Mary Dawson said she never thought of calling in the RCMP to investigate Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for fraud when she ruled as the then-federal ethics commissioner that he had broken conflict of interest rules by taking an all-expense paid trip to the Aga Khan’s private island in the Bahamas in 2016.
In an interview Thursday, Ms. Dawson said the RCMP never contacted her to discuss her 2017 findings and she had no idea they had begun an investigation of Mr. Trudeau for potentially committing fraud.
“There was never a connection with the criminal authorities at all when I did that investigation,” she said.
She would not say whether she thought the Mounties should reopen their 2019 investigation into the Prime Minister’s controversial family vacation as demanded by the Conservatives.
“They’ll have to figure it out themselves,” said Ms. Dawson, whose term as ethics commissioner ended in January, 2018.
Ms. Dawson also said that when she issued her damning report into the Trudeau family vacation, she wasn’t aware of a provision in the Criminal Code that could have led to fraud charges against the Prime Minister.
“Nothing alerted me at the time to the fact that there would be a potential criminal charge,” she said. “I wasn’t aware of a specific provision in the criminal law that would apply to that.”
Asked why she didn’t think of sending her report to the RCMP, she said: “I didn’t think about it. It didn’t cross my mind. And nobody approached me.”
Ms. Dawson’s report, which was the basis of the RCMP’s 2019 investigation, was released on Dec. 20, 2017, and found the Prime Minister violated four sections of the Conflict of Interest Act. She criticized Mr. Trudeau for taking a free vacation at the Aga Khan’s resort when the Ismaili Muslim leader had millions of dollars of dealings with the Canadian government.
RCMP documents show that the force believed there were reasonable grounds to charge Mr. Trudeau with fraud for accepting a free holiday from someone doing business with the government. But, in documents released to the Conservatives under access to information law, the Mounties said that “it is unclear whether Mr. Trudeau can be prosecuted under Section 121(1)(c) of the Criminal Code, since the section has a provision which allows officials to accept benefits from individuals with government dealings, provided the official has the written consent of the head of their branch of government.”
Because Mr. Trudeau is the head of the government, the RCMP said it was unclear whether he had the authority to grant himself permission to accept the gift.
“I was not particularly aware of that particular provision, and it wasn’t brought to my attention in any way,” Ms. Dawson said on Thursday.
On Wednesday, the Conservatives wrote the RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki to formally ask her to open a criminal investigation into the Prime Minister.
The RCMP said Thursday that they stand by a statement issued last week that they are satisfied with their decision not to lay fraud charges against Mr. Trudeau. On April 22, the RCMP stated that they had conducted a “thorough and impartial analysis” and their findings had been validated by two separate third parties, including the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
In Thursday’s Question Period, the Conservatives continued to press the issue, saying there appears to be one law for the Prime Minister and another law for Canadians.
“He accepted a $215,000 luxury private island vacation from someone who is actively lobbying the government for millions of taxpayers’ money,” Conservative ethics critic James Bezan said. “He admitted he did not have permission to take the trip. The RCMP has all of the puzzle pieces they need now to charge the Prime Minister with committing fraud against the government.”
The Conservatives urged the Prime Minister to proactively speak to the RCMP.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland dodged these questions, saying Ms. Dawson already investigated the matter in depth and she urged the Conservatives to move on to more pressing issues, such as climate change.
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