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'We aren't going to turn the page': Conservatives try again to tie Norman trial to SNC-Lavalin fallout

‘We aren’t going to turn the page’: Conservatives try again to tie Norman trial to SNC-Lavalin fallout


Federal Conservatives made a pitch today — in the wake of the SNC Lavalin affair — to turn the criminal case against Vice-Admiral Mark Norman into the spinoff political scandal of the spring.

While the pace of the SNC-Lavalin scandal could start slowing down now, following the ejection of both former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and former Treasury Board president Jane Philpott from the Liberal caucus this week, Conservatives effectively served notice Friday that they’re not letting the Liberal government off the hook over allegations of political interference in criminal cases.

“We aren’t going to turn the page on the rule-of-law corruption from this government,” former Conservative veterans minister Erin O’Toole said Friday as debate began on an opposition motion which, among other things, repeated a demand that the federal government cover Norman’s legal bills.

The motion also insisted that senior political staff and bureaucrats around Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sign “an affidavit affirming that no evidence or records” related to the criminal case against the former vice chief of the defence staff have been destroyed.

The Conservatives have made similar demands before as they’ve pressed the Liberal government to account for inconsistencies and allegations of political interference in the prosecution of Norman, who faces a single count of breach of trust.

The Crown accused of him of leaking cabinet secrets to a shipyard executive and a CBC journalist related to a $668 million deal to lease a supply ship for the navy.

Former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould referenced the Norman case in her secretly-recorded conversation with  Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick, suggesting alleged attempts to interfere in SNC Lavalin’s prosecution could taint the public’s perceptions of both the extradition of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou and the Norman case.

‘This is worse than the SNC-Lavalin scandal’

“Canadians should be outraged,” said O’Toole.

“This is worse than the SNC scandal … you may have issues with a company and bad practice by a company, but here is a Canadian who gave three decades of his life to his country, and before that grew up in a family serving the country, who is being hung out to dry.”

The parliamentary secretary for the justice minister, Arif Virani, responded — as the government has before when faced with questions about the Norman case — by chastising the opposition for talking about a matter still before the courts.

Norman’s lawyers will be back in court in two weeks to resume their fight for access to federal government documents to prove their theory that his prosecution is politically motivated.

The federal government has released a few thousand pages of internal documents, but many pertinent ones — including Wernick’s 60 page memo on the case to Trudeau — have been redacted due to solicitor-client privilege.

Vice-Admiral Mark Norman follows his lawyer Marie Henein as they leave the courthouse in Ottawa following his first appearance for his trial for breach of trust, on Tuesday, April 10, 2018. (Justin Tang/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The Conservatives repeatedly have sought assurances that government documents related to the case have not been destroyed. They’ve attempted to connect the handling of Norman’s case against Norman with a scandal that erupted in Ontario over the cancellation of gas plant construction under the former Liberal government of Dalton McGuinty. Government records were destroyed in the course of that scandal.

O’Toole pointed out that many of Trudeau’s government’s current and ex-senior advisers served in the McGuinty government, or its successor under former premier Kathleen Wynne.

“That was the same crew that brought us the billion-dollar scandal in Ontario,” he said.

The RCMP have separately charged a mid-level federal government procurement official with leaking cabinet secrets related to the same shipbuilding deal.

Matthew Matchett is also charged with breach of trust. He is accused of leaking a cabinet memo and slide deck presentation to an Ottawa lobbyist working for one of the shipyards before a meeting on Nov. 19, 2015, while Norman is alleged to have disclosed the results of the secret discussions

O’Toole insisted that Norman was the “only one [that] has been set up as the fall guy.”

The opposition motion will be voted on next week.



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SNC-Lavalin revives court bid for special agreement to avoid criminal trial

SNC-Lavalin revives court bid for special agreement to avoid criminal trial


SNC-Lavalin, the company at the centre of a national political storm, underscores what it calls new and troubling facts in a fresh court bid for a special agreement to avoid prosecution on corruption charges.

The Montreal-based engineering and construction firm cites revelations from recent parliamentary-committee testimony in trying to revive its Federal Court case against the director of public prosecutions.

SNC-Lavalin is asking the Federal Court of Appeal to give it another chance to challenge the director’s decision to not negotiate an agreement that would see the company avoid a criminal trial and a possible prohibition from receiving federal contracts for 10 years.

In a March ruling, the Federal Court tossed out the company’s plea for a judicial review of the 2018 decision.

SNC-Lavalin faces prosecution over allegations it paid millions of dollars in bribes to obtain government business in Libya.

The company unsuccessfully pressed the director of prosecutions to negotiate a “remediation agreement,” a means of holding an organization to account without formal criminal proceedings.



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Former SNC-Lavalin CEO rejects allegations firm paid bribes with EDC money

Former SNC-Lavalin CEO rejects allegations firm paid bribes with EDC money


The former CEO of SNC-Lavalin has lashed out at allegations made by an unnamed company insider, denying taxpayer-backed loans from Canada were ever used to pay bribes under his watch.

“People who talk behind the scenes — they are just chicken,” said Jacques Lamarre in an interview with CBC News. 

