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Jody Wilson-Raybould’s Justice Committee Testimony On SNC-Lavalin Affair: Key Highlights

She was pressed by Liberals on why she didn't resign as attorney general.
Jody Wilson-Raybould leaves a justice committee meeting in Ottawa on Feb. 27, 2019.
Adrian Wyld/CP
Jody Wilson-Raybould leaves a justice committee meeting in Ottawa on Feb. 27, 2019.

OTTAWA — Jody Wilson-Raybould had her moment to speak her truth Wednesday, more than three hours of it, chronicling a version of events that she said lead to her losing her post as attorney general and justice minister.

Here are some of the key highlights:

1. Wilson-Raybould said she asked the prime minister if he was politically interfering with her decision as attorney general

The former attorney general met the prime minister for what she thought would be a one-on-one meeting on Sept. 17, 2018. The meeting was requested weeks earlier and Privy Council Clerk Michael Wernick was in the room when she walked in, Wilson-Raybould said.

Despite the meeting being organized on another matter, SNC-Lavalin and the subject of deferred prosecution agreements (DPAs) was brought up "immediately," she said.

As attorney general, she had the authority to order directives to initiate DPAs by opening a remediation process — which would have given SNC-Lavalin an avenue to avoid criminal prosecution ( and severe financial repercussions) by paying what's equivalent to a plea bargain.

Watch the moment:

During the discussion, Wilson-Raybould said the issue of the Quebec election was brought up. The prime minister made explicit mention that he's a MP for the Quebec riding of Papineau, she said.

"I was quite taken aback," she told the committee. Wilson-Raybould said she responded by looking the prime minister in the eye and asking, "Are you politically interfering with my role, my decision as the attorney general? I would strongly advise against it."

She recalled the prime minister saying "No, No, No – we just need to find a solution."

2. She said her conversation with Canada's top public servant was full of 'veiled threats'

Wilson-Raybould also recalled conversations she had with the clerk of the Privy Council on Dec. 19, 2018 where he allegedly repeated the prime minister's name, which she said she interpreted as a pressure tactic to go lightly on SNC-Lavalin.

She said despite a decision made in early fall not to offer SNC-Lavalin a remediation agreement, talk of the Quebec company and DPAs continued.

In subsequent conversations, she said, the suggestion that the Montreal-based company may have to move its headquarters if prosecution proceeded was brought up. She described this sort of shared information as "inappropriate conversations and attempts at political interference."

Wilson-Raybould said she reiterated the constitutional principle of prosecutorial independence. "In my mind, those were veiled threats, and I took them as such. That is entirely inappropriate."

Wilson-Raybould suggested she was anticipating some sort of follow-up intervention from the prime minister himself.

"I remember distinctly ending that conversation with the clerk by saying, 'I am waiting for the other shoe to drop,' which I believe that reflection or my comments can speak for themselves."

3. She was pressed by Liberals on why she didn't resign as attorney general

Wilson-Raybould was shuffled to veteran affairs in mid-January. During her testimony, she said her alarm bells went off during a four-month period between September and December. Given this timeline, her Liberal colleagues asked why she didn't quit cabinet earlier.

She explained it wasn't an option to her because, in her opinion, she was doing her job as attorney general.

"I was protecting a fundamental constitutional principle of prosecutorial independence, and the independence of our judiciary. That's my job. That was my job, rather, as the attorney general," she said. "I was going to ensure that the independence of the director of public prosecutions in the exercise of their discretion was not interfered with."

When she was pressed again for why she didn't step down as attorney general in light of "inappropriate" pressure, Wilson-Raybould maintained she saw it as her duty to uphold the "independence of the prosecutor, uphold the integrity of the justice system and the rule of law."

4. She explained why she accepted the veterans affairs job

The call from the prime minister came during a vacation in Bali, Wilson-Raybould said, on Jan. 7, 2019. A week before the official cabinet shuffle announcement.

She suggested the move was a punishment for not opting to issue a directive to initiate a remediation agreement with SNC-Lavalin.

"He spoke to me about my being shuffled out as minister of justice and attorney general, provided rationale, which I won't get into," she said at committee. "Then I said to him, 'I can't help but think that this has something to do with the decision I would not take.'"

