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Trudeau denies news report that his office pressed former justice minister to drop SNC-Lavalin charges

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OTTAWA— Prime Minister Justin Trudeau adamantly denied an explosive story Thursday that senior PMO officials pressed the former justice minister to seek mediation instead of pressing criminal charges against a high-profile Quebec engineering company, SNC-Lavalin.

“The allegations in the Globe story this morning are false,” Trudeau told reporters Thursday. “Neither the current nor the previous attorney-general was directed by me or anyone in my office to take a decision in this matter.”

But the statements are unlikely to quell the uproar that broke after the Globe and Mail reported Thursday that Jody Wilson-Raybould was shuffled out of the job after she refused requests to direct the independent public prosecution office to negotiate a remediation agreement which would have resulted in the firm avoiding criminal liability for actions it said were taken by individual employees.

Read more:

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Speaking outside the House of Commons, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer rejected Trudeau’s denial as “words written by a lawyer.” He said the report brings up questions about whether officials in Trudeau’s office, and even potentially the prime minister himself, tried to influence Wilson-Raybould over the SNC-Lavelin prosecution.

“The allegations that are in the media today raise the idea that Jody Wilson-Raybould lost her job for refusing to bow to pressure from the prime minister’s office,” Scheer said, accusing the prime minister in French of “hiding something.”

“It’s up to the prime minister to come clean on this,” he said.

During his press conference earlier Thursday, Trudeau said three times in English and twice in French that no one in his PMO directed Wilson-Raybould, or her replacement David Lametti, a Quebec MP, to take “any decision whatsoever” in the SNC-Lavalin prosecution.

Asked what efforts were made to influence her decision, Trudeau said: “At no time did I or my office direct the current or previous attorney general to make any particular decision in this matter.”

Trudeau side-stepped a direct answer to another question about the the nature of discussions between his office and Wilson-Raybold, saying, “We have a tremendous positive working relationship with all members of our cabinet.”

Asked how Canadians can believe the Liberal government’s claims of never politicizing the judicial system — which it has repeated in the Meng Wanzhou extradition case and to questions about the trial of vice-admiral Mark Norman who is charged with leaking cabinet secrets — Trudeau insisted that “we have been consistent that Canada is a country of rule of law that respects the independent judiciary and always will.”

“It’s something we have stood up for on the international stage, it’s also something we ensure on the domestic stage.”

According to the report, SNC-Lavalin sought to avoid criminal fraud and corruption charges based on allegations it paid millions in bribes to win government business in Libya between 2001 and 2011.

Former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould declined comment through a spokesman after the story broke Thursday.

The engineering company claims the executives responsible have left the company and it has since overhauled its ethics and compliance rules. This past week, the company’s former CEO Pierre Duhaime was sentenced to house arrest over a separate bribery scandal tied to the construction of a Montreal hospital. Former SNC-Lavalin CEO Pierre Duhaime pleaded guilty and will serve 20 months of house arrest.

The Liberal government changed the law last year to what allow “deferred prosecution agreements” and allow remediation agreements to be reached.

In June, Conservative MP Dan Albas slammed it saying the change “gives, effectively, large corporations a ‘get out of jail’card” for offences such as money-laundering.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau defended the move as a way to protect jobs and the economy, and noted that it is similar to the approach taken by the United States and the United Kingdom.

“We recognize that when organizations are found to be offside with the laws, they should be held to account, and they should be held to account for their actions in a way that ensures we protect Canadians,” Morneau said.

He said the revised approach was a “prudent way to ensure that we have companies pay the price for any wrongdoing in a way that allows us to ensure that our economy continues to be successful and that the people who are legitimately responsible for the bad behaviour pay a price, as opposed to people who aren’t, such as people who are unwittingly employed by firms that have had that bad behaviour.”

Liberal MP Mark Miller, whose riding encompasses the Quebec engineering and construction giant’s headquarters, defended the PMO officials as well as the former justice minister on Thursday after the story broke. “I’m confident that the Prime Minister’s office at all times acted legally and ethically,” he said, adding it was never discussed in Quebec caucus.

Miller also called Wilson-Raybould “one of the most principled and ethical people I’ve met in the last three years.”