CBC News is not naming the SNC-Lavalin insider, who worked on numerous EDC-backed projects, as he fears for his job.

On Wednesday, CBC News reported claims from the insider that it was an “open secret” in the company that money intended for bribes overseas was buried in budgets, disguised as “technical fees” in applications for financing from Export Development Canada

EDC is a Crown agency that provides financial backing and insurance to Canadian companies operating in other countries. Over the past 25 years, EDC has provided up to $4.7 billion in loans to SNC-Lavalin.

The agency says the claim from the insider has prompted it to hire outside legal counsel to review at least one former deal with SNC-Lavalin.

Lamarre was CEO of SNC-Lavalin from the mid-1990’s until 2009. The Quebec business mogul was in charge of thousands of projects — some of which became mired in corruption and bribery allegations, resulting in numerous police investigations and, in 2014, the conviction of the head of the company’s construction division.

He says “technical fees” were often used to hire local staff in foreign countries where it was “very difficult” for SNC-Lavalin to establish operations. According to Lamarre, all contractors were required to sign agreements stating they were not to use money for illegal payments such as bribes or kickbacks.

“It is written in the contract, that they cannot pay bribes. It says it in black and white.”

Lamarre insists paying bribes was not necessary, despite operating in some of the world’s most notoriously corrupt countries.

“No. No. No. For me, I’m not in that business. If we have to pay bribes, I prefer not to bid on that job.”

EDC wants to meet with insider

Export Development Canada has hired outside lawyers to probe allegations from the insider that EDC turned a blind eye to SNC-Lavalin’s abuse of “technical fees.”

Out of the 26 SNC-Lavalin projects EDC has backed since 1995, the agency is reviewing one project in Angola flagged by the insider as involving illicit payments. EDC provided political risk insurance to SNC-Lavalin on a $250-million deal to repair the Matala hydroelectric dam.

“Based on any outcomes of the review, we will carefully examine whether we need to expand the scope,” wrote EDC spokesperson Jessica Draker.

Quebec-based SNC-Lavalin is a construction and engineering giant, with thousands of employees and projects around the world. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

“We would welcome the opportunity to meet with your source regarding his or her concerns,” Draker added.

It’s unlikely EDC will make its findings public, as the agency says it doesn’t discuss details of its agreements with clients, including how much money SNC-Lavalin currently owes EDC. 

The insider also alleges EDC signed off on SNC-Lavalin’s technical fees, counting them as Canadian expenses, while knowing the payments were destined for foreign contractors.

(EDC requires projects to meet certain “Canadian content” quotas to be eligible for financing, as the agency exists to support Canadian exports).

EDC has not directly answered questions put to it by CBC News about this claim.

SNC-Lavalin, this week, declined to comment.

Former CEO Jacques Lamarre acknowledges the foreign payments were counted as Canadian expenses.

“I have no good answer for that,” Lamarre said, insisting EDC was fully aware of SNC-Lavalin’s budget details.

Criminal case

In recent years, SNC-Lavalin has faced a string of bribery scandals both in Canada and abroad, including corruption allegations tied to EDC-backed projects in India, Angola and Algeria. 

The company is also facing criminal prosecution in Canada for alleged offences in Libya between 2001 and 2011. One company executive has already pleaded guilty to bribery and fraud in connection with contracts in that country. A judge in Montreal will rule next month on whether the Quebec-based engineering giant itself should stand trial.  If convicted, SNC-Lavalin could face a 10-year ban from bidding on federal contracts.

Lamarre says he never knew of — or sanctioned — bribery and says any instances where it occurred were isolated, and the result of lone, corrupt employees.

“We never took any chances. We were always black and white,” Lamarre said. “But on the other hand, I cannot say that with 10,000 projects, [that] once and a while we didn’t have problems.”

The company has been lobbying for a deferred prosecution agreement, which former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould opposed.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau replaced her in January with a new attorney general who could still intervene and impose a settlement that would not bar the company from federal work.

(CBC )

Send tips to dave.seglins@cbc.ca or rachel.houlihan@cbc.ca



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Wilson-Raybould denies trying to hamstring Lametti on SNC-Lavalin file

Wilson-Raybould denies trying to hamstring Lametti on SNC-Lavalin file


Jody Wilson-Raybould says she never tried to meddle in the SNC-Lavalin file after she was shuffled out of the attorney general’s job.

In an interview with CBC Radio Vancouver’s The Early Edition, Wilson-Raybould denied reports that she demanded that her successor, David Lametti, be directed not to override an independent prosecutor’s decision to make SNC-Lavalin face a criminal trial.

The Vancouver Granville MP insisted she has always been clear on the independent role and authority of the attorney general, and flatly denied trying to bind Lametti on her decision not to intervene in the SNC-Lavalin prosecution.

 “I would absolutely never do that,” she told host Stephen Quinn.

Sources have told CBC News that Wilson-Raybould made at least five demands in order to resolve the bitter SNC-Lavalin dispute, including that three top government officials be fired. Sources also said she wanted a formal apology from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and his assurance that his new attorney general would not overturn her decision not to offer SNC-Lavalin a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA).

