Wednesday , June 23 2021

Four questions without answers about the SNC-Lavalin scandal

It's been more than a month since the Scan-Lavalin scandal broke, leaving in his past many issues related to one big – whether the prime minister and his senior officials have committed an undue pressure on the public prosecutor.

At the center of this outrage is the question of whether the prime minister's office attempted to influence the then General Prosecutor Jody Wilson-Reybold's delay in issuing a deferred indictment (DPA) for SNC-Lavalin. DPA is a legal tool similar to the plea bargaining agreement that will allow the engineering giant to evade criminal charges for bribery charges by admitting to do something wrong, paying fines, canceling money it earned committing a crime and agree to be monitored period of time.

Prime Minister Justin Trudot's denial of the offense has done nothing to put controversy in bed. Answers to the following four unanswered questions can decide how – or if – Trudo and his liberal government can recover from the worst political crisis they have faced so far.

Will SNC-Lavalin receive delayed prosecution?

Despite the scandal involving the Trudo government, SNC-Lavalin could still get DPA.

Both the public prosecutor's office Kathleen Russell and Wilson-Raybrap refused to give the SNC-Lavalin DPA. On Friday, the Federal Court upheld it Russelldecision.

Canada's new lawyer David Lamethy and the prime minister say DPA remains an option until it is tried.

Craig Martin Scott, a law professor at the University of New York, also agrees that nothing will prevent the public prosecutor from canceling and director of public prosecutors " and the decision of his predecessor to allow the call to the PPP.

Jody Wilson Reybald delivered her introductory statement while she appeared at a meeting of the Justice Committee in Ottawa on Wednesday, February 27, 2019. (Adrian Wyld / Canadian Press)

But it may not be practical to expect that each lawyer will continue to accelerate the case for so long, he said.

"To say that AG has the same kind of active duty to constantly keep in mind the file in order to determine [whether to] intervenes with prosecutors, which simply does not follow, "he said." No system can work with AG to keep an eye on multiple files as to whether they will intervene. "

Canadian lawyer intervenes in a matter that was closed, also includes a certain geopolitical risk.

China's foreign ministry is already questioning whether the Canadian government enjoys a double standard in the legal treatment of foreign and domestic firms – the arrest of Huawei's chief financial officer, Meng Wangzhou, for the US extradition request, while searching for a legal instrument that would allow him the great Canadian employer avoided a criminal trial.

Former Public Prosecutor Irwin Cutler said Beijing is already turning the scandal into its own favor.

"I see this as a political manipulation and misrepresentation of the rule of law in Canada," Kotler said Thursday.

Are thousands of jobs really in question if SNC-Lavalin is found guilty?

Although the PMO has warned that criminal proceedings against SNC Lavalin could put about 9,000 Canadian jobs at risk, experts say it is unlikely that the kind of job losses.

Even if the court finds that SNC-Lavalin is guilty of criminal charges and can not apply for federal contracts for a decade, it will take several years for the court to reach that verdict.

And the engineering company could still bid for contracts for the private sector, the municipalities and the provincial government.

SNC-Lavalin now has the bulk of its business and employees linked to international work, and will still be legally allowed to apply for foreign contracts.

And even if many SNC-Lavalin employees are freed from persuasion, they will likely be able to take things elsewhere because qualified engineers are in high demand, as PSD David Cockrain says in the PS Frontburner podcast.

Does the Canadian Cabinet system make lawyers generally vulnerable to political pressure?

In her testimony before the Justice Commission, Wilson-Reybull said that the pressure on her as a lawyer was not illegal, but that she was inadequate.

Trudeau and PMO insisted that Wilson-Raybould always made it clear that the decision to continue the criminal prosecution was only with her, and that none of the talks that he or his staff had with her were inappropriate.

In short, the events of the last few weeks raised the question of whether there should be a political firewall between the PMO, the cabinet and the general public prosecutor.

Currently, the Attorney General is sitting in the cabinet with other federal ministers. Wilson-Raybrable claims that 11 people from the PMO, the Secret Service Office and the Treasury have politically interfered in her duties.

SNC-Lavalin's offices in Toronto. (Patrick Morel / PS)

Many, including Wilson-Reybald, have called on Canada to review the next leadership of England and Wales and other jurisdictions, where the Attorney General's Office and the Minister of Justice are kept separate.

"I think it will be a lost opportunity not to have a real discussion about whether this dual role is still viable," Trevor Farrow, a recent associate professor at the PS Law School, said at the Osgood Hall Law School.

"It is also important that the Canadians settle down – that they not only see that they have a fair system that is fair and just, but that it is considered fair and just for all players, not just for the powerful."

What will come from the investigations?

PMO's activities in this file are subject to two investigations – one by the Community Justice Commission, and the other by the Federal Commissioner for Ethics.

After the hearing of all his witnesses, the commission will issue a final report. It is not clear what will be in that report and whether there will be unanimous support from all the parties represented in the committee.

The ethical commissar digs into whether Trudo or his employees breached part nine of the Law on Conflict of Interest.

This section prohibits senior government officials from influencing another person's decisions in order to "improperly upgrade the private interests of another person".

But, in the end, the act does not give the commissioner the power to impose fines or any punishment.

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