Jody Wilson-Raybould kept word to visit veterans despite resignation from Veterans Affairs

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VANCOUVER—Just two days after resigning as Minister of Veterans Affairs, Jody Wilson-Raybould was still keeping up with plans to visit with veterans.

On Thursday, Wilson-Raybould visited the George Derby Centre, a senior care centre located in Burnaby, B.C., to help distribute Valentine’s Day cards made by students. The visit was planned while she was still in office.

Wilson-Raybould visited a senior care centre in Burnaby where she met with veterans and heard their stories.
Wilson-Raybould visited a senior care centre in Burnaby where she met with veterans and heard their stories.  (Casey Cook/Twitter)

Casey Cook, president of the board of the George Derby Centre and who was present during the visit, said that despite being in the middle of national political controversy, Wilson- Raybould did not mention politics and kept her focus on the veterans that day.

“I was just impressed with her, for operating in what must have been an extremely stressful situation … she never mentioned politics, she asked all the veterans where they were from and where they served; she spent considerable time with them,” Cook told The Star.

On Tuesday, Wilson-Raybould, who is also the MP for Vancouver-Granville, handed in her resignation has head of Veterans Affairs, just a month after she was moved to the job from her previous post as Attorney General. The move has been viewed by many as a demotion, possibly influenced by the Prime Minister’s Office to prevent the prosecution of Quebec company SNC-Lavalin.

Cook estimated that Wilson-Raybould spent close to two-and-a-half hours speaking with “every veteran in the room,” which he estimated to be approximately 40 in total. He thanked Wilson-Raybould for her visit on Twitter.

Read more:

Wilson-Raybould resignation stokes anger, frustration within veterans community

Trudeau admits Wilson-Raybould challenged him on SNC-Lavalin

The SNC-Lavalin affair: meet the main players

Cook said that it was the first time that he knew of, in over 10 years serving on boards of senior care homes in the Metro Vancouver area, that any representative from the federal ministry had visited veterans.

“Frankly, I have not even seen a federal minister come to a centre,” he said. “I would venture to guess 90 politicians out of 100 would have cancelled this appointment.”

In her statement of resignation on February 12, Wilson-Raybould underscored her commitment to veterans.

“To Canada’s veterans and their families: I have the deepest admiration and respect for you. This decision is in no way a reflection of my desire to see your service and sacrifice upheld and honoured.”

With files from David Ball.

Cherise Seucharan is a Vancouver-based reporter covering health and safety/youth. Follow her on Twitter: @CSeucharan

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Halifax artist apologizes for controversial cartoon of Jody Wilson-Raybould

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A popular Halifax political cartoonist says he will “strive to do better” after one his cartoons, depicting the SNC-Lavalin controversy, caused an uproar on social media.

“Cartoonists sometimes have unanticipated secondary interpretations in cartoons that they don’t intend,” wrote Michael de Adder in a series of tweets on Saturday evening.

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“I assure people who have supported over the course of my career that I’m not tone deaf to concerns about this cartoon.”

The cartoon at the centre of the controversy shows former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on opposite sides of a boxing ring. Trudeau is being advised to “keep beating her up, solicitor-client privilege has tied her hands.”

But what had people most upset was the depiction of Wilson-Raybould tied and gagged — with some saying it draws an ugly parallel to violence against women and Indigenous women in particular.

READ MORE: Halifax artist faces backlash for cartoon of Jody Wilson-Raybould tied and gagged

Former Dartmouth-North MLA Joanne Bernard called the cartoon “in extremely poor taste and offensive.”

“I’m a fan of Michael de Adder, but violence against women should be off-limits. Simple as that,” Bernard told Global News.

“Add in the context of Jody … being an Indigenous woman. There’s a sensitivity around missing and murdered Indigenous women in this country that is completely unacceptable to make jest of in any way, shape or form.”


READ MORE:
Veterans’ anger at Trudeau government grows after Wilson-Raybould’s resignation

Wilson-Raybould resigned from her position as minister of veterans affairs following a Globe and Mail article that alleged Trudeau’s aides pressured her to cut a deal to save SNC-Lavalin from criminal prosecution.

de Adder says he will not stop drawing the cartoons related to the SNC-Lavalin controversy, but says that he did not intend to “offend women, make light of domestic violence or trivialize indigenous issues.”

“I am human, I make mistakes, I will strive to do better.”

