Former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Ray testified before the House of Commons Justice Committee on Wednesday, documenting in detail what she described as a well orchestrated campaign by senior members of the Prime Minister's Office to pressure her to arrive to an agreement with SNC. Lavalin to help the engineering firm avoid criminal cases.
Wilson-Raybould described what he considered an inappropriate attempt by officials and even the country's top bureaucrat Michael Wernick to pressure her to nullify the director of public prosecutions and negotiate a deferred process agreement (DPA) . ) with SNC-Lavalin, to avoid trial on allegations that it used bribery to secure government contracts in Libya.
The former justice minister told the committee that she believes sustained pressure was inadequate and that it represented "political interference," but that it was not illegal.
Here are some key moments in the appearance of the former attorney general's committee:
1. "sustained pressure" and "veiled threats"
After Kathleen Roussel, director of public prosecutions, decided in September 2018 that she would not make an agreement and would continue with a lawsuit against SNC Lavalin, Wilson-Raybould said that she reached a similar decision on the subject – and made it clear to all government would not intervene in the PPSC process.
The former minister said that despite this position, she still made 10 phone calls and sat for 10 personal meetings with PMO members, including Mathieu Bouchard, Trudeau counselor on Quebec issues, and special counsel Elder Marques, among others.
Despite attempts to persuade her to reconsider her position, given the possible economic consequences, Wilson-Raybould said that she was fearless in her position and that she should take no further action.
She also said she faced pressure from Ben Chin, Finance Minister Bill Morneau's chief of staff and Gerry Butts, the prime minister's chief secretary, to consider the consequences. Butts resigned last week by saying he acted ethically.
Wilson-Raybould said she was reminded by these officials of the political consequences for the liberal and provincial liberal parties if SNC-Lavalin gave up or laid off workers.
WATCH | Wilson-Raybould says he experienced sustained pressure & # 39; at SNC Lavalin
"I have experienced a consistent and sustained effort by many people within the government to try to interfere politically in the exercise of discretion by the Public Prosecutor's Office in my role as attorney general of Canada," she said.
"In these conversations, there were express statements about the need for interference in the SNC-Lavalin issue, the potential for veiled consequences and threats if a DPA were not made available to SNC," she said.
2. & # 39; I am an MP in Quebec & # 39;
When Wilson-Ray raised his discomfort with the pressure he said he faced with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a meeting in September, she said that Trudeau was also concerned about SNC-Lavalin's layoffs and the continued viability of the company if convicted . the criminal charges.
A conviction could prevent the company from bidding on federal contracts for up to 10 years, a major source of revenue for the company.
"At that time, the prime minister emphasized that there is an election in Quebec and that I am a parliamentarian in Quebec – a member of Papineau".
WATCH | Wilson-Raybould says the PM said "I'm an MP in Quebec."
"I was quite surprised," Wilson-Raybould said.
"My response – and I remember it vividly – was to ask a direct question to the PM as I looked him in the eyes – I asked:" Are you interfering politically with my role, my decision as AG? "I strongly advise against it. "The prime minister said," No, no, no – we just need to find a solution, "Wilson-Raybould said Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters after his testimony, Trudeau denied any irregularities and said that his government was mainly concerned about the loss of jobs, especially for the 9,400 Canadians who work for SNC-Lavalin when there were discussions about the DPA.
WATCH | Trudeau denies irregularities, disagrees with Wilson-Raybould's event characterization
He said he "disagrees completely" with his characterization of events.
3. & # 39; Political party considerations & # 39;
Wilson-Raybould said after she told the first minister in september at that she had made a decision on the subject, everything the lobbying efforts of his team and others should have stopped immediately.
"Several authorities asked me to take into account party-political considerations – which was clearly inappropriate for me, "she said, citing a talk from PMO officials about the upcoming Quebec provincial election, where the Liberal Party of Quebec faced a strong challenge of the Coalition, Avenir Quebec, the center-right party that finally prevailed.
"Or do we have a system based on the rule of law, the independence of the functions of the Public Prosecution Service and the respect for those responsible for using their powers and discretion in specific ways – or not," she said.
