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Politics Liberal-dominated justice committee set to decide if Wilson-Raybould will testify again

Jody Wilson-Raybould testified before a House of Commons justice committee on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Feb. 27, 2019.

Blair Gable/The Globe and Mail

Members of the Liberal-dominated House of Commons justice committee meet Wednesday to decide a crucial question: whether former attorney-general Jody Wilson-Raybould will be invited to provide a second round of testimony on how senior government officials pressed her to abandon the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.

The Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has warned that it is monitoring the Canadian government to ensure it lives up to its obligations under the Anti-Bribery Convention to safeguard judicial independence in the criminal prosecution of Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin Group Inc.

“It would be quite the kangaroo court if they don’t have Ms. Wilson-Raybould back to testify,” NDP MP Charlie Angus said in an interview Tuesday. “We are being watched internationally and we can’t have this charade of the Liberal committee trying to do damage control. The damage is being done to the Canadian reputation. It’s a bit bigger than the Liberal party.”

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The justice committee is holding an emergency meeting Wednesday afternoon to discuss recalling the former justice minister and attorney-general to speak further about the SNC-Lavalin criminal prosecution.

Opinion: Justin Trudeau’s charisma fades here and abroad every day the SNC-Lavalin affair continues

In an appearance before committee on Feb. 27, Ms. Wilson-Raybould said she faced “consistent and sustained” political pressure from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and senior officials to abandon the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin in favour of an-out-of-court settlement.

Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion has also launched an inquiry into the SNC-Lavalin matter and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has written to the RCMP to request a criminal investigation into possible obstruction of justice.

Mr. Dion’s office announced Tuesday that he would be “away from his duties for a prolonged period for medical reasons.”

However, Mr. Dion told The Globe on Tuesday that he had an “unplanned major operation” and is currently recovering in hospital in Ottawa but expects to be back at the office within a few weeks or a month.

“I plan on coming back, I want to go back and I am on the road to recovery,” he said.

Mr. Dion said he still has the authority to make decisions and doesn’t expect any delay in the SNC-Lavalin investigation, which his office is continuing in his absence.

“There’s no delay that will be attributable to this,” he said. “An investigation takes a historical minimum of … six months. It only started.”

He wouldn’t share any details of the investigation, including whether any witnesses have been interviewed.

Wednesday’s meeting is being held one week after the Liberal majority on the committee blocked an effort by the opposition to immediately invite Ms. Wilson-Raybould to respond to testimony of the Prime Minister’s former principal secretary Gerald Butts, and the Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick.

Liberals have a majority on the committee, but the rules allow for an emergency meeting to be automatically triggered when four MPs on the committee make a request to the clerk in writing.

None of the Liberal MPs on the committee could be immediately reached for comment, except for Anthony Housefather, who as chair does not vote except to break a tie.

“I have no idea what the members will do,” Mr. Housefather said.

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Ms. Wilson-Raybould, who was reconfirmed Monday evening as Liberal candidate for the Vancouver Granville riding, has said she wants to come back to the justice committee to give additional testimony.

The opposition parties also want the committee to call three of the Prime Minister’s top aides: chief of staff Katie Telford, Quebec adviser Mathieu Bouchard and senior adviser Elder Marques.

Deputy Conservative Leader Lisa Raitt said the Liberals have no grounds on which to block recalling Ms. Wilson-Raybould.

Ms. Raitt said the fact the OECD’s Working Group on Bribery in International Business Transactions has signalled concerns about political interference in the SNC-Lavalin matter underlines how important it is for the justice committee to get to the bottom of the affair.

On Monday, the OECD expressed concerns about “allegations of political interference” in the fraud and corruption prosecution of the Quebec construction and engineering firm in relation to its business activities in Libya.

Dargo Kos, who heads the OECD Working Group on Bribery, told The Globe and Mail that the decision to prosecute SNC-Lavalin should be left to the director of public prosecution, Kathleen Roussel, and that potential job losses should not be a consideration in granting the company a deferred prosecution.

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The Prime Minister and Mr. Wernick have cited job losses and other economic consequences as the motive for pressing the former attorney-general to order an out-of-court settlement with SNC-Lavalin.

Ms. Wilson-Raybould rejected the calls to intervene and override Ms. Roussel throughout the fall of 2018. In early January, Ms. Wilson-Raybould was demoted to Veterans Affairs, which she testified she believed stemmed from the SNC-Lavalin dispute.

Montreal MP David Lametti, who took over as justice minister, has not ruled out granting a deferred prosecution to SNC-Lavalin.

The Anti-Bribery Convention, signed by Canada and 43 other countries, says that prosecutions and investigations “shall not be influenced by considerations of national economic interest.”

At a news conference last week, Mr. Trudeau said he asked Ms. Wilson-Raybould to reconsider her decision not to grant a deferred prosecution because of the “importance of protecting Canadian jobs and reiterated that this issue was one of significant national importance.”

With files from Michelle Zilio

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