Noting that the backlash prompted “a lot of self-reflection,” de Adder said that he will no longer depict women in violent situations going forward.

WATCH: Cartoon honouring city of Toronto, Humboldt Broncos resonating on social media






Similar cartoon faces backlash 

Hamilton, Ont. cartoonist Graeme MacKay, meanwhile, released a nearly identical cartoon of Trudeau and Wilson-Raybould inside a boxing ring together, with the former justice minister tied and gagged while the prime minister holds his arms up in victory. MacKay’s cartoon shows Wilson-Raybould on the ground with a ball and chain around her feet reading “solicitor-client privilege.”

MacKay’s cartoon was also ridiculed, with social media users saying violence against women should be vetoed when it comes to political satire.

Bernard told Global News that this type of political satire sheds light on a different type of issue.

“He could have got his point across in various other ways. But then you add the contextual piece of Indigenous women in this country who overwhelmingly represent missing and murdered females in the country, it really added insult to injury and I think he’s way off base on this,” Bernard said.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Justin Trudeau condemns ‘sexist, racist’ comments about Jody Wilson-Raybould’s character – National

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has condemned statements in “the strongest possible terms” about outgoing-Veterans Affairs Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould made by his own party.

In a Canadian Press story published Saturday on various websites including Global News, anonymous sources only described as Liberal insiders described Wilson-Raybould as difficult to get along with, “in it for herself” and suggested she leaked the story about SNC-Lavalin herself.

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READ THE ARTICLE IN QUESTION: Jody Wilson-Raybould became thorn in Liberals’ side before SNC-Lavalin case

The article came after a bombshell report from the Globe and Mail which alleged the Prime Minister’s Office pressured Wilson-Raybould to interfere in the court case involving Montreal-based engineering firm SNC-Lavalin.

Trudeau has admitted he spoke to Wilson-Raybould about the case but denied allegations of political pressure, saying the “allegations in the Globe story [Thursday] morning are false. Neither the current nor the previous attorney general was ever directed by me, or anyone in my office, to take any decision in this matter.”

Wilson-Raybould resigned from cabinet.

WATCH: The impact of Jody Wilson-Raybould’s resignation






The comments were widely condemned as sexist and racist by Indigenous community leaders as well as Wilson-Raybould’s fellow MPs. [we should include a couple examples] 

Asked Friday, PMO press secretary Matt Baccuzio called the comments unacceptable.

“The comments made about Jody Wilson-Raybould are simply unacceptable, and have no place in our political discourse,” he wrote in an email to Global News.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau echoed the sentiment at a press conference Friday morning.

“There have been many comments published in the media in various reports, about the former attorney general, about Jody Wilson-Raybould, that are absolutely unacceptable,” he said.

“The sexist comments, the racist comments that have been made by anonymous sources are unacceptable and I condemn them in the strongest possible terms.

“That is not what we need to be engaged in, in public discourse in Canada.”

WATCH: Jody Wilson-Raybould’s father speaks out on SNC-Lavalin controversy






Liberal insiders also told The Canadian Press that Wilson-Raybould was changed to Veterans Affairs minister – which was largely seen as a demotion – because she had become a thorn in the side of the Liberal cabinet.

Trudeau denied that allegation on Friday.

“If Scott Brison had not stepped down from cabinet, Jody Wilson-Raybould would still be Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada,” he said.

On Tuesday, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs described the comments as “innuendo,” and said in a statement they were “cowardly, low blows aimed at discrediting the staunch work ethic Minister Wilson-Raybould has maintained.”

READ MORE: Trudeau urged to condemn ‘racist and sexist’ attacks on Jody Wilson-Raybould amid SNC-Lavalin affair

“They perpetuate colonial-era, sexist stereotypes that Indigenous women cannot be powerful, forthright and steadfast in positions of power, but rather confrontational, meddling and egotistic. These comments from your staff must be recognized for what they are — blatant sexism.”

Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes defended Wilson-Raybould saying, “When women speak up and out, they are always going to be labelled.”

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel called the comments a “character assassination.”

NDP and Conservatives have asked the House of Commons’ justice committee to look into the allegation that Wilson-Raybould was pressured on an ongoing court case.

The ethics commissioner has also opened an investigation into the matter.


