As controversy mounts about alleged interference by the Prime Minister’s Office into former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould’s handling of the SNC-Lavalin file, five former attorneys general have called on the RCMP to investigate the allegations.
The letter, addressed to RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki, highlights the “disturbing pattern of events” Wilson-Raybould, who was demoted within cabinet in January and ultimately resigned last month, claims to have experienced at the hands of Liberal officials.
Former federal attorneys general Peter MacKay and Douglas Grinslade Lewis signed the letter, as well as Jonathan Denis of Alberta, Cecil Clarke of Nova Scotia, and British Columbia’s Colin Gabelmann. Gabelmann served in BC’s NDP government in the early 90s, while the other signatories were all a part of conservative administrations.
All five cite their legal knowledge in saying this must be an RCMP matter.
“As the Honourable Wilson-Raybould said in her testimony, ‘I experienced a consistent and sustained effort by many people within the government to seek to politically interfere in the exercise of prosecutorial discretion,’” the letter reads.
“Per section 139(2) of the Criminal Code, it is prohibited to attempt to obstruct, pervert or defeat the course of justice. We believe that there are reasonable and probable grounds to suspect that the conduct of the Prime Minister’s Office has crossed that threshold.”
Wilson-Raybould alleged in her testimony to the Justice Committee that high ranking government officials pressured her for many months to give a beneficial deferred prosecution agreement to engineering giant SNC-Lavalin, superseding the independent director of public prosecutions’ refusal to do so.
“We believe that there are reasonable and probable grounds to suspect that the conduct of the Prime Minister’s Office has crossed that threshold,” the letter says.
“In our shared view, ordinary Canadians, who do not benefit from political connections, have been charged under these sections with much less evidence.”
Wilson-Raybould said last week before the justice committee that the interference was unsuccessful because she refused to capitulate to the PMO’s demands, though MacKay said that doesn’t mean the situation doesn’t warrant a criminal probe.
“It seems to me quite obvious what was being attempted here,” he says.
“Did obstruction occur? It’s not ‘Did it occur?’, it’s ’Were there attempts?’ And the attempts, in my opinion, and these are my words, were persistent and pernicious and willful.”
Two-thirds of Canadians believe there is a “deeper scandal” in the Prime Minister’s Office regarding SNC-Lavalin and that the firm should receive criminal prosecution rather than a deferred prosecution agreement.
The five ended by requesting that the RCMP do more to address this scandal.
“We write today to urge you to ensure that you use all resources at your disposal to fully and fairly investigate any potential criminality and provide Canadians with the truth in this crucial matter, as it strikes at the core of the rule of law and independence of our justice system.”