TORONTO – Canada's former attorney general is expected to testify Wednesday about whether she was inappropriately pressured by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's office to avoid prosecuting a major Canadian engineering company.
Ex-Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould has said she wants to tell "her truth" and she will speak at a hearing of the Parliament justice committee.
Trudeau's government has been on the defensive since the Globe and Mail newspaper reported Feb. 7 that Trudeau or his staff pressured Wilson-Raybould last year to try to avoid a criminal prosecution of Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin over allegations of corruption involving government contracts in Libya. Critics say that would be improper political meddling in a legal case.
The scandal has been a significant blow to Trudeau, who is facing an election this year. Gerald Butts, Trudeau's closet adviser, resigned last week but denied that he or anyone else pressured Wilson-Raybould. Michael Wernick, the top civil servant in the government, has also said that no inappropriate pressure was put on Wilson-Raybould and that Trudeau repeatedly assured Wilson-Raybould the decision on the SNC-Lavalin prosecution was hers alone.
Wilson-Raybould resigned from the Cabinet on Feb. 12 as veteran affairs minister but gave no reasons. She had been demoted from justice minister last month, and was furious, releasing a 2,000-word statement after that.
The Globe and Mail's report this month said Trudeau's office pressured her to instruct the director of public prosecutions to negotiate a remediation agreement with SNC-Lavalin. The agreement would have allowed the company to pay reparations but avoid a criminal trial on charges of corruption and bribery.
If convicted criminally, the company would be banned from receiving any federal government business for a decade. SNC-Lavalin is a major employer in Quebec, with about 3,400 employees in the province, 9,000 employees in Canada and more than 50,000 worldwide.
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 accepted the committee's invitation to testify but complained in a letter to the justice committee that the waiver does not release her to talk about any communications she had after she was named minister of veteran affairs or her resignation from the Cabinet.
She will begin her testimony with a 30-minute opening statement.