Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he did not authorize himself to take his family on an exclusive vacation at the Aga Khan’s private island in the Bahamas in 2016.
Documents obtained by the Conservative Party under access to information detail an RCMP investigation into the Christmas holiday at the Ismaili Muslim leader’s luxurious island retreat. The RCMP said there may have been reasonable grounds to lay fraud charges against Mr. Trudeau because he accepted the free vacation with a person who had millions of dollars in dealings with Ottawa.
But the Mounties decided against charging Mr. Trudeau because it was unclear if the Prime Minister had the authority to approve the all-expenses-paid gift for himself.
Interim Conservative Leader Candice Bergen said in Question Period in the Commons on Tuesday that the RCMP “knew there was a loophole that he could have used.”
“As silly as it might sound, the Prime Minister could have written himself a note, given himself permission to take the holiday.”
She asked Mr. Trudeau if he gave himself permission to “break the law” by accepting the $215,000 free holiday, which included the use of the Aga Khan’s private helicopter and planes.
“No, Mr. Speaker,” Mr. Trudeau replied.
“The RCMP looked into this matter and no political interference was around it,” he added. “They came to their own conclusions that there was nothing to pursue.”
The Opposition leader had not suggested Mr. Trudeau interfered in the 2019 decision of the RCMP not to charge him with fraud.
When asked by The Globe and Mail to comment on the RCMP document on his way into the House of Commons for Question Period, Mr. Trudeau also said he would never have tried to influence a police investigation.
“Neither opposition parties nor a government can direct the police to do or to not do whatever they want. We have a strong, independent process in Canada and we trust that,” he said.
The remarks were his first public comments on the revelations that the RCMP had considered charging him with fraud.
The documents show the RCMP decided it would not be in the public interest to lay charges because of a lack of clarity in federal rules that apply to accepting gifts. Because Mr. Trudeau is the head of government, the RCMP said, “it cannot be definitely determined whether or not Mr. Trudeau can simply provide consent to himself.”
The Aga Khan Foundation has received millions of dollars from Ottawa for its work in developing countries. At the time of the trip, it had also registered to lobby several government departments, including the Prime Minister’s Office, for funding for its development projects.
In 2017, then-ethics commissioner Mary Dawson found Mr. Trudeau had violated four sections of the Conflict of Interest Act by accepting the vacation, because of continuing official business between the government and the Aga Khan.
The RCMP said in the documents 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.”
The RCMP said Mr. Trudeau’s actions as Prime Minister “were arguably more damaging to the government of Canada’s appearance of integrity” than any similar actions carried out by a lower-ranking government official.
But the RCMP concluded that, aside from the low prospect of conviction, charging a sitting Prime Minister would cause damage that would “vastly outweigh” the negative effects of charging an ordinary member of the public.
The RCMP has told The Globe that their findings were independently validated by two separate third parties, including the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
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