According to an RCMP report, the federal police service could not pursue corruption charges against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for his role in the SNC-Lavalin scandal.
Democracy Watch obtained the report through an access to information request that concluded Trudeau pressured then-attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to quash a criminal prosecution against the federal contractor.
According to a 2021 Trudeau II Report by the Ethics Commissioner, the prime minister and political aides arranged 49 meetings and phone calls to discuss SNC-Lavalin’s legal troubles and save it from criminal prosecution, reported Blacklock’s Reporter.
In 2019, SNC-Lavalin pleaded guilty to fraud in Québec Provincial Court and received a $280 million fine. Executives in an Agreed Statement Of Facts admitted the company paid $47.7 million in bribes to win contracts in Libya.
“I was pushed,” Wilson-Raybould wrote in her memoir Indian In The Cabinet.
After Wilson-Raybould refused Trudeau, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) replaced her as justice minister in a subsequent cabinet shuffle, and later ejected her from the Liberal caucus.
“Canadians want to know the truth and want transparency,” she wrote in her memoir, but digressed that “Privilege and confidentiality are not mine to waive.”
“These events, intentional or not, did create pressure for the Attorney General,” said the 2021 report, RCMP Assessment Report: Obstruction Of Justice SNC-Lavalin Affair.
However, the memo conveyed that due to insufficient evidence, the agency could not prove any supposed criminal intent by the prime minister.
“For it to be an offence under the Criminal Code there must be more than a technical violation of the Act,” it added. “The impugned activities must be accompanied by a corrupt intent.”
The memo also revealed that attempts by the Ethics Commissioner to access confidential cabinet materials had been thwarted, reported the Toronto Star.
Former commissioner Mario Dion concluded that while Trudeau broke ethics laws by pressuring his Attorney General, he could not obtain a broad waiver to cabinet confidences.
“Fundamental questions were left unanswered,” said the memo, with criminal prosecution “improbable” at the time.
“Given the current legislative framework, the overall assessment of the evidence, and the evidence threshold required for criminal conviction, it is believed there is insufficient evidence to support further investigative actions or a criminal prosecution,” reads Obstruction Of Justice.
However, the memo emphasized that the conclusions reached in this report “do not translate to the absence of a criminal offence.”
According to Blacklock’s Reporter, documents obtained by Dion disclosed SNC-Lavalin sent a memo to the PMO titled “thanks for nothing” on being denied a settlement. They complained its share price had fallen 14%.
Duff Conacher, the co-founder of Democracy Watch, told the Star that if the RCMP pushed harder to get the information he obtained, it could have ultimately altered the probe.
“The records show the RCMP is a negligently weak lap dog that rolled over for Prime Minister Trudeau by doing a very superficial investigation into his cabinet’s obstruction of the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin,” he said.
“Not trying to obtain key secret cabinet communication records, and burying the investigation with an almost two-year delay.”
According to Blacklock’s Reporter, the Commons at the time voted 159 to 133 against ordering a judicial inquiry into corruption allegations.
The RCMP said their evidence on the file did not justify a search warrant then to uncover hidden records in the case.
However, they noted that at no point did Dion suspend his own investigation because he found evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
“There is insufficient evidence to obtain production orders or search warrants for additional material based on the totality of the circumstances and the evidence gathered,” said Obstruction Of Justice.
“To obtain production orders or search warrants there must be reasonable grounds to believe a criminal offence has been committed,” it added. “When factoring the principles of a full, fair and frank disclosure of the matter it is believed the evidence at hand is insufficient.”
The public outcry against SNC-Lavalin facilitated the resignation of Gerald Butts, former principal secretary to the prime minister, then-treasury board president Jane Philpott and then-privy council clerk Michael Wernick.