“There were a number of discussions. What I will say about those conditions that were reported, one of them was around whether or not the current attorney general would issue a DPA and I have to say unequivocally that I would never interfere with the independence of the attorney general,” Wilson-Raybould said.

Wilson-Raybould has testified that she faced inappropriate, intense political pressure and veiled threats to persuade her to overrule the decision by Kathleen Roussel, director of the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, and offer the Montreal-based engineering and construction firm a DPA.

CBC News reached out to Wilson-Raybould Wednesday night about the list of demands, but she declined to comment.

Contradictory version of events

In an email to CBC News Thursday night, she said, “I have never and would never seek to interfere with the exercise of prosecutorial discretion by the attorney general of Canada.”

After Wilson-Raybould issued that statement, CBC news re-contacted the sources for this story. One said Wilson-Raybould raised the demand that the DPP’s decision on SNC-Lavalin be respected directly with Trudeau during their conversations in Vancouver before she resigned from cabinet.

But, the source said, that condition was not part of the conversations in the recent days leading up to Tuesday’s expulsion from caucus, as the demands Wilson-Raybould wanted met evolved and changed throughout the weeks of discussions.

Liberal MP Adam Vaughan said he was “confused” by that condition because it flies in the face of her claim that the attorney general should always be independent of political direction.

“I dont understand how you can say you should never interfere with an attorney general’s decision, and yet she wanted to effectively handcuff the new attorney general,” he said Thursday. “Either you believe in that principle, and I respect her for believing in it, or you don’t.”

Trudeau expelled Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott from the Liberal caucus this week, explaining that trust had been irreparably broken with the former cabinet ministers.

Philpott told CBC Radio’s The Current on Thursday the controversy that has dogged the government for months could have been contained much earlier with an apology from the prime minister for alleged political interference in a criminal trial — and a promise that it wouldn’t happen again.

Apology would have ‘gone a long way’

Wilson-Raybould echoed that today, saying an apology to Canadians would have gone a long way.

“I had hoped all along that the prime minister would have accepted some responsibility for wrongdoing in the case and essentially apologize to Canadians,” she told The Early Edition.

In the interview, Wilson-Raybould said she had no regrets about anything she had done, including the secret taping of a Dec. 19 conversation she had with Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick.

She also acknowledged that her actions have caused damage to the Liberal Party and how that could have helped lead to a Conservative government being elected in the fall, which may not be good for advancing Indigenous rights.

“I think that is a worry. I think that we need to have an approach to resolving and recognizing Indigenous rights that can’t be confined to one political party, can’t be confined to the government party, the Conservative Party, the NDP and other parties,” she said. 

Wilson-Raybould said she still shares the Liberal values of equality and inclusion in policy-making. She’s now reflecting on her political future and will speak with family, volunteers and constituents and said she remains “incredibly open” to a continued role in federal politics.

“I think I still have an important voice,” she said.

Read more and listen to the full interview with the CBC’s Stephen Quinn.



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Trudeau-appointed Independent senator wants to probe issues in SNC-Lavalin affair

Trudeau-appointed Independent senator wants to probe issues in SNC-Lavalin affair


As the Commons committee studying the SNC-Lavalin affair seems to have been put on ice, the Senate is wrestling with whether it should launch its own inquiry on the matter.

But there is a battle brewing between Independent and Conservative senators on what exactly the scope should be for such a study, nearly two months after allegations of inappropriate pressure first surfaced.

While a Conservative motion proposes calling former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to the Senate’s legal and constitutional affairs committee, a new Independent plan for a special committee proposes the focus should now shift to the wider issue of prosecutorial independence and bifurcation of the attorney general and justice minister roles.

Independent Quebec Sen. André Pratte, appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, said there may not be much more to learn from Wilson-Raybould after her extended committee appearance and the release of documents and a recording. But, the Senate “should not sit on the sidelines while fundamental questions on the administration of justice in this country are being asked,” he said.

The focus, rather, should be how to protect the government’s top lawyer from political pressures in the future, Pratte said.

He is proposing a committee be quickly constituted so that it can meet and study the issue and then report back to the Senate by no later than June 1 — a very tight timeline.

‘A different, more neutral, senatorial approach’

“The [Conservative] hope is obviously to continue to embarrass the government,” Pratte said.

“On the other hand, the government’s aim is to put an end to the controversy. Our objective, as an independent Senate, should be neither to prolong nor to stifle the scandal but to provide a thorough review of the facts … we should suggest a way forward — a different, more neutral, senatorial approach.”

The former La Presse journalist-turned-senator said “the facts are now out in the open,” and thus the special committee he is prepared to launch should not be tasked with investigating what happened in this SNC-Lavalin matter alone.

“Rather, it should reflect on what it all means and what lessons we should learn from what happened. Was the pressure put on the attorney general inappropriate or not? What principles can we use to reach a conclusion? In future, is it possible to pinpoint the rare circumstances in which the attorney general can intervene with the Public Prosecution Service?”

Pratte said deferred prosecution agreements (DPAs), also known as remediation agreements, the legal tool at the heart of this matter, should also be studied by the proposed Senate committee.

Pratte’s proposal faced criticism from the Conservative opposition.

