Feds’ Stonewalling of SNC-Lavalin Records Limited Investigation Into Trudeau, RCMP Boss Says

Feds’ Stonewalling of SNC-Lavalin Records Limited Investigation Into Trudeau, RCMP Boss Says
RCMP Commissioner Mike Duheme waits to appear before the House of Commons Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics committee in Ottawa, on Feb. 27, 2024. (The Canadian Press/ Adrian Wyld)
Noé Chartier

The federal government’s refusal to provide potential records on the prime minister’s role in the SNC-Lavalin scandal limited law enforcement’s ability to fully investigate the matter, says RCMP Commissioner Michael Duheme.

Commissioner Duheme appeared on Feb. 27 before the House of Commons ethics committee, which is starting its study of the RCMP’s decision not to pursue a criminal investigation into Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s role in the SNC-Lavalin affair.

The commissioner faced two hours of questioning on why the RCMP did not pursue an investigation into allegations that Mr. Trudeau obstructed justice.

Conservative MP Michael Cooper asked Mr. Duheme whether refusal by the Privy Council Office to expand information disclosure “significantly impeded the full investigation into the prime minister’s potential obstruction of justice.”

Mr. Duheme responded that “it limited our [the RCMP’s] capability of pursuing a full investigation.”

Commissioner Duheme added that “not knowing what additional information is out there, it’s hard for me to speculate that there’s a Pandora’s box out there which is full of information.”

The RCMP had obtained a waiver from the feds that allowed relevant witnesses, including former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould, to speak to the national police force with certain duties to confidentiality waived.

The force started looking into Mr. Trudeau in 2019 regarding potential obstruction of justice and intimidation of a justice system participant. This was in relation to the prime minister removing then-Attorney General Ms. Wilson-Raybould from cabinet over her stance on how to prosecute SNC-Lavalin.

Mr. Trudeau had pressed Ms. Wilson-Raybould to offer the Quebec engineering firm, renamed AtkinsRéalis in September 2023, a deferred prosecution agreement relating to charges of corruption and fraud for its business dealings in Libya, as per the findings of the federal ethics commissioner.

Commissioner Duheme and RCMP Staff Sergeant Frédéric Pincince, of the Mounties’ Sensitive and International Investigations unit, told MPs the RCMP’s assessment of the situation had been based in part on Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s testimony at the House justice committee and on other open information.

Staff Sgt. Pincince said that as part of the investigation, four witnesses were interviewed, but those didn’t include the witnesses interviewed by Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion. The commissioner deemed that Mr. Trudeau breached the Conflict of Interest Act for seeking to influence Ms. Wilson-Raybould.

The RCMP officials also said there was never any attempt to interview Mr. Trudeau, the primary subject.

Not finding enough evidence through open sources and interviews, they said the case didn’t meet the threshold to obtain a search warrant and thus the investigation was dropped.

Commissioner Duheme said there was never any political pressure to drop the investigation and that he never briefed anyone at the political level about the file.

Tory MPs expressed frustration on how the case was handled and suggested that the prime minister received preferential treatment given his position.

“Are you aware of any other Canadian who can single-handedly block the RCMP from investigating his own criminality in such an effective way as the prime minister?” asked Mr. Cooper.


The RCMP officials defended their investigation and said they had to work within the parameters they were given. However, Commissioner Duheme suggested that having fewer documents protected by cabinet confidence would be good for transparency and upholding public trust.

Bloc Québécois MP René Villemure asked the RCMP whether MPs should ask for greater access to those confidential documents.

“I don’t have any objection to your recommendation for the sake of transparency,” said the commissioner, who committed during the meeting to provide additional documents to the ethics committee that would show a timeline of events surrounding the affair.

Advocacy group Democracy Watch, which has closely followed the file, said Commissioner Duheme’s commitment to providing additional documents would not be enough to get to the bottom of the issue.

“It is clear that a public inquiry must be established that has access to all internal RCMP and Cabinet documents in order to determine everything that happened, when it happened, and who was responsible in the Trudeau Cabinet and RCMP,” the group’s co-founder Duff Conacher said in a statement.

Mr. Conacher called the RCMP’s investigation into Mr. Trudeau “very weak.”