READ MORE:
Trudeau’s cabinet faces 5th ethics investigation — here’s how Stephen Harper’s office compared

*With files from Amanda Connolly

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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The 9 faces at the centre of the Jody Wilson-Raybould, PMO affair

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This week, the House of Commons justice and human rights committee held an emergency meeting to probe allegations that the Prime Minister’s Office applied pressure to the minister of justice to help the Quebec-based engineering firm SNC-Lavalin avoid criminal prosecution in a bribery case.

During that meeting, Liberal, Conservative and NDP MPs sparred over which witnesses would appear before the committee. Nine key names came up in that debate; some are high-profile political figures, while others are more obscure to anyone outside the Ottawa bubble. Here’s a who’s-who list for the upcoming committee hearings.

Jody Wilson-Raybould

Wilson-Raybould, the former justice minister sent to Veterans Affairs in the recent cabinet shuffle, resigned from cabinet days after the Globe and Mail quoted anonymous sources saying members of the Prime Minister’s Office tried to get her to help Quebec construction giant SNC-Lavalin avoid criminal prosecution on bribery and fraud charges through a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA), sometimes referred to as a remediation agreement.

SNC-Lavalin is before a court in Montreal, charged with fraud and corruption in connection with payments of nearly $48 million to public officials in Libya under Moammar Gadhafi’s government and allegations it defrauded Libyan organizations of an estimated $130 million.

During the political firestorm that followed the report, Wilson-Raybould refused to comment on the case, saying she was still bound by solicitor-client privilege. She has since retained former Supreme Court justice Thomas Cromwell as counsel to advise her on what she is allowed to say publicly.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has publicly stated that the allegations in the Globe and Mail report are false.

Gerry Butts, Trudeau’s principal secretary

Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Gerry Butts. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Gerry Butts, Trudeau’s most senior adviser, did — according to the lobby registry — meet with officials from SNC-Lavalin early in 2017. Both the NDP and the Conservatives want Butts to appear at committee. The Liberal majority on the committee, however, voted down a motion that would have made this possible.

Cameron Ahmad, a spokesman for Trudeau, told the Globe and Mail that Butts had spoken to Wilson-Raybould about the SNC-Lavalin case. Ahmad went to say that Butts told Wilson-Raybould to take the issue up with Canada’s top civil servant, Privy Council Clerk Michael Wernick.

Deputy Minister of Justice and Deputy Attorney General Nathalie Drouin

Deputy Minister of Justice and Deputy Attorney General, Nathalie Drouin. (facebook.com/JusticeCanada)

Drouin was appointed in June 23, 2017, and worked under Wilson-Raybould. She was one of three names put on the witness list by the Liberal members of the committee. The New Democrats also want Drouin to appear but the Conservatives have left her off their witness list. Drouin has not been lobbied by SCN-Lavalin on issues related to justice since the time the Liberals came to office.

Justice Minister David Lametti

New Justice Minister and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

He’s Wilson-Raybould’s immediate successor as both justice minister and attorney general of Canada. In the Trudeau government, he served first as parliamentary secretary to the minister of international trade. He was moved to the position of parliamentary secretary to the minister of innovation, science and economic development in January of 2017, a position he held until his promotion to minister in the Jan. 14, 2019 cabinet shuffle.

Lametti has stated many times that neither he nor his office were directed to take any specific actions by the Prime Minister’s Office. All three parties want Lametti to appear as a witness before the Justice committee.

Michael Wernick, clerk of the Privy Council of Canada

Michael Wernick, Clerk of the Privy Council. (Julie Ireton/CBC)

Wernick is Canada’s most senior public servant and an adviser to the prime minister. All three parties on the justice committee want him to appear as a witness. According to sources that spoke to the Globe and Mail, Wernick reprimanded Wilson-Raybould for a series of critical remarks she made in speeches about the Liberal government’s reconciliation efforts last fall.

In a Nov. 29 speech in to the provincial cabinet and Indigenous leaders, Wilson-Raybould said:

« Thinking that good intentions, tinkering around the edges of the Indian Act, or that making increased financial investments — however significant and unprecedented — will in themselves close the gaps, is naive. Transformative change and new directions are required. »

Wilson-Raybould’s chief of staff Jessica Prince

Chief of staff to former Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould. (twitter.com/jesshwprince)

As the former justice minister’s chief of staff and policy adviser, Prince would have worked closely with Wilson-Raybould. Prince was put on a list of desired witnesses by the Conservative Party, but not by the Liberals or NDP. She may be able to shed light on what, if anything, Wilson-Raybould was told by the PMO.