“Middle ground? More like a farce. The Trudeau Senators have dined out for 3 years on putting on a big show. This is no different. This is a smoke screen by the [Independent Senators Group] just like the one by [the Prime Minister’s Office],” Conservative Quebec Sen. Leo Housakos tweeted.

“This is again another example of the games that are being played in this chamber in order to circle the wagons, to defend the prime minister who has done something the Canadian public and the press for weeks have been calling upon him to respond to clearly and unequivocally,” Housakos said in the chamber on Thursday.

The Conservative opposition in the upper house, led by leader Larry Smith, has sought to supplement the Commons justice inquiry with a wide-reaching investigation of their own at the Senate’s legal and constitutional affairs committee.

Smith’s motion featured a long list of potential witnesses, including the prime minister himself, but also Trudeau’s chief of staff, Katie Telford, and eight others.

That plan has faced head-winds from some Trudeau-appointed Independent senators and the government’s representative in the upper house, Peter Harder, who say such an inquiry would be consumed by partisanship and that such a study is best placed for a Commons committee composed of elected parliamentarians. Tories say such opposition is equally partisan in that it shields the government from further scrutiny.

But Smith withdrew his motion Thursday in favour of another Tory proposal, from Conservative Sen. Don Plett, the party’s whip. That motion suggests calling Wilson-Raybould alone as a witness, a potentially more workable plan with only eight weeks left of Parliament before it rises for the summer recess.

Pratte sought to head off government opposition to his committee proposal — or the suggestion that this Senate body would simply duplicate the study by former Liberal justice minister Anne McClellan — by saying the other work underway on this issue is to be conducted largely in secret.

“Ms. McLellan is not Parliament. Her advice to the prime minister will undoubtedly be very valuable, but many heads are better than one. Moreover, she will not do her work in public as a Senate committee would do, thereby educating both the public and parliamentarians on these complex issues,” Pratte said.



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SNC-Lavalin sells 10% stake in 407 toll highway to OMERS pension plan for $3.25B

SNC-Lavalin sells 10% stake in 407 toll highway to OMERS pension plan for $3.25B


SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. has signed a deal to sell part of its stake in 407 International Inc. to the OMERS pension plan.

Under the agreement, which has certain conditions, SNC is selling a 10.01 per cent stake in the toll highway operator in a transaction worth up to $3.25 billion.

The agreement will see SNC-Lavalin retain a 6.76 per cent stake in the company, which operates a toll highway in southern Ontario.

OMERS will pay $3 billion to SNC on the closing of the deal and an additional $250 million over 10 years, conditional on certain financial targets related to the performance of the toll highway.

The OMERS agreement with SNC is subject to certain rights of 407’s other shareholders, including rights-of-first refusal.

The other owners of the toll highway include a subsidiary of Ferrovial S.A., with a 43.23 per cent stake, and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board with a 40 per cent.

SNC says part of the net proceeds from the sale will be used to repay debt.



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SNC-Lavalin fallout has some Indigenous Canadians questioning Trudeau's commitment to reconciliation

SNC-Lavalin fallout has some Indigenous Canadians questioning Trudeau’s commitment to reconciliation


The Trudeau government is defending its commitment to reconciliation as a growing number of Indigenous leaders and youth say they’re discouraged by his decision to eject two key figures on the file from the Liberal caucus.

“I’m very disappointed that it had to come to this,” said Linden Waboose, a 22-year-old from from Eabametoong First Nation who sits on the Nishnawbe Aski Nation Oshkaatisak Council, an advisory network of ten youths aged 18-29 from Northern Ontario.

“I feel like [Trudeau] doesn’t value that relationship he committed to in 2015.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said no relationship is more important to him and to Canada than the one with First Nations, the Metis Nation and Inuit Peoples.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks at an evening caucus meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday after kicking both former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould and fellow ex-cabinet minister Jane Philpott out of the Liberal caucus. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

The day after he chose to oust Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott from the Liberal caucus, Trudeau faced some hard questions about that promise from young women who gathered on Wednesday for the Daughters of the Vote event in the House of Commons. In response, Trudeau said again that reconciliation is “probably one of the most important” issues for his government.

Reconciliation ‘way more than one person’

Many in Indigenous communities saw Wilson-Raybould and Philpott as champions of their causes.

Philpott won respect for her efforts as Indigenous Services minister to end drinking water advisories and reform Indigenous child welfare. Wilson-Raybould was, of course, the first Indigenous person to hold the position of justice minister and attorney general.

Crown–Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett says the government’s work on reconciliation goes beyond the work of one person. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett calls Wilson-Raybould a trailblazer, but said the work on reconciliation continues.

“This is way more than one person,” Bennett said.

“This is our Indigenous caucus. This is all the partnerships we made. We want to keep going on reconciliation. Equality means that if you cross the line, there are consequences.”

Investments in reconciliation are significant part of the Liberal government’s election year budget; $4.5 billion has been added over the next five years to try to narrow the socio-economic gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

‘Irreparable harm and damage’

The SNC-Lavalin scandal has been eating into Liberal support since Feb. 7, when the Globe and Mail reported that Wilson-Raybould had faced inappropriate political pressure over the decision to pursue criminal prosecution of the company on bribery charges. Wilson-Raybould and Philpott both later resigned from cabinet to protest the government’s handling of the SNC-Lavalin file.

