On Thursday morning, the Globe and Mail dropped a veritable bomb on the political offices of the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when it reported that Aboriginal Canadian political figurehead Jody Wilson-Raybould, was moved from her role as the country’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General to the Minister of Veterans Affairs unfairly.
The reason for the demotion is allegedly when she refused to intervene or coerce a favorable decision in a federal case against the government contractor SNC-Lavalin involving alleged bribes to Libyan government officials from the years 2001 to 2011.
According to the Globe and Mail, officials in the Prime Ministers Office had asked Wilson-Raybould to put pressure on Canadian prosecutors to formulate and negotiate a “deferred prosecution agreement” meaning an agreement in which a prosecutor would grant amnesty to a defendant that agreed to specific terms.
Since this didn’t happen, SNC-Lavalin could be convicted and thus banned from bidding on Canadian federal contracts for 10 years.
As reported on The Tyee online news site:
The Montreal-based engineering and construction giant told the Liberal government it would, in effect, settle out of court with a sweetheart deal that would cost the company a few million dollars. But it would be free to earn much more from future contracts.
According to several Canadian-based publications to include The Post Millennial, SNC-Lavalin has had a history of questionable behavior to include an executive soliciting more than $100,000 in illegal campaign donations in 2017, and paying 1.5 million to settle a regional corruption case in 2015.
Thus far, social media has been a firestorm of activity over the potential scandal, and even Bill Wilson, the father of Jody Wilson-Raybould -- a Chief that previously came head to head with Justin Trudeau’s father during the Canadian Constitutional Conference on Native Rights in 1983 -- made comments in support of his daughter.
In a Facebook post, Wilson said his daughter was “more than able to defend herself.” He continued with “History will prove that she did the right thing. - Her DEMOTION makes sense now, UGLY POLITICAL SENSE.”
When asked about the allegations, Canadian Prime Minister told reporters that he had never “directed” Wilson-Raybould regarding any influence to the case.
Wilson-Raybould has refused to comment about the matter citing solicitor-client privilege in connection to her role as Attorney General for Canada.
She did however, release a statement on her website discussing the shuffle in her position. She wrote in part:
I have received many questions and inquiries about the Cabinet shuffle announced today and why I am no longer the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. Thank you for all the kind words. While I can understand the interest of Canadians in this matter, I will not be commenting. In our system, decisions regarding the appointment of Cabinet Ministers are the prerogative of the Prime Minister.
Moving forward, I am very proud to be the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence. Any opportunity to serve and support Canada’s Veterans is a great honour, and I look forward to meeting with Veterans across the country, engaging with the crucial matters that must be addressed, and continuing our Government’s progress to support and honour Canada’s Veterans.
I do, however, on leaving the office of Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada (MOJAG) wish to share with Canadians some reflections about my time in that office.
Serving Canadians as MOJAG for the past three plus years has been one of the greatest privileges of my life. I was directed in my mandate letter to pursue and achieve a broad, progressive, and ambitious agenda and I am tremendously proud of our accomplishments. There is very little, if anything, in my mandate letter we have not done or is not well under way to completing, and we have also achieved much beyond it. I have attached an overview of these accomplishments to this statement. I thank my amazing Minister’s office staff and the hardworking and dedicated public servants within the Department of Justice for their tireless work and for so ably supporting the advancement of our agenda. I also thank the residents of Vancouver Granville, and all Canadians who have been overwhelmingly kind, generous, and supportive as we worked together to help build an ever stronger and more just Canada. This work goes on, and I remain dedicated to it, whatever public or private roles I may play.
Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter - @VinceSchilling