When Trudeau gathered with his cabinet ministers for a retreat in Sherbrooke, Que., last month, he sidestepped questions about why Wilson-Raybould was removed as justice minister.

“Jody Wilson-Raybould has been a hard-working minister and has been a great person. We have given her a very important job that I know she is going to do well,” Trudeau said.

Asked specifically whether she was moved for “speaking truth to power” too often, Trudeau would only say, “we have a great team of very strong ministers who have stepped up time and time again to serve this country.”

That’s the very language Wilson-Raybould used in a lengthy letter penned after the shuffle that laid out her achievements as justice minister.

In that letter, she said the role of attorney general “demands a measure of principled independence.

“It is a pillar of our democracy that our system of justice be free from even the perception of political interference and uphold the highest levels of public confidence,” she wrote.

“As such, it has always been my view that the Attorney General of Canada must be non-partisan, more transparent in the principles that are the basis of decisions, and, in this respect, always willing to speak truth to power. This is how I served throughout my tenure in that role,” she said.

Tonda MacCharles is an Ottawa-based reporter covering federal politics. Follow her on Twitter: @tondamacc

Bruce Campion-Smith is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @yowflier

Alex Ballingall is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @aballinga



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Anglais

A stunning Water Lantern Festival is coming to Montreal

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What might just be the most magical night ever is coming up for Montreal this year.

The Water Lantern Festival has announced that it will be gracing Mississauga with thousands of floating lanterns later this year, as part of a celebration that spans the entire world.

According to the festival’s official website, the event is a celebration of life with proceeds going towards charities and non-profit organizations within the area.

“Water Lantern Festival brings together individuals from all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life to join in one emotional and memorable night. At the Water Lantern Festival, we cherish these moments and will do our best to help you have a memorable experience that you’ll never forget as you witness the beauty of thousands of lanterns reflecting upon the water,” the website states.

The festival takes place throughout multiple cities around the world, with the Canadian cities of Quebec, Regina, Vancouver, Hamilton, Calgary, Ottawa, Mississauga, and, of course, Montreal taking part.

For the Calgary event, a date has been confirmed and tickets are already rolling out. Montreal shan’t be far behind, and you can click the Notify Me tab on the event’s site to be kept in the loop.

Expect an evening filled with food trucks, music, lantern designing and finally, a magical launch of the lanterns into the water as the sun goes down.

For our pals over in Calgary, their event includes a floating lantern, a commemorative drawstring bag, a marker, and a wristband. Expect something similar, if not the same, when more details float through about Montreal’s event.

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Anglais

Euthanasia order on hold for Montreal dog that attacked children

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A pit bull dog that attacked four children and two adults in August 2018 in Montreal North will not be euthanized in the immediate future.

The euthanasia order has been temporarily suspended pending the appeal of a Quebec Superior Court decision.

On Tuesday, Judge Lukasz Granosik rejected a request to halt the euthanasia order issued by the Montreal North borough, which declared the animal a “dangerous dog.”

The City of Montreal has not changed its mind. This is only a delay before it proceeds with euthanizing the dog, a source told the Canadian Press.

Shotta, the one-year-old dog, was in the care of its owner’s acquaintance in August 2018. The dog attacked four children and two adults, causing serious injuries in separate incidents on the same day.

After the attacks, the dog was taken from the home and entrusted to the SPCA.

WATCH: Dog found dead in Angrignon Park

The Road to Home Rescue Support, an American shelter, asked the court if it could take in the dog. Christa Frineau, the dog’s owner, had also asked that Shotta not be euthanized.

Granosik refused to grant the request.

—With files from Global’s Kalina Laframboise

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Anglais

9 Things To Do In Montreal This Friday, Saturday & Sunday

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Today’s sunny skies have me itching to make weekend plans. I absolutely cannot wait to make the most of this warmer weather. This might be the time to inflate my bike tires and dust off my running shoes…

Whether you want to brush up on your cooking skills, let loose, or fill your stomach with amazing food, there’s an event out there for you. Read on for 9 fun things you can do with friends or a fling this weekend.

TL;DR Read on for 9 fun things you can do in Montreal this weekend.

Let Yourself Go At Dress Up

Where: 185 Avenue Van Horne, Montréal.

When: Friday, March 29, 9:00 p.m.

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