SNC-Lavalin Escalates With Lawsuit Threat
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has threatened a libel lawsuit against an opposition leader for his comments about the SNC-Lavalin Affair, the BBC reported. Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer stated that Trudeau’s lawyers contacted him on March 31, and he responded on April 10 by repeating his precipitating comments.
Scheer’s response to Trudeau’s threats is the newest development in a months-long string of revelations and discourses. According to CBC, SNC-Lavalin, a Montreal-based corporation, allegedly paid bribes to then-Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s family in order to obtain contracts with the regime.
Trudeau is accused of pressuring several of his ministers, most prominently former Attorney General and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, to avoid prosecuting the firm.
With these more recent developments, Trudeau faces renewed criticism from members of his own center-left Liberal Party and the opposition, the center-right Conservative Party, as well as Canada’s smaller parties.
In February, Wilson-Raybould testified before the House of Commons justice committee regarding the affair, the BBC reported. At the end of March, she released a recording she made in 2018 of a phone call between herself (in her role as Attorney General and Minister of Justice) and Canada’s top civil servant: Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick. In the conversation, Wernick conveyed Trudeau’s apparent desire to avoid having SNC-Lavalin prosecuted in court, due to the number of jobs at stake, according to the Globe and Mail. Wernick had already resigned his position in mid-March, also in connection to the affair.
Andrew Scheer condemned Trudeau once again for his role in the scandal. Additionally, the leftwing New Democratic Party, Canada’s third-largest party, called for a public inquiry.
In response to Wilson-Raybould’s release of the recording, Trudeau expelled Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott, both former cabinet ministers who had resigned over the SNC-Lavalin affair, from the Liberal Party, according to the BBC. Trudeau cited the recording Wilson-Raybould had made as breaking “the trust that previously existed between these two individuals and our team.”
Wilson-Raybould and Philpott were also deselected as Liberal Party candidates in the upcoming federal election in October. Both women have defended their actions as putting country above party and also indicated that they will continue to serve as independents in the House of Commons.
More recently, Scheer revealed that Trudeau’s lawyers sent him a letter on March 31 threatening to sue the Opposition Leader for making “highly defamatory comments,” CBC reported. Scheer had accused Trudeau of corruption and lying.
On April 10, Scheer restated the allegedly libelous accusation in what observers saw as an attempt to provoke Trudeau to take him to court. While Trudeau has defended his lawyer’s letter, he has yet to take any legal action.
According to analysis by Maclean’s, the affair has wreaked havoc on Trudeau’s reputation as a trustworthy, progressive leader in Canadian politics and could imperil Trudeau in the upcoming federal election in October.