In her testimony before the Commons Justice Committee during its investigation of the SNC-Lavalin affair, Wilson-Raybould said she would not apologize for being a strong advocate of transformative change for Indigenous peoples.

As she was being shuffled from her justice post, she warned senior people in the government that it would not look good for the government.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, wants the prime minister to apologize to Jody-Wilson Raybould and Jane Philpott. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

In text messages to Gerald Butts, Trudeau’s then-principal secretary, she wrote that the “timing of pushing me out (which will be the perception, whether true or not) is terrible. It will be confounding and perplexing to people.”

That perception is already being echoed by some.

“I think there is irreparable harm and damage done to Prime Minister Trudeau’s vision and stated intent to carry forward the reconciliation agenda,” said Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs Grand Chief Stewart Phillip.

“The trust has been broken.”

Russ Diabo, a First Nations policy analyst, believes reconciliation is tied to the SNC-Lavalin affair.

Stewart warned that the Trudeau government will be a “one-time wonder” and said the only way it can repair its relationship with those hurt over the prime minister’s decision to oust Wilson-Raybould and Philpott from caucus is for Trudeau to apologize and then step down.

The outrage could have consequences in this fall’s federal election. Some pollsters suggest Indigenous voters could swing the outcome in as many as 11 ridings.

A ‘double standard’

First Nations policy analyst Russ Diabo said he also believes the way Wilson-Raybould and Philpott were dropped from caucus will cast a shadow over the government’s reconciliation agenda. He pointed out that Wilson-Raybould was offered the Indigenous Services portfolio after being shuffled out of justice, but turned it down because of her opposition to the Indian Act she would have had to administer in that job.

“In the context of this reconciliation agenda, she is a symbol of, I think, the Trudeau government’s commitment to fulfilling that,” Diabo said.

“The intent of the government is in question.”

Diabo said the criticism of Wilson-Raybould over her decision to secretly record a phone call with Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick amounts to a “double standard,” because Wernick was deputy minister in the former Indian Affairs department when it was monitoring the social media posts of First Nations activist Cindy Blackstock.

Sheelah McLean, one of the co-founders of the Idle No More movement, said Philpott is also a symbol — of how non-Indigenous Canadians can stand in solidarity with Indigenous people.

“The fact that they left together, I think, is a much larger narrative that really challenges what’s been happening in Canada over the last 150 years,” McLean said.

“This is about Indigenous peoples standing up against government and corporations, and then about what are Canadians, what are non-Indigenous people going to do to support Indigenous people as they continue this fight against colonialism.”

AFN questions government’s ‘motivations and actions’

In a written statement, the Assembly of First Nations also expresses its disappointment with Philpott and Wilson-Raybould’s punishment.

“The events of the past few weeks raise serious concerns about the motivations and actions of this government,” wrote National Chief Perry Bellegarde.

“In order to regain First Nations’ trust, we must all recommit ourselves to reconciliation and I urge both the Government of Canada and all parliamentarians to focus on passing key First Nation legislative priorities in this session of Parliament. This includes supporting a better future for First Nations children and families based on respect for our rights, languages, and cultures.”

Supporters of Wilson-Raybould and Philpott like B.C. Regional Chief Terry Teegee are using the hashtags #istandwithJody and #istandwithjane online.

“She [Wilson-Raybould] was doing her job, upholding the law and the integrity of the attorney general’s office, and as soon as she did that and held to her principles, as an Indigenous woman, as a government official, she’s being punished for it by the powers at be,” Teegee said.

“I think it could’ve been handled a lot better.”

But not every organization feels that way.

Metis Nation defends Trudeau

Clément Chartier, the president of the Métis Nation, questions why the two MPs weren’t expelled from the Liberal caucus sooner.

“For the Métis Nation, we believe that this prime minister and this government have done more than any other government, or more than any other prime minister, in dealing with us on a nation-to-nation, government-to-government basis,” Chartier said.

“This whole thing with the former attorney general, we saw as a major distraction getting away from what the prime minister should be concentrating on in terms of reconciliation, and in particular with the major nation.”

Waboose said the examples of Wilson-Raybould and Philpott have convinced him to pursue a career in politics.

National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Perry Bellegarde and then-Minister of Indigenous Services Jane Philpott listen to a delegate’s question at the Assembly of First Nations Special Chiefs Assembly in Ottawa in December 2017. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

“It’s inspired me to be a politician one day,” said Waboose, who wants to be an MP.

“I hope one day that I can become the first prime minister, the first Indigenous prime minister of Canada.”

Ashley Wesley, 24, from Mishkeegogamang First Nation, sees this as a moment for the government to act.

“Some youth are really disappointed and discouraged by what’s happened. Other youth have expressed they’re upset, but they’re also motivated to try to push for changes in the government,” Wesley said.

“This is an opportunity for the government to show they are really serious.”





