts told Wilson-Raybould to take the issue up with Canada’s top civil servant, Privy Council Clerk Michael Wernick.
Deputy Minister of Justice and Deputy Attorney General Nathalie Drouin
Drouin was appointed in June 23, 2017, and worked under Wilson-Raybould. She was one of three names put on the witness list by the Liberal members of the committee. The New Democrats also want Drouin to appear but the Conservatives have left her off their witness list. Drouin has not been lobbied by SCN-Lavalin on issues related to justice since the time the Liberals came to office.
Justice Minister David Lametti
He’s Wilson-Raybould’s immediate successor as both justice minister and attorney general of Canada. In the Trudeau government, he served first as parliamentary secretary to the minister of international trade. He was moved to the position of parliamentary secretary to the minister of innovation, science and economic development in January of 2017, a position he held until his promotion to minister in the Jan. 14, 2019 cabinet shuffle.
Lametti has stated many times that neither he nor his office were directed to take any specific actions by the Prime Minister’s Office. All three parties want Lametti to appear as a witness before the Justice committee.
Michael Wernick, clerk of the Privy Council of Canada
Wernick is Canada’s most senior public servant and an adviser to the prime minister. All three parties on the justice committee want him to appear as a witness. According to sources that spoke to the Globe and Mail, Wernick reprimanded Wilson-Raybould for a series of critical remarks she made in speeches about the Liberal government’s reconciliation efforts last fall.
In a Nov. 29 speech in to the provincial cabinet and Indigenous leaders, Wilson-Raybould said:
“Thinking that good intentions, tinkering around the edges of the Indian Act, or that making increased financial investments — however significant and unprecedented — will in themselves close the gaps, is naive. Transformative change and new directions are required.”
Wilson-Raybould’s chief of staff Jessica Prince
As the former justice minister’s chief of staff and policy adviser, Prince would have worked closely with Wilson-Raybould. Prince was put on a list of desired witnesses by the Conservative Party, but not by the Liberals or NDP. She may be able to shed light on what, if anything, Wilson-Raybould was told by the PMO.
Public Prosecutions Director Kathleen Roussel
Roussel was appointed to her position in June of 2017. As the director of public prosecutions she is responsible for the management of the Public Prosecution Service of Canada. The Conservative members of the justice committee have requested that she appear and give testimony; the NDP and Liberals have, so far, not requested her presence.
Roussel is the official who informed SNC-Lavalin that the company was not going to be invited to negotiate a remediation agreement. Less than two weeks later, the company filed for a judicial review of that decision.
According to sources that spoke to the Globe and Mail, Roussel’s decision provoked a debate at senior levels of government over how to proceed.
Senior adviser to Trudeau on Quebec issues Mathieu Bouchard
According to the federal government’s lobby registry, Bouchard met with officials from SCN-Lavalin more than a dozen times between early 2016 and late 2018.
Both the NDP and the Conservatives want to speak to Bouchard. The PMO has not said whether Bouchard spoke to Wilson-Raybould about the SNC-Lavalin case..
Senior policy adviser to Trudeau Elder Marques
Marques was moved from his position as chief of staff to Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains in the fall of 2017 to take up his role in the PMO as a senior adviser. Marques was lobbied by SCN-Lavalin at least a half dozen times in his position as chief of staff to Bains and in his PMO role.
The Conservatives have asked for Marques to appear before the Justice committee. So far, the PMO has not said whether Marques has spoken to Wilson-Raybould about the SNC-Lavalin prosecution.
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