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Celina Caesar-Chavannes Defends Jody Wilson-Raybould In Light Of SNC-Lavalin Controversy

New Brunswick MP Wayne Long has also joined opposition calls for an investigation into the SNC-Lavalin issue.
Celina Caesar-Chavannes speaks in the House of Commons on May 25, 2018.
Justin Tang/CP
Celina Caesar-Chavannes speaks in the House of Commons on May 25, 2018.

A Liberal MP has defended Jody Wilson-Raybould as "fierce, smart, and unapologetic" on the heels of unflattering comments from unnamed party insiders to a national news agency.

"When women speak up and out, they are always going to be labelled. Go ahead. Label away. We are not going anywhere," Whitby MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes wrote on Twitter Sunday.

Caesar-Chavannes' office told HuffPost Canada Monday that the MP is not available for an interview and did not offer any further comment on Wilson-Raybould's situation.

In her tweet, Caesar-Chavannes shared a story from The Canadian Press that covers Wilson-Raybould's ascension as Canada's first Indigenous justice minister and attorney general, and her perceived demotion to veterans affairs last month.

Wilson-Raybould is in the thick of an escalating controversy after The Globe and Mail alleged the Prime Minister's Office pressured her to help major Quebec firm SNC-Lavalin, charged with bribery and corruption, avoid a criminal prosecution.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has denied his office "directed" Wilson-Raybould on the case and has said the allegations in the Globe are false.

Watch: Trudeau says allegations in The Globe and Mail are 'false'

Government officials have said Wilson-Raybould took part in internal discussions on the issue, but wasn't pushed or told to direct Kathleen Roussel, the director of public prosecutions, to strike a remediation agreement that would effectively let SNC-Lavalin duck criminal charges and a possible 10-year ban on government contracts.

While Wilson-Raybould has said she cannot speak about the matter because she is bound by solicitor-client privilege, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has asked the prime minister to waive those obligations. The Tories and the NDP are also demanding a committee investigation — something that on Monday got the surprise support of New Brunswick Liberal backbencher Wayne Long.

"I am not making, or rushing to, any judgement when it comes to this matter," Long wrote in a statement on Facebook. "Past experience in various fields as shown me that complete openness and transparency is the only way forward in situations like this."

The CP story used anonymous sources to describe Wilson-Raybould as someone who had "become a thorn in the side of the cabinet" before she was shuffled to her new role last month, and "someone ...[who] was difficult to get along with, known to berate fellow cabinet ministers openly at the table, and who others felt they had trouble trusting."

The story also notes "several Liberals" believe Wilson-Raybould is a source behind the Globe story.

A person described as an "insider who didn't want to be identified" told CP that Wilson-Raybould has "always sort of been in it for herself" and that "everything is very Jody-centric."

Caesar-Chavannes also retweeted a post bemoaning "blatant sexism in the anonymous attacks against this powerful woman."

Caesar-Chavannes quipped about Wilson-Raybould at Robert Burns dinner

Caesar-Chavannes touched on Wilson-Raybould's demotion during a humorous speech weeks ago at a dinner in Ottawa in honour of famed Scottish poet Robert Burns.

According to The National Post, the MP joked that if Burns was a member of the Liberal government, Wilson-Raybould would be called on to remove him from Parliament.

"If she didn't succeed, she would have been fired. If she succeeded in removing Robbie Burns, she would have been fired," Caesar-Chavannes said, according to newspaper.

"You can't have an Indian doing that to the White Man. (David) Lametti can, you can't."

The Toronto Star later reported Wilson-Raybould "laughed and applauded loudly" during the bit.

Lametti replaced Wilson-Raybould as justice minister and attorney general last month.

Caesar-Chavannes, first elected in 2015, served as parliamentary secretary to the prime minister until 2017. She then became parliamentary secretary to the minister of international development.

After she was shuffled out of that role last August, Caesar-Chavannes released a video to Twitter saying she made the choice to step down.

"Over the last few months it has been very difficult for me and my family with a number of situations that have happened and it was my decision personally to decide not to continue with the parliamentary secretary position," she said at the time.

Earlier On HuffPost:

With files from The Canadian Press

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