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SNC-Lavalin insider's bribery allegations spark probe by Crown agency that loaned the firm billions

SNC-Lavalin insider’s bribery allegations spark probe by Crown agency that loaned the firm billions


Export Development Canada has hired outside legal counsel to review some of its dealings with SNC-Lavalin. The review comes after a company insider told CBC News the engineering giant secured billions in loans from the Crown agency over the years, some of which he alleges was intended to pay bribes.

If true, it could mean taxpayers have unwittingly backed illegal payments.

Export Development Canada is a federal agency that provides financing and insurance to Canadian businesses operating abroad.

The insider, who worked on several large projects funded by EDC, claims it was an “open secret” within SNC-Lavalin that “technical fees” listed in budget proposals included cash to be used as bribes to secure international contracts.

Those line items could total millions of dollars. The insider says EDC’s internal due diligence policies should have detected something was going on.

He says “technical fees” were part of a larger “lexicon of bribes” used within SNC-Lavalin.

EDC has denied knowledge of any improper payments, but last Friday said it is taking a closer look at a 2011 deal with SNC-Lavalin involving a $250-million project to refurbish the Matala hydroelectric dam in Angola. EDC provided the Quebec-based company with “political risk insurance” for the project.

“We would never, under any circumstances, knowingly participate in a transaction tainted by bribery or corruption,” David Bhamjee, EDC’s vice-president of corporate communications, wrote in an email.

“This behaviour goes against EDC’s core values and deep-rooted culture of business integrity.”

The SNC-Lavalin insider’s allegations come as a political storm rages over accusations Prime Minister Justin Trudeau replaced his attorney general for refusing to intervene and spare the company a criminal prosecution on fraud and corruption charges.

CBC News has agreed not to identify the insider because he fears losing his job.

He says EDC support was vital for the success of construction projects in underdeveloped parts of the world known for corruption. The projects included airports, power plants and dams, and the EDC loans to SNC-Lavalin ranged from a few million dollars to upward of $500 million.

The insider alleges that, prior to 2012 — when the head of SNC-Lavalin’s construction division was arrested in Switzerland for bribery in Libya — EDC was funding numerous projects that featured “slush funds.”

Former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould, appearing at the Commons justice committee on Feb. 27, says she resisted pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office to intervene in the fraud and corruption case against SNC-Lavalin and spare the Quebec-based engineering firm a potentially damaging prosecution. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

He says the problems with the technical fees should have been caught by EDC auditors for two reasons. First, he says, they were listed as Canadian expenses, but a portion flowed to consultants or “agents” on the ground in foreign countries to help the company win contracts.

The second red flag, he says, should have been the sheer size of the technical fees, which could total as much as 10 per cent of a project’s overall budget.

“That’s a lot of steak dinners,” the source quipped.

In 2013, CBC News and the Globe and Mail exposed a similar scheme inside SNC-Lavalin. Some budgets included items called “project consultancy costs” or “PCCs.” The code was used to mask secret payments for projects in Africa, India, Cambodia and Kazakhstan.

SNC-Lavalin admitted to CBC News those PCC payments were “improper,” and in 2015, paid a $1.5-million penalty to resolve allegations it bribed public officials to win road projects in Uganda and Mozambique that were funded by the African Development Bank.

None of the projects tied to PCC payments was funded by EDC.

Angola dam project under review

EDC insists that if it learns its funding is being used for bribes or corruption, it cancels the deal.

The Angola dam project first came under scrutiny in 2013, when an SNC-Lavalin employee fired from the job filed a lawsuit claiming the company had covertly paid a 10 per cent commission to win the contract.

SNC-Lavalin settled the suit out of court. It is unclear what steps, if any, EDC took to examine the deal at the time.

The insider recalls there was tension within SNC-Lavalin because numerous bribery scandals involving the company had made headlines.

“There was a lot of breath-holding,” he said. “Some of the projects that were investigated … were projects overseas that were financed by EDC.

“If it had been [exposed publicly], at that time, that a bribe had been paid, EDC would have been obliged never to allow SNC-Lavalin to have access to export credit funds.”

Export Development Canada, the country’s export credit agency, has loaned SNC-Lavalin billions of dollars since the mid-1990s. (CBC)

EDC announced last week it will now review its role in the Angola project, after receiving questions from CBC News. The agency says based on that review, it could expand its probe to look at other past agreements with SNC-Lavalin.

In the past, SNC-Lavalin has blamed rogue employees for problems with the Angola project. This week, the company declined to answer a list of questions about its use of technical fees on other EDC-backed projects.

‘Increasingly concerned’

EDC says it conducts due diligence and that “technical fees and agent fees are common and legitimate operational expenses.”

“We also appreciate that they can be used as one of many mechanisms to hide illegal or improper payments,” Bhamjee wrote. “Those who want to conceal payments take great pains to do so, making these payments extremely difficult to uncover.”

However, EDC says it did not begin scrutinizing these types of fees until 2006, when the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development issued a warning about their potential abuse.

“We remain confident that the processes we undertook throughout our financing history with the company were sound and adhered to best practices of the day,” wrote EDC spokesperson Jessica Draker.

Over the past 25 years, EDC has provided as much as $4.7 billion in loans to SNC-Lavalin for ventures in Europe, Africa and Latin America, making the company one of the largest recipients of taxpayer-backed loans.