It's unknown what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Wilson-Raybould in that conversation, but she suggested in her testimony that she had been given some assurance.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Veterans Affairs Minister Jodie Wilson-Raybould attend a swearing in ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Jan. 14, 2019.
The Canadian Press
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Veterans Affairs Minister Jodie Wilson-Raybould attend a swearing in ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Jan. 14, 2019.

"I decided that I would take the prime minister at his word, I trusted him, I had confidence in him, and so I decided to continue on around the cabinet table with the concerns that I had around SNC, because I took the prime minister at his word."

When she was asked to take on veterans affairs, Wilson-Raybould explained she considered the portfolio as an "incredibly important role." She decided to accept the position offered by the prime minister despite lingering concerns about SNC-Lavalin coming up around the cabinet table.

Wilson-Raybould explained she made herself a rule to resign "immediately" from her new cabinet role if her successor as attorney general, David Lametti, officially moved to secure remediation agreement with SNC-Lavalin.

Trudeau was asked Thursday for why he shuffled Wilson-Raybould to veteran affairs. He told reporters in Saint-Hubert, Que. that if former cabinet minister Scott Brison had not resigned over the winter break, then she would still be justice minister and attorney general.

5. She did not answer if she has confidence in PM

Wilson-Raybould was asked twice her Liberal justice committee colleagues if she had confidence in the prime minister, and both times would not say yes.

It was first raised by Randy Boissonnault, who first asked if taking the oath of office as veterans affairs minister indicated her confidence in the government.

"Do you have confidence in the prime minister today?" he asked.


"I resigned from cabinet because I did not have confidence to sit around the cabinet table. That's why I resigned," the former veteran affairs minister said.

When the question came up again, this time by Liberal MP Jennifer O'Connell, Wilson-Raybould was more blunt. "I'm not sure how that question is relevant," she said.

6. She said pressure on attorney general would not be illegal, but is inappropriate

There's been much discussion about the Shawcross doctrine — a legal yardstick of sorts to help determine when pressure on an attorney general crosses the line.

Wilson-Raybould said that in her opinion that it's not illegal for someone to press the attorney general to consider the political ramifications of a decision involving a special plea. But she considered the pressure to be "very inappropriate" in this specific case related to SNC-Lavalin because of "consistent and sustained" nature of the pressure.

"It's incredibly inappropriate and is an attempt to compromise or to impose upon an independent attorney general," she said.

When asked if she believed the pressure felt by herself and her staff on SNC-Lavalin contravened the Criminal Code, she said "I don't believe that."

7. She made a reference to Watergate's 'Saturday Night Massacre'

The Watergate reference came up during Wilson-Raybould's lengthy opening statement, touching on the the Dec. 19, 2018 conversation with Wernick.

She said the clerk spoke on the prime minister's behalf, asking why a remediation agreement "which Parliament provided for" was not being used. Wilson-Raybould said she gave a "stern warning" that, as attorney general,she must remain non-partisan and independent.

"I told the clerk that I was giving him my best advice and that if he did not accept that advice, then it is the prime minister's prerogative to do what he wants," she said, adding that she was trying to protect Trudeau from political interference or perceived political interference.

"I said that I was having thoughts of the Saturday Night Massacre, but that I was confident that I had given the prime minister my best advice to protect him and to protect the constitutional principle of prosecutorial independence," she told the justice committee.

The "Saturday Night Massacre" was a key event in the Watergate scandal that ultimately took down former U.S. president Richard Nixon.

On Oct. 20, 1973, Nixon politically interfered and asked his attorney general and deputy attorney general to fire the special prosecutor investigating the Watergate break-in. The attorney general and deputy attorney general refused to do so and resigned in protest. Nixon then fired the special prosecutor himself.

Wilson-Raybould said the high-profile U.S. example of political interference popped into her mind during her conversation with Wernick.

She said she had thoughts about her own situation, if the pressure she experienced constituted "direct direction" from the prime minister. She said she wondered if she would have to resign because of it. "Is that right?" she asked in committee.

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