The Canadian Press
OTTAWA–Conservative leader Andrew Scheer has written directly to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking him to waive solicitor-client privilege so former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould can talk publicly about what happened with SNC-Lavalin.
The request is contained in an open letter dated yesterday, in which Scheer said he also wants all communications to or from the prime minister or members of his staff about the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin to be opened up to public scrutiny.
“Solicitor-client privilege and the duty of confidentiality are important values in our legal system,” Scheer conceded.
“But in the present situation, they must be subordinated to a higher value: the confidence of Canadians in the integrity, fairness, and impartiality of our criminal justice system,” he argued.
The request follows a Globe and Mail report last week that members of Trudeau’s office leaned on Wilson-Raybould to have federal prosecutors negotiate a “remediation agreement” with SNC-Lavalin rather than move ahead with a criminal prosecution.
The Quebec engineering and construction giant has faced legal trouble over allegations it paid millions of dollars in bribes to get government business in Libya, which would be a crime under Canadian law and threaten its ability to win future federal work.
Wilson-Raybould, who was demoted from her role as justice minister and attorney general last month, has said she cannot comment because in her role as the government’s top lawyer, she is bound by solicitor-client privilege.
Government officials have acknowledged Wilson-Raybould was involved in extensive, internal discussions last month about whether SNC-Lavalin should be allowed to avoid criminal prosecution.
But they maintain there was nothing wrong with that while Trudeau publicly has denied he or anyone in his office “directed” the minister on the matter.
Wilson-Raybould’s refusal to comment nonetheless has added fuel to the political fire–sparking opposition demands for transparency and accusations of government interference in a criminal case.
In his letter, Scheer said Canadians deserve answers “as the allegations surrounding it strike at the very heart of fair and impartial law enforcement and prosecutorial functions, themselves vital to the rule of law and to our democracy.”
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh made a similar demand yesterday while campaigning in the B.C. riding of Burnaby South, saying in a statement, “Canadians want the whole truth and so I’m asking Mr. Trudeau to waive his government’s solicitor-client privilege regarding SNC-Lavalin.”
The Prime Minister’s Office did not respond to questions yesterday but a Toronto Star report cited unnamed senior government officials as saying the privilege would not be waived because the case against SNC-Lavalin remains before the courts.
One senior official also reportedly told the newspaper the government would not agree to Opposition demands for an emergency meeting of the House of Commons’ justice committee to hear from Wilson-Raybould and members of Trudeau’s staff.