Public Prosecutions Director Kathleen Roussel

Public Prosecutions Director Kathleen Roussel. (ppsc-sppc.gc.ca)

Roussel was appointed to her position in June of 2017. As the director of public prosecutions she is responsible for the management of the Public Prosecution Service of Canada. The Conservative members of the justice committee have requested that she appear and give testimony; the NDP and Liberals have, so far, not requested her presence.

Roussel is the official who informed SNC-Lavalin that the company was not going to be invited to negotiate a remediation agreement. Less than two weeks later, the company filed for a judicial review of that decision.

According to sources that spoke to the Globe and Mail, Roussel’s decision provoked a debate at senior levels of government over how to proceed.

Senior adviser to Trudeau on Quebec issues Mathieu Bouchard

Senior adviser to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Quebec issues. (twitter.com/mbouchardmtl)

According to the federal government’s lobby registry, Bouchard met with officials from SCN-Lavalin more than a dozen times between early 2016 and late 2018.

Both the NDP and the Conservatives want to speak to Bouchard. The PMO has not said whether Bouchard spoke to Wilson-Raybould about the SNC-Lavalin case..

Senior policy adviser to Trudeau Elder Marques

Elder Marques, senior adviser to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (LinkedIn)

Marques was moved from his position as chief of staff to Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains in the fall of 2017 to take up his role in the PMO as a senior adviser. Marques was lobbied by SCN-Lavalin at least a half dozen times in his position as chief of staff to Bains and in his PMO role.

The Conservatives have asked for Marques to appear before the Justice committee. So far, the PMO has not said whether Marques has spoken to Wilson-Raybould about the SNC-Lavalin prosecution.

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Qu’on entende Jody Wilson-Raybould! | Le Devoir

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Depuis que le Globe and Mail a fait état d’allégations d’une possible ingérence politique dans le dossier judiciaire de SNC-Lavalin, les péripéties se multiplient sans qu’on en sache davantage sur le fond de l’affaire. La démission mardi de la ministre des Anciens combattants, Jody Wilson-Raybould, n’a fait que compliquer l’écheveau.

Pour l’instant, on sait bien peu de choses. En fait, à peu près rien. Les sources anonymes qui se sont confiées au Globe se limitent à affirmer qu’il y a eu pression indue l’automne dernier sur Mme Wilson-Raybould, alors ministre de la Justice, pour qu’elle incite la directrice des poursuites pénales à négocier un accord de poursuite suspendue (APS) avec SNC-Lavalin et lui éviter ainsi, contre conditions, un procès pour fraude et corruption. Mais des pressions exercées par qui au sein du bureau du premier ministre ? On l’ignore. Et de quelle nature ? On ne le sait pas non plus.

Peut-être qu’il ne s’est rien passé de compromettant, comme l’affirme le premier ministre, Justin Trudeau. Peut-être qu’il n’y a qu’un conflit d’interprétation autour des conversations tenues. Mais peut-être que, oui, des membres de l’entourage du premier ministre ont dépassé les bornes.

L’absence de réponses à ces questions ne fait qu’entretenir les soupçons. Il en va de même de la démission de Mme Wilson-Raybould au lendemain d’une déclaration de M. Trudeau selon laquelle sa présence au cabinet « parlait d’elle-même ». Que dire alors de sa démission ? Et pourquoi maintenant et pas à l’automne ou en janvier ? On se perd en conjectures, car elle n’a offert aucune explication. Mais peut-être estime-t-elle être tenue au silence par le secret qui lie un avocat à son client, d’où sa décision de faire appel à un ancien juge de la Cour suprême pour la conseiller à cet effet.

Le premier ministre, de son côté, a levé ce secret en partie en s’en prenant publiquement à Mme Wilson-Raybould, affirmant qu’elle n’avait pas fait état de problèmes l’automne dernier quand le cas de SNC-Lavalin a été discuté. Lever ce secret exige réflexion de la part du premier ministre, car ce n’est pas sans conséquence, mais il doit trouver une façon de donner à l’ancienne ministre la liberté de s’expliquer. Et de se défendre. Après tout, elle détient les réponses que tout le monde attend.

