Citizen Group Calls for Clarification After RCMP Denies Investigation of PM Over SNC-Lavalin Affair

Citizen Group Calls for Clarification After RCMP Denies Investigation of PM Over SNC-Lavalin Affair
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rises during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on May 2, 2023. (The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick)
Matthew Horwood
A non-governmental watchdog organization is asking for clarification on why the RCMP had said in a correspondence to the group in May that it was investigating the prime minister and members of his cabinet in relation to the 2018 SNC-Lavalin affair, only to later deny it.

“The RCMP’s story doesn’t add up because they are contradicting themselves about when the allegations were being investigated, and when decisions were made to end the investigation,” Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch, said in a statement on June 20.

“If the investigation ended in January 2023, then why did the RCMP refuse to disclose 86 pages of their investigation documents just a few weeks ago because, they said, the allegations were still under investigation?”

Democracy Watch filed an Access to Information Act request on July 7, 2022, and received a response on May 25 of this year. It indicated the RCMP was investigating Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and former finance minister Bill Morneau, some members of their staff, and former Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick over allegations of obstructing justice in the SNC-Lavalin case.

But after Democracy Watch went public about the May 25 correspondence on June 19, the RCMP said that they were “not investigating allegations of political interference in the exercise of prosecutorial discretion to secure a remediation agreement for SNC-Lavalin.”

RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Christy Veenstra told The Epoch Times that the May 2023 Access to Information Release was “sent using information available at the time.”

Veenstra said via email that the RCMP’s Sensitive and International Investigations unit had conducted an assessment of the allegations, which included speaking with a variety of sources in “the most thorough, objective and professional manner.” But the RCMP determined there was “insufficient evidence to substantiate a criminal offence” and they closed the file.

“The conclusion of that file was communicated to the original complainant in a letter in January 2023 and was also to be released via several Access to Information Requests received,” she said.

Conacher said a public statement from the RCMP denying investigation of the case was “weirdly vague” and “raises even more questions than the letter sent to Democracy Watch on May 25.” He questioned why the RCMP redacted 86 pages due to an investigation when the decision to end the investigation was made in January, and why the decision was not communicated to the RCMP Access to Information unit staff for five months.
“To clear up this matter, the RCMP must answer those questions, and disclose the 86 pages that they refused to disclose,” he said.

SNC-Lavalin Scandal

In 2015, SNC-Lavalin Group and two of its affiliates, SNC-Lavalin Construction and SNC-Lavalin International, were charged with corruption of a foreign public official and fraud stemming from business dealings in Libya.

SNC-Lavalin had unsuccessfully pressed the director of prosecutions to negotiate a special settlement—known as a remediation agreement—out of concern the company could be barred from federal contracts for a decade if convicted of criminal charges.

In early 2019, the Globe and Mail reported that prime ministerial aides leaned on Jody Wilson-Raybould, who was the federal attorney general at the time, to ensure there was a deal that would avoid prosecution.

Wilson-Raybould resigned from cabinet days later and was subsequently ousted from the Liberal caucus.

Wilson-Raybould later told a parliamentary committee that in September 2018, Trudeau asked her to “find a solution” for the company. When she inquired if he was asking her to politically interfere with the case, he denied he was. She also told the justice committee that between September and December 2018, she experienced a “consistent and sustained effort” by many people within the Trudeau government to politically interfere in the case and secure a deferred prosecution agreement with SNC-Lavalin.

In August 2019, then-ethics commissioner Mario Dion found that Trudeau violated Section 9 of the Conflict of Interest Act by pressuring Wilson-Raybould to stop the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.

Opposition parties called for the RCMP to investigate the issue at the time, but the RCMP said in August 2019 that it was looking into the issue, without confirming or denying whether it was investigating it.

In December 2019, SNC-Lavalin pleaded guilty to a single count of fraud and agreed to pay a $280 million fine over the course of five years, as well as a three-year probation order. The company also agreed to engage an independent monitor who would release regular reports and could order changes to the company’s compliance and ethics programs.

The Prime Minister’s Office did not respond to an Epoch Times request for comment before press time.

The Canadian Press contributed to this report.