The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Commissioner, Michael Duheme, was to testify Monday at an Ethics Committee hearing following revelations last week that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had restricted the federal police force from obtaining possible evidence while scrutinizing his role in the potential obstruction of justice during the SNC-Lavalin scandal.
Newly released documents show that the RCMP declined to pursue a criminal investigation into Trudeau’s role in the SNC-Lavalin scandal, in part because access to confidential cabinet documents were withheld from the force.
After reviewing all publicly-available non-confidential materials, the RCMP concluded that there was insufficient evidence to further pursue criminal charges. Documents obtained by Democracy Watch, a non-profit accountability organization, show that the investigation into the scandal was closed after “there was insufficient evidence to substantiate a criminal offence.”
There was considerable confusion on the matter following an earlier, separate request by the government watchdog released in May of 2023. That release stated that documents couldn’t be provided under the ATIA because the matter was “currently under investigation."
That position has since been clarified, and the matter was evidently officially closed by the RCMP in January of 2023, but new questions arose after disclosure revealed contradictions in the prior May statements.
The inquiry was referred to as an “assessment” as opposed to an “investigation” to obscure the ongoing probe from the media. The documents also detail that the RCMP accepted a restricted disclosure order from the Trudeau cabinet and did not apply for a search warrant to obtain the confidential records.
Opposition MPs questioned why the investigation wrapped up so promptly. “Is Trudeau above the law?” blasted Conservative MP Michael Barrett.
This is the second time an investigation into Trudeau’s role in the SNC-Lavalin affair has been countered.
The Prime Minister was accused of pressuring then Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Jody Wilson-Raybould, to drop criminal prosecution against SNC-Lavalin in a bribery case.
There have been ongoing concerns which were never laid to rest that Trudeau broke the law in 2018 by pushing Wilson-Raybould to negotiate a special settlement in the fraud and corruption case. She was eventually shuffled out of the portfolio by Trudeau before being ejected altogether from the Liberal caucus.
The former ethics commissioner at the time, Mario Dion, concluded in 2019 that Trudeau had broken ethics laws with his conduct, but faced similar obstacles when attempting to obtain cabinet documents. While he was able to deduce that Trudeau had violated the Conflict of Interest Act, he also concluded that he was “unable to fully discharge the investigatory duties conferred upon me.”
These new allegations of wrongdoing prompted MPs to call the RCMP Commissioner to appear in front of the Ethics Committee.
Vice-chair of the committee, Liberal MP Mona Fortier, immediately moved to adjourn the meeting, citing a lack of forewarning. Despite calls to proceed with the hearing, the motion was carried by the NDP, with assistance from Bloc Quebecois members.
Conservative MP Larry Brock immediately took to social media to voice his displeasure over the adjournment, stating that the “Liberal-NDP Government with Bloc support vote to shut down the RCMP Commissioner from testifying on Trudeau withholding documents and potential criminality in the SNC affair.”