L’enquête entreprise par le commissaire à l’éthique Mario Dion prendra trop de temps pour faire la lumière rapidement. Or, le brouillard qui enveloppe la rétrogradation et la démission de Mme Wilson-Raybould et ces allégations de pressions indues doit être dissipé au plus tôt.

On espérait que le comité parlementaire de la justice le ferait, mais on peut en douter à la suite de la rencontre de mercredi. Les libéraux ont accepté d’aller de l’avant, mais ils veulent avant tout examiner des points de droit et les APS et leur liste préliminaire de trois témoins ne fait aucunement mention de Jody Wilson-Raybould. Ils ont dit être prêts à l’allonger, mais veulent en discuter en privé et ont rejeté une motion néodémocrate qui corrigeait leur omission.

À huit mois des élections, le danger est bien réel de voir la recherche de la vérité céder le pas à la partisanerie, ce dont on a eu un avant-goût mercredi. Les conservateurs se sont souvent livrés à un exposé sélectif des faits, alors que les libéraux, avec leur manoeuvre fort malhabile et difficile à justifier, ont seulement réussi à provoquer de nouvelles accusations de tentative de camouflage.

Comme l’a bien dit le bloquiste Rhéal Fortin, le but du comité est de vérifier s’il y a eu ou non des pressions politiques indues sur la procureure générale. Sans Jody Wilson-Raybould, déliée du secret, ce sera peine perdue, alors que la question est trop sérieuse pour rester en suspens.

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Jody Wilson-Raybould was involved in legal government talks about fate of SNC-Lavalin, sources say

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Canada’s former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould was involved in government discussions last fall about whether engineering firm SNC-Lavalin should be allowed to avoid criminal prosecution, and the talks were perfectly legal, government officials have told The Canadian Press.

The officials said the government would have been remiss not to deliberate over the fate of the Quebec giant, given that a prosecution could bankrupt the company, putting thousands of Canadians out of work.

They spoke on condition their names not be used. CBC News has not independently verified the claims. 

Wilson-Raybould, currently minister of Veterans Affairs, said Friday she would not comment on claims that the Prime Minister’s Office tried to pressure her to help SNC-Lavalin avoid criminal prosecution in pending legal action against the construction company.

« As the former minister of justice and attorney general of Canada, I am bound by solicitor-client privilege in this matter, » she said.

The lobbyist registry shows representatives of SNC-Lavalin logged more than 50 meetings with federal officials and parliamentarians on subjects that included « justice » and « law enforcement. »

The Conservatives and NDP are demanding investigations by a Commons committee and the federal ethics commissioner into allegations Wilson-Raybould was pressured by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office.

Wilson-Raybould moved from being attorney general to minister of Veterans Affairs on Jan. 14. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Tory Leader Andrew Scheer also suggested Friday morning that his party is looking at pursuing unspecified « legal avenues » if the governing Liberals « continue to cover this up. »

The government denies the allegations that surfaced Thursday in a Globe and Mail report, but Wilson-Raybould’s continued refusal to comment on the matter has added fuel to the political fire.

SNC has previously been charged with bribery and corruption over its efforts to secure government business in Libya.

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Jody Wilson-Raybould became thorn in Liberals’ side before SNC-Lavalin case – National

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OTTAWA – As the frigid air of an Ottawa winter howled outside in January 2013, Jody Wilson-Raybould stood at the centre of a mass of national media, trying to be a peacemaker as First Nations chiefs from across the country battled over how to secure a meeting with the sitting government on their terms.

Some wanted to reject a meeting with prime minister Stephen Harper, because they felt their talks should be directly with the crown, or its representative in Canada, Gov. Gen. David Johnston.

WATCH: Should Jody Wilson-Raybould clear the air on SNC-Lavalin?




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Wilson-Raybould was the British Columbia regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations, and she was going to build the bridge between the chiefs, and then between the chiefs and a government many felt was hostile to Indigenous issues.

When the meeting with Harper finally happened, she would later say, she realized change was going to be easier if she was on the inside. So she ran for the Liberals in the 2015 election and won in a downtown Vancouver riding.

Shortly afterward Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would name her Canada’s justice minister.

Fast forward six years, and in the frigid air of another Ottawa January, Wilson-Raybould was grim as she faced the reality that three years after getting one of the highest portfolios in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet, she was being demoted.