WATCH | Wilson-Raybould on PMO pressure
Wilson-Raybould said that she met with Butts on December 5, 2018, to discuss the "flood of people chasing me and my team."
4. & # 39; You need to find a solution & # 39;
Wilson-Raybould said that Butts told her that, in spite of her fears, there needed to be some sort of "solution to things at SNC."
It is said then that Butts told her she did not like how the former Conservative government had created Canada's Public Prosecutor in the first place – a separate promoter arm of other lawyers from the Department of Justice.
After the meeting and amidst her clear reluctance to "find a solution," on December 18, 2018, her chief of staff, Jessica Prince, was "urgently summoned" to meet with Butts and the chief of staff prime minister, Katie Telford. , to discuss a DPA.
In a text message exchange that would have been sent immediately after the meeting, Prince told Wilson-Raybould about the conversation.
"Gerry said," Jess, there's no solution here that does not involve some interference, "Wilson-Raybould said, reading Prince's text message to the committee on Wednesday.
Wilson-Raybould reads text messages from his chief of staff after a meeting with Butts and Telford. His chief of staff said that Butts told him, "There is no solution here that does not involve some interference." #cdnpoli pic.twitter.com/5mfsNSqN65
"At least they're finally being honest about what they're asking you to do! Do not worry about PPSC's independence." Katie was like "we do not want to discuss legalities anymore." (…) They remained like "we are not lawyers, but there has to be some solution here" "Prince said in a text to Wilson-Raybould.
5. Saturday Night Massacre & # 39;
Then, in a phone call with Wernick on December 19, Wilson-Raybould said the clerk made it clear to her that the prime minister was "quite determined, quite firm" on the subject and wanted to know why the DPA route " not being used. "
Wernick told her that Trudeau was "a little worried."
Wilson-Raybould said Wernick told her that Trudeau "will find a way to do it one way or another. So he's in a bit of a mood and I wanted you to be aware of it."
The official said the prime minister was not asking her to do anything "out of the box than is legal or appropriate."
Wilson-Raybould said he was sure he was making the right decision and that Wernick's messages on the subject were "stepping on dangerous ground here."
"And I issued a stern warning because, like AG … I can not act in a partisan way and I can not be politically motivated." And all of this screams about that, "she said.
When Wernick told her that Trudeau understood Wilson-Raybould's decision and that she should be aware of what the prime minister wanted on the subject, the former minister said she had thought of the "Saturday Night Massacre" .
WATCH | "I was having thoughts about the Saturday night massacre."
Wilson-Raybould was referring to a series of events in 1973, when former US President Richard Nixon, during the Watergate scandal, ordered justice department officials to trigger the special prosecutor investigating the matter.
The Prosecutor General and then the Deputy Attorney General resigned when asked to take such action by the President.
Wilson-Raybould said he thought she would also have to resign rather than proceed with a direct order from the PM to sign a DPA or something else.
6. & # 39; I did not consider giving up & # 39;
Asked why she did not step down as Attorney General and Minister of Justice during the period in which she stated that inappropriate pressure was being applied, Wilson-Raybould said:
"I was, in my opinion, doing my job as attorney general." I was protecting a fundamental constitutional principle of the independence of the Public Prosecutor's Office and the independence of our Judiciary, which is my job. -general.
WATCH | Wilson-Raybould asks why she did not give up
"And as long as I was the attorney general, I would ensure that the independence of the director of public prosecutions, in the exercise of his discretion, was not interfered with."
7. & # 39; It is not illegal & # 39;
Wilson-Raybould said on Wednesday that, despite the pressure she felt, she did not believe that what happened was illegal. Conservative leader Andrew Scheer has asked the RCMP to investigate the matter.
WATCH | "In my opinion, it is not illegal"
"It is very inappropriate, depending on the context of the comments made, the nature of the pressure, the specific issues that are raised, it is incredibly appropriate and is an attempt to compromise or impose an independent attorney general," she said in response to a question from NDP Deputy Nathan Cullen.
WATCH | Andrew Scheer asks for investigation, says Justin Trudeau must resign