FORMER attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould on Wednesday welcomed the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion’s report that found Prime Minister Justin Trudeau broke ethics laws in the SNC-Lavalin affair.
Wilson-Raybould, who is running for re-election as an independent in the Vancouver-Granville riding, said in a statement: “I am grateful for Commissioner Mario Dion’s thorough Report. It represents a vindication of the independent role of the Attorney General and of the Director of Public Prosecutions in criminal prosecutions – and reinforces for Canadians how essential it is to our democracy to uphold the rule of law and prosecutorial independence. The Report confirms critical facts, consistent with what I shared with all Canadians, and affirms the position I have taken from the outset. The Commissioner was not distracted by inaccurate information about the events or about me personally – and drew conclusions based on the true facts of what occurred.
“I also have feelings of sadness. In a country as great as Canada, essential values and principles that are the foundation for our freedoms and system of government should be actively upheld by all, especially those in positions of public trust. We should not struggle to do this; and we should not struggle to acknowledge when we have acted in ways that do not meet these standards. I am also concerned by the government’s decision to deny even its Ethics Commissioner requested access to Cabinet confidences, as there were apparently constraints on a number of witnesses from telling the whole story. The Commissioner is correct in saying that decisions affecting his work should be made “transparently and democratically, not by the very same public office holders who are subject to the regime he administers.”
“The Report reminds us that we must all remain vigilant. Personally, I remain committed to doing politics differently and engaging in important discussions in a way that honours what is best about Canada, to work across party lines and to continue to do the best job I can as the independent Member of Parliament for Vancouver Granville. There remains more work to be done.”
She pointed out that the Commissioner’s important findings of fact include:
“* There were multiple attempts to improperly influence my decision as Attorney General whether to intervene in a criminal prosecution. These attempts persisted despite my “direct advice” to the Prime Minister. That warning “was discounted and ignored.” The Commissioner found all these tactics “troubling”, and these supported his conclusion that the Prime Minister had violated the Conflict of Interest Act. The Commissioner stated that “[t]he authority of the Prime Minister and his office was used to circumvent, undermine and ultimately attempt to discredit the decision of the DPP as well as [my] authority as chief law enforcement officer.”
“* Senior staff in the Prime Minister’s office “pressed [me] on the idea of seeking external advice on` the matter – all the while knowing the advice that would be given and selectively withholding other material information from [me],” and this constituted a third attempt to “bend the will of the Attorney General.”
“* The most “flagrant” attempt to influence me occurred during my conversation with the Clerk of the Privy Council. The Commissioner reflected that it was difficult to imagine that the Clerk acted without a full and clear appreciation of the Prime Minister’s position on the matter.” The repeated interventions to have me “find a solution” were “tantamount to political direction.”
“* It was improper to raise partisan political interests with me, in the context of my role in evaluating this prosecutorial decision. This was done on at least four separate occasions.
“* It was “clearly improper” for one branch of government to be communicating with applicants to a judicial review challenging a decision made by another branch of government, without the knowledge or involvement of the Attorney General or her representative.
“* Contrary to a narrative that has been advanced by others, there was no evidence that I failed to consider “the public interest” in making my decision not to intervene. Indeed, the Commissioner confirms the steps I took, including consultations with several former attorneys general, to obtain guidance and advice. “