READ MORE: Jane Philpott takes over Treasury Board, Jody Wilson-Raybould to oversee veterans in cabinet shuffle (Jan. 2019) 

With the enthusiasm of a child being asked to apologize for stealing a cookie, she delivered the agreed-upon line, that moving from Justice to Veterans Affairs was not a negative, that there was “no world” in which serving Canada’s veterans had a downside.

But the reality is she wasn’t being moved because she was universally loved and doing a bang-up job.

She was being moved because she had become a thorn in the side of the cabinet, someone insiders say was difficult to get along with, known to berate fellow cabinet ministers openly at the table, and who others felt they had trouble trusting.

Less than a month later, Wilson-Raybould is at the centre of one of the biggest storms to hit the Trudeau government: allegations the prime minister or his aides pressured her to help Quebec corporate giant SNC-Lavalin avoid a criminal prosecution, and demoted her at least partly because she wouldn’t co-operate.

READ MORE: Singh says Trudeau should ‘welcome’ ethics investigation into alleged direction in SNC-Lavalin case

Trudeau has flatly denied the allegations.

Several Liberals approached Friday said they were confident the story came from Wilson-Raybould herself.

“She’s always sort of been in it for herself,” said one insider who didn’t want to be identified. “It’s never been about the government or the cabinet. Everything is very Jody-centric.”

The fear of reprisal for speaking about anything to do with the situation was running so high Friday most Liberals approached flatly refused.

Treasury Board President Jane Philpott, said to be one of Wilson-Raybould’s closest friends and allies in cabinet, was not available. One former senior staffer said it was too uncomfortable to talk about.


Those who did spoke of a woman who went through staff at a breakneck pace (she has had four chiefs of staff in three-and-a-half years), and only showed up to meetings when she felt like it.

“I think I saw her at Indigenous caucus just once,” said one Liberal.

But there is another view of her from outside government that is far more flattering, a description of a woman who is exceptionally smart and exceptionally driven.

WATCH: Trudeau denies allegation that PMO pressured AG to drop SNC-Lavalin case






Born into a political family, her father, Chief Bill Wilson, once told Pierre Trudeau, father of Justin, that his daughters were going to be prime ministers one day. Her relationship with her father is sometimes troubled, and one Indigenous source said it is “impossible to talk about Jody without talking about her dad.”

Bill Wilson, who issued words of support for his daughter on social media this week, helped get Indigenous title to land and treaty rights enshrined in the Constitution.

Wilson-Raybould does leave a significant legacy as justice minister. She shepherded two of the biggest changes to Canadian social policy in a generation: physician-assisted dying and legalized marijuana.


READ MORE:
Jody Wilson-Raybould’s dad once told Pierre Trudeau his daughter wanted to be prime minister

“She’s very serious, she’s very credible,” said Sheila North, former grand chief of the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, the northern Manitoba chiefs’ organization.

She is bare-legs-in-minus-30-C-windchill tough – that’s how she publicly accepted her new job outside Rideau Hall – a former B.C. Crown prosecutor who is assertive and knows her own mind. Any criticism of Wilson-Raybould for sticking up for her convictions, said North, is rooted in sexism.

“Someone who is very strong and assertive, when it’s a male, it’s not even considered anything that’s negative,” she said.

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Jody Wilson-Raybould was involved in government talks about fate of SNC-Lavalin

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Government officials have told The Canadian Press that former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould was involved in government discussions last fall about whether engineering firm SNC-Lavalin should be allowed to avoid criminal prosecution.

They say the discussions were perfectly legal and that the government would have been remiss not to deliberate over the fate of the Quebec giant, given that a prosecution could bankrupt the company, putting thousands of Canadians out of work.

The officials spoke on condition their names not be used.

Wilson-Raybould said Friday she would not comment on claims that the Prime Minister’s Office tried to pressure her to help SNC-Lavalin avoid criminal prosecution in pending legal action against the construction company.

« As the former minister of justice and attorney general of Canada, I am bound by solicitor-client privilege in this matter, » she said.

The lobbyist registry shows representatives of SNC-Lavalin logged more than 50 meetings with federal officials and parliamentarians on subjects that included « justice » and « law enforcement. »

New Veterans Affairs Minister Jodie Wilson-Raybould addresses the media following a swearing in ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Monday, Jan. 14, 2019. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

The Conservatives and NDP are demanding investigations by a Commons committee and the federal ethics commissioner into allegations Wilson-Raybould was pressured by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office.

