Aug. 15 (UPI) — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau exerted improper political influence by pressuring a former justice minister to drop an investigation into contractor SNC-Lavalin, an ethics board ruled Wednesday.
Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion found that Trudeau violated Section 9 of the Conflict of Interest Act, which prohibits any high-ranking government official from seeking to influence another person’s decision to further private interests, when he attempted to influence then-justice minister Jody Wilson Raybould to overrule a decision not to grant SNC-Lavalin a deferred prosecution agreement.
“The prime minister, directly and through his senior officials used various means to exert influence over Ms. Wilson-Raybould,” Dion wrote. “The authority of the prime minister and his office was used to circumvent, undermine and ultimately attempt to discredit the decision of the director of public prosecutions as well as the authority of Ms. Wilson-Raybould as the Crown’s chief law officer.”
Trudeau said Wednesday that he takes responsibility for the “mistakes” he made but disagreed that any contact with the attorney general about the issue was improper.
The prime minister added that he took the actions in order to defend Canadian jobs, stating criminal prosecution against SNC-Lavalin would result in consequences for employees, shareholders customers and suppliers, in addition to jeopardizing infrastructure projects.
“My job as prime minister is to stand up for Canadians and defend their interests,” Trudeau said. “Yes, it is essential that we do that in a way that defends our institutions and upholds prosecutorial independence, but we need to talk about the impacts on Canadians right across the country of decisions being made. I can’t apologize for standing up for Canadian jobs.”
Wilson-Raybould issued a statement saying the report “confirms critical facts, consistent with what I shared with Canadians and affirms the position I have taken from the outset,” that Trudeau made multiple attempts to improperly influence her decision.
In February, Wilson-Raybould testified that Trudeau and his senior staff engaged in a relentless campaign including veiled threats in order to pressure her to drop the investigation.
SNC-Lavalin faces bribery and fraud charges for allegedly paying nearly $50 million to public officials in Libya between 2001 and 2011 to secure government contracts.