EDC concedes it was slow to suspend funding for new SNC-Lavalin projects, which it did from late 2014 until 2017, as the company faced multiple scandals.

The World Bank sounded an alarm in 2012 over allegations SNC-Lavalin tried to bribe officials in Bangladesh. It has banned the company from bidding on World Bank projects until 2023.

“In the years leading up to our suspension, we became increasingly concerned about the myriad allegations facing the company,” said EDC’s David Bhamjee, noting EDC did beef up monitoring of SNC-Lavalin deals.

“We could have — and perhaps should have — suspended business earlier,” he said.

EDC only resumed doing business with SNC-Lavalin in 2017, after the company overhauled its internal accounting and whistleblower policies, he said.

‘Black box’

The head of Toronto-based watchdog group Probe International says if there’s any truth to the allegations EDC money was used for bribes, it implicates all Canadians.

“[EDC] operates on the Queen’s credit card,” said Patricia Adams. “That means that it operates on our credit cards.”

According to EDC’s website the Crown agency operates at arm’s length from government and is “self-financing.”

However, Adams says all of its debts and liabilities are backed by the government.

“It doesn’t exist but for the Canadian taxpayer.”

Adams says the public has very little idea of how the Crown agency operates.

“[It] is a secretive institution that sets its own rules and standards and regulates itself, with little public oversight,” she said.

“They’re a black box.”

Patricia Adams of the watchdog group Probe International says Canadians need to know more about how EDC operates. (Rachel Houlihan/CBC)

One EDC-backed SNC-Lavalin project is currently under investigation by the RCMP.

The case dates back to the early 2000s. RCMP investigators believe SNC-Lavalin funnelled $2.3 million from a contract to build an airport hangar in Algeria to pay bribes in Canada, according to a search warrant issued last year.

Michel Fournier, the former head of Canada’s Federal Bridge Corporation, which maintains several of the country’s largest overpasses, has already pleaded guilty to accepting the money in exchange for helping SNC-Lavalin win a $127-million contract to refurbish Montreal’s Jacques Cartier Bridge.

When asked about the ongoing RCMP probe, SNC-Lavalin replied: “No comment.”

Send tips to dave.seglins@cbc.ca or rachel.houlihan@cbc.ca.



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Philpott says clear apology from Trudeau could have quickly contained SNC-Lavalin scandal

Philpott says clear apology from Trudeau could have quickly contained SNC-Lavalin scandal


Jane Philpott was “stunned” to be turfed from the Liberal caucus, and says the SNC-Lavalin controversy could have been contained much earlier with an apology from the prime minister for alleged political interference in a criminal trial and a promise that it would not happen again.

In an interview with CBC Radio’s The Current Thursday morning, Philpott said she learned as a medical doctor that when bad things happen and mistakes are made, the sooner you deal with it, the better.

“Without malice, sometimes errors take place, but you need to own up to the people who may have been harmed and you need to find out why it happened and make sure it never happens again,” she told host Anna Maria Tremonti.

“I think those lessons could be transferred quite easily into the political sphere, and this could have been taken care of and addressed in a forthright, honest way much earlier.”

Philpott and Jody Wilson-Raybould, both former senior ministers in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet, were expelled from the Liberal caucus Tuesday.

‘Respect the decision’

Philpott told The Current she was “stunned” since she hadn’t been given the opportunity to explain her actions. She was advised earlier on Tuesday during a brief meeting with Trudeau, and said she had not had a discussion with him from the time she resigned from cabinet a month ago.

Jane Philpott suggests that the whole SNC-Lavalin affair could have been avoided if the Prime Minister had just taken ownership and apologized for trying to interfere. 1:21

“I respect the decision that was made, and I told the prime minister that I do wish him the best,” she said.

Trudeau broke the news during a special national caucus meeting Tuesday night, which was open to the media and televised.

“The trust that previously existed between these two individuals and our team has been broken, whether it’s taping conversations without consent, or repeatedly expressing a lack of confidence in our government or me personally as leader,” Trudeau said.

“It’s become clear that Ms. Wilson-Raybould and Dr. Philpott can no longer remain part of our Liberal team.”

Philpott resigned from cabinet March 4, citing lost confidence in how the government was handling the SNC-Lavalin affair. She remained in the Liberal caucus and said she intended to run in the fall election under the Liberal Party banner.

CBC News reported Wednesday that Wilson-Raybould had a list of at least five conditions to end the SNC-Lavalin controversy, including three staff changes and an apology from the prime minister.

Jane Philpott says that she chose to resign from Cabinet because to her the truth is more important than anyone’s political success. 1:16

Sources told CBC News she also sought assurances that her replacement as attorney general, David Lametti, would not overrule Director of Public Prosecutions Kathleen Roussell and direct her to give SNC-Lavalin a deferred prosecution agreement.

The first three conditions involved staff changes in the senior levels of government. The sources said Wilson-Raybould wanted Trudeau to fire his principal secretary, Gerald Butts, who has since resigned, along with Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick, who has since announced his retirement, and PMO senior adviser Mathieu Bouchard.



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How the SNC-Lavalin affair tested Trudeau's ideals

How the SNC-Lavalin affair tested Trudeau’s ideals


The thing about standing for an ideal is that people expect you to live up to it — or at least to their idea of it.

