Canada's ex-attorney general to testify about SNC scandal


Despite limits on what she can say about things that happened more recently, former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould will be able to speak freely about what pressure she felt not to pursue a criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says.

The waiver does not, however, permit Wilson-Raybould to discuss conversations she may have had with the director of public prosecutions on SNC-Lavalin, a restriction that's meant to "uphold the integrity of any criminal or civil proceedings", the order states.

Jody Wilson-Raybould is warning that she won't be able to speak freely about everything concerning the SNC-Lavalin affair when she finally gives her side of the story Wednesday, breaking nearly three weeks of silence that has fuelled the anonymously-sourced controversy and shaken the Trudeau government to its core.

"There's clearly a line that was crossed", NDP justice critic Murray Rankin told CTV's Question Period as he recalled testimony Thursday from Privy Council clerk Michael Wernick about his discussions with Wilson-Raybould.

It has been almost three weeks since the allegation first surfaced that Trudeau's office pressured Wilson-Raybould last fall to negotiate a remediation agreement with SNC-Lavalin, rather than pursue a criminal prosecution for corruption and bribery related to government contracts in Libya.

But she now says she needs those restrictions waived not just for the time when she was attorney general, but also for anything that was said or done after she was shuffled on January 14 to the veterans-affairs post - including her eventual resignation from cabinet a month later and her presentation to cabinet last week about her reasons for resigning.

The agreements allow companies to avoid a criminal prosecution if they admit wrongdoing, pay fines and restitution and plan to prevent future bad behaviour.

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Following a justice committee meeting this morning, Wilson-Raybould was asked to appear at 3:15 p.m. Wednesday where she will be given her requested 30-minute opening statement before taking questions. Gerald Butts, Trudeau's closet adviser, resigned last week but denied that he or anyone else pressured Wilson-Raybould.

"I therefore completely disagree with (Wilson-Raybould's) characterization of events", he continued, brushing off a demand from Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer that he resign.

Trudeau largely waived lawyer-client privilege to allow Wilson-Raybould to speak and said Tuesday that he's "pleased" she will get that opportunity.

Wilson-Raybould is also likely to provide her version of a December 5 dinner with Butts, who resigned last week.

"I think that what was done was entirely appropriate in this case and I think that this story is one that's been created a little bit by the Ottawa bubble", he said.

- A September 17 meeting with Trudeau and Wernick, which the clerk said was primarily focused on the stalled Indigenous-rights agenda, over which he said Wilson-Raybould had "a very serious policy difference" with Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett and other ministers. In 2015, as a member of Carleton University's Board of Governors, Wernick referred publicly to student protests against tuition hikes that disrupted a board meeting, as having "no place in a lawful democratic society - (the) tactics of Brownshirts and Maoists". The opposition Conservatives and New Democrats have sought testimony from Trudeau and several senior PMO staff believed to be central to the story, and called for a public inquiry, with no success.

The goal is to protect the employees and innocent clients or customers of a corporation from being negatively impacted if a company is convicted of an economic crime like bribery and fraud. Butts has insisted that at no time did he apply improper pressure on the former minister.