Tory leader Andrew Scheer also suggested Friday morning that his party is looking at pursuing unspecified « legal avenues » if the governing Liberals « continue to cover this up. »

The government denies the allegations that surfaced Thursday in a Globe and Mail report, but Wilson-Raybould’s continued refusal to comment on the matter has added fuel to the political fire.

SNC has previously been charged with bribery and corruption over its efforts to secure government business in Libya.

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Jody Wilson-Raybould maintains silence on SNC-Lavalin allegations

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OTTAWA—Jody Wilson-Raybould is sticking by her refusal to speak about allegations that she was pressured by prime minister’s top aides to seek mediation instead of pursuing criminal charges against Quebec construction giant SNC-Lavalin.

As opposition Conservatives and New Democrats called for emergency parliamentary committee hearings into the allegations, Wilson-Raybould issued a statement Friday which offered no comment on — nor denial of — the allegations, for the second day in a row.

Jody Wilson-Raybould, shown in 2018, is sticking by her refusal to comment on allegations that she was pressured by prime minister’s top aides to seek mediation instead of pursuing criminal charges against Quebec construction giant SNC-Lavalin when she served as justice minister.
Jody Wilson-Raybould, shown in 2018, is sticking by her refusal to comment on allegations that she was pressured by prime minister’s top aides to seek mediation instead of pursuing criminal charges against Quebec construction giant SNC-Lavalin when she served as justice minister.  (Justin Tang / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO)

“As the former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, I am bound by solicitor-client privilege in this matter,” she said in the statement released by her office.

Wilson-Raybould’s decision to remain silent came after Conservatives and New Democrats announced they will try to summon Justin Trudeau’s top officials and cabinet ministers — including the former justice minister, who for now remains in cabinet — before an emergency meeting of a parliamentary committee.

They say they want to get answers into allegations the PMO tried to politically interfere in a case in order to lift the threat of a criminal conviction facing the Quebec engineering and construction giant, one that could hobble its ability to bid on future contracts.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer announced the move Friday morning, saying the allegation “calls into serious question the ethics and conduct of those at the highest levels.”

“Today we’re taking the next step in pressing for answers,” he said.

The opposition parties want to call nine people as witnesses, including Katie Telford, Trudeau’s chief of staff; Gerald Butts, his principal secretary; Justice Minister David Lametti; Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick; and Wilson-Raybould.

The next moves now lie with the prime minister. The government can block the opposition request for a parliamentary study because it holds a majority. It can also free Wilson-Raybould to speak.

Although Wilson-Raybould has turned aside all interview requests and claims to be bound by confidentiality around her role as past minister, several legal experts say the privilege belongs to the client, in this case the government, and it is within the government’s power or choice to waive it, in order to allow the air to be cleared on damning allegations.

Writing on Twitter, lawyer Paul Champ said the government can waive the privilege, “and if this was a court of law, I would say that they already did waive by Trudeau commenting on it.”

On Thursday, the Globe and Mail reported that senior PMO officials pressed the former justice minister to seek mediation instead of pursuing criminal charges against SNC-Lavalin.

Trudeau adamantly denied the story that Wilson-Raybould was shuffled out of the justice portfolio after she refused pressure from his office to recommend the public prosecutor pursue a remediation agreement, instead of criminal charges, against SNC-Lavalin.

Trudeau said the allegations anyone in his office “directed” her to take a particular decision on SNC-Lavalin’s criminal case were “false.” However, the newspaper report, citing unnamed sources, did not claim she was directed or instructed, but that she faced pressure from unidentified senior aides in Trudeau’s office.

The attorney-general can direct the independent prosecutor’s office in such cases, under a new law that allows so-called “deferred prosecution agreements,” but must supply reasons in writing which must be published in the Canada Gazette, the government’s official record of decisions.

However an overriding principle in Canada’s justice system is that nobody — not the prime minister, his delegates, nor anyone else — should influence, pressure or direct the justice minister to do anything when it comes to prosecutorial decisions.

Opposition MPs continued Friday to attack the prime minister’s response as tightly scripted legalese. Scheer said that Trudeau fell short of “full transparency,” prompting the call for a committee investigation.

“If the prime minister has nothing to hide, as he has suggested, then should have no reason to fear these individuals appearing before the justice committee,” Scheer said.

But it’s not clear the committee will get off the ground. That’s because Liberals hold the majority of seats and can bar the opposition motions for next week’s hearings.