Justin Trudeau built his leadership upon a set of ideals: “sunny ways,” cabinet government, transparency, openness, inclusion, reconciliation, gender equality and doing things “differently.” Trudeau’s commitment to nearly every one of those principles has been challenged by critics and rivals over the last two months — his commitment to feminism in particular, now that Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott have been expelled from the Liberal parliamentary caucus.

Outside the House of Commons on Tuesday, reporters pressed Trudeau and his ministers to comment on the government’s feminist credentials and the message sent to young women by the expulsions of two women who had become the prime minister’s prominent critics.

“We have a strong prime minister that is a feminist. We have a feminist agenda. Our record speaks for itself,” said Mélanie Joly, the tourism minister. “As to my two colleagues, I would argue that loyalty and feminism are two different things. And actually, there is no female or male definition of loyalty. It’s either you have team spirit, you want to work in a team, or you don’t.”

So perhaps two male ministers, behaving exactly the same way, would have met the same fate.

At the Daughters of the Vote event in the House on Tuesday — a biannual gathering that puts young women in the seats of MPs for a morning of speeches and discussion — some 50 delegates stood and silently turned their backs as the prime minister delivered his remarks.

An awkward diversion

Trudeau acknowledged the obvious tension of the day, but then awkwardly tried to contrast the departure of two strong women with … the continued presence of two strong women.

“I know nobody in here wants to have to pick who to believe between Jody Wilson Raybould and Chrystia Freeland,” he said. “Nobody wants to know that one person has to be right and another person has to be wrong between Jane Philpott or Maryam Monsef.”

That women stood behind Trudeau’s decision to expel Wilson-Raybould and Philpott likely is not irrelevant. But maybe it’s not the prime minister’s task to pit them against each other.

It’s likely not up to any one person (certainly not me) to say whether Trudeau is a good feminist. But if there was any solace for Trudeau in the Commons yesterday, it was in the fact that all 338 of those young women — even the ones unhappy with him — stayed in the chamber as he spoke. Moments prior, several dozen delegates simply walked out on Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s speech.

(On the other hand, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s speech was received enthusiastically by the group — which might make Trudeau anxious.)

“By kicking the first Indigenous former attorney general of Canada out of caucus for upholding the law, the prime minister has made it clear that principled women who dare to stand up to him are not welcome in the Liberal Party,” the NDP’s Jenny Kwan charged in question period. “Is this what a self-proclaimed feminist looks like in 2019?”

Trudeau tried to make the case for his own feminism, or at least for his government’s commitment to the ideal: a development assistance policy aimed at women and girls, gender-based analysis of budgets, legislated pay equity, funding for women’s organizations and a gender-balanced cabinet.

Then the prime minister offered a bit of meta commentary.

“I recognize there is much more to do and I am proud that there is now a contest among party leaders to see who can be the better feminist. I think that is a great thing for this country. I think that is a great thing for Parliament.”

Perhaps there’s some solace there too.

Thus far, but not far enough

The struggle between Trudeau and his ideals has been real. He waived solicitor-client privilege and cabinet confidentiality to allow Wilson-Raybould to speak about her time as attorney general, but she objected that the waiver did not go far enough. Liberal members of the justice committee were apparently free to look into the SNC affair, but then the hearings were abandoned.

In both cases, Trudeau probably went further than Stephen Harper would have gone. But in neither case did he go as far as he could have.

In vowing to do things differently, he raised the expectation that — when confronted with a profound challenge — he would be perfectly forthcoming, without regard for the normal political impulse to control the narrative and limit the damage.

Former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould leaves West Block on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, April 2, 2019. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

In appointing the first Indigenous minister of justice and attorney general, he put an incredible burden on himself and his office to ensure both her success and a good working relationship between them. That made the possibility of moving her, or demoting her, a daunting prospect.

For all that, Trudeau might now fall back on what he’s been insisting all along — that neither he nor his office did anything wrong (the claim that they did is at least in dispute) and that their cause (saving jobs) was just.

Wilson-Raybould says she told Gerry Butts, Trudeau’s former adviser, that the Prime Minister’s Office was inappropriately pressuring her. Butts disputes that claim. Wilson-Raybould did raise a concern in a phone call with the clerk of the Privy Council, Michael Wernick. But Wernick seems not to have told Trudeau about what she said.

The power of symbolism

Liberals will also argue that they had perfectly valid reasons for wanting Wilson-Raybould and Philpott gone from caucus — starting with the fact that, at the very least, they had reasons to believe they no longer all shared the same goal.

But Trudeau and his fellow Liberals must understand the symbolic value of everything that’s happened with the SNC-Lavalin file. Two impressive women now sit outside the Liberal caucus. We’re still waiting on an ethics commissioner probe; the facts have not been fully and completely aired.

Maybe his political opponents weren’t complaining in good faith. Maybe nothing would have satisfied them.

But the last two months will still weigh down any attempt by Trudeau to lay claim to those ideals. Trudeau must hope that giving voice to those ideals, and his pursuit of them, still count for something, even if he has not always fully embodied the ideal.



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