Timeline: SNC-Lavalin and Jody Wilson-Raybould
OTTAWA — Feb. 19, 2015 — The RCMP lays corruption and fraud charges against Montreal-based engineering and construction firm SNC-Lavalin, over allegations it used bribery to get government business in Libya. SNC-Lavalin says the charges are without merit and stem from “alleged reprehensible deeds by former employees who left the company long ago.” A conviction would bar the company from bidding on Canadian government business, potentially devastating it.
Oct. 19 — The Liberals win a federal election, taking power from the Conservatives. Two weeks later, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau names Jody Wilson-Raybould minister of justice and attorney general of Canada. She is the first Indigenous person to hold the post, which combines duties as a politician (heading the Department of Justice) and a legal official (overseeing prosecutions).
Spring 2018 — The federal Liberals table and pass a budget bill that includes a change to the Criminal Code allowing “remediation agreements,” plea-bargain-like deals between prosecutors and accused corporations in which they can avoid criminal proceedings by making reparations for previous bad behaviour. SNC-Lavalin lobbies for such an agreement, including by meeting with officials in the Prime Minister’s Office.
Oct. 9, 2018 — Federal prosecutors refuse to offer SNC-Lavalin a remediation agreement, a decision the company challenges in court. That challenge is ongoing.
Jan. 14, 2019 — Trudeau shuffles his cabinet after the resignation of treasury board president Scott Brison. Wilson-Raybould is moved from Justice to Veterans Affairs, widely seen as a demotion. David Lametti, a Montreal MP who was formerly a law professor, becomes justice minister. Wilson-Raybould posts a long letter outlining her record as justice minister and noting that a great deal of work remains to be done toward reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.
Feb. 7 — Citing unnamed sources, the Globe and Mail newspaper reports that Trudeau’s aides “attempted to press Jody Wilson-Raybould when she was justice minister to intervene in the corruption and fraud prosecution of Montreal engineering and construction giant SNC-Lavalin Group Inc.,” and that exasperation with her lack of co-operation was one reason for shuffling her out of the justice portfolio. Trudeau denies any impropriety. Citing solicitor-client privilege, Wilson-Raybould refuses to speak about dealings she had on the case when she was attorney general.
Feb. 11 — Federal ethics commissioner Mario Dion says he’s beginning an investigation. At a public appearance in Vancouver, Trudeau says he’s spoken to Wilson-Raybould and confirmed with her that he said any decision on the SNC-Lavalin prosecution was entirely hers. Her continued presence in his cabinet speaks for itself, he says.
Feb. 12 — Wilson-Raybould resigns as Veterans Affairs minister and says she’s hired former Supreme Court justice Thomas Cromwell to advise her on the limits of solicitor-client privilege in this case. In Winnipeg, Trudeau says he’s surprised and disappointed that Wilson-Raybould has quit, and that if she felt undue pressure in her role as attorney general, she had a duty to report it to him.
Feb. 13 — The House of Commons justice committee debates its own probe of the issue. Liberals use their majority to call one closed-door meeting and hear from senior officials (Lametti as justice minister, the top bureaucrat in his department, and the clerk of the Privy Council) who can talk about the tension between the minister of justice’s duties as a politician and his or her responsibilities as attorney general of Canada. The Liberals say this is a first step in a cautious investigation; the opposition calls it a coverup.
Feb. 15 — Trudeau says in Ottawa that Wilson-Raybould asked him in September whether he would direct her one way or another on the SNC-Lavalin question; he says he told her he would not.
Feb. 18 — Trudeau’s closest adviser and longtime friend Gerald Butts resigns as his principal secretary. He denies any impropriety but says his continued presence in the Prime Minister’s Office has become a distraction.
The Canadian Press