If the Liberals block the move, then “Canadians could only conclude that reports of political interference are true,” Scheer said.

“We are convinced that there is more to see here,” Scheer said, adding that the party is looking at other legal options if oppositions efforts to gets answers in Parliament are frustrated.

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

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

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Jody Wilson-Raybould’s silence over Trudeau’s SNC-Lavalin woes speaks volumes

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It’s been a burning question for weeks in politics — what did Jody Wilson-Raybould do to get bounced out of her job as justice minister in Justin Trudeau’s cabinet?

Well, now we know one theory about her firing offence: an alleged refusal to do a legal favour for SNC-Lavalin, the Quebec firm with long and lucrative ties to the federal Liberals.

And so, the once-burning question in the capital’s chattering corridors of power is now a flaming bag of trouble sitting on the very doorstep of the Prime Minister’s office. In the process, the biggest victim of Trudeau’s relatively minor cabinet shuffle last month is now perceived as its loudest whistleblower, whether she embraces that new role or not.

Not that Wilson-Raybould, now veterans affairs minister, was particularly loud on Thursday. In fact, she didn’t have a thing to say in the wake of the Globe and Mail’s explosive story of how the former justice minister reportedly stood in the way of a deal to let SNC-Lavalin detour around prosecutions that could have blocked it from receiving government contracts for years to come.

Wilson-Raybould’s silence, however, was far louder than the prime minister’s carefully chosen words of denial, about how his office had not “directed” the former minister to give the go-ahead to what’s known as a “deferred prosecution” of SNC-Lavalin.

“That is between me and the government as the government’s previous lawyer,” Wilson-Raybould was quoted as saying in the Globe’s scoop, as well as a cryptic, “I don’t have a comment on that,” in reply to more pointed questions about how she handled the SNC-Lavalin case.

Pro tip: “No comment” only works as a clever misdirection in fictionalized political journalism. In real life, it is often regarded as confirmation. That’s certainly how Wilson-Raybould’s failure to comment was being interpreted in government and opposition circles on Thursday.

Speaking of no comment, Trudeau hasn’t really explained why he plucked Wilson-Raybould out of her post as Canada’s first Indigenous justice minister and put her in charge of a department where many political careers go to die.

That silence also created an opening, particularly for rumours and resentment. I attended a dinner last week in honour of Robert Burns, attended by a significant contingent of female cabinet ministers and Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes. When it came time for Caesar-Chavannes to speak, she stepped up to the podium with a hilarious poke at Scots and Burns culture in general, but also a couple of sharp jabs in particular to her own government.

One of those jabs was aimed squarely at the ouster of Wilson-Raybould from the justice job, and a joke about how an Indigenous woman lost her post for doing it well and unsettling the “white man.” Many in the room did a sharp intake of breath — did someone say that out loud? Wilson-Raybould, for her part, laughed and applauded loudly.

It was a telling indication of what could be a more widespread morale problem in Trudeau’s government as an election looms, not to mention a foreshadowing of this week’s trouble. Wilson-Raybould’s demotion has opened up a conversation about who’s in favour with the tight circle of power in the PMO and who’s fallen out of favour — and why is that circle so tight, anyway?

This newest bombshell of a story comes directly out of that conversation, with the bonus addition of alleged corruption and too-cosy ties with big Quebec donors — the kind of thing that put Liberals in the political wilderness for nearly a decade not so long ago. SNC-Lavalin, many were reminding us on Thursday, was the same firm that was detouring around election laws for much of that decade to put roughly $110,000 in the party’s pocket in those lean years.

As all political communication operatives know, the ring of truth is often more believable than the complicated truth. Wilson-Raybould’s demotion may well have been a complicated result of many things, and it should be noted, without getting into the details here, that these deferred prosecutions to which she allegedly objected are legal and even defensible in many cases.

But it has all the ingredients of the well-worn political narrative in Canada — a Liberal PMO too cosy with Quebec, a defiant hero and a corporate villain with ties to sketchy donations.

Governments are often frustrated by their inability to write their own stories. But this is another example of an old lesson in politics: the most dangerous tales are those told by aggrieved insiders, often without saying any more than “no comment.”

Susan Delacourt is the Star’s Ottawa bureau chief and a columnist covering national politics. Reach her via email: sdelacourt@thestar.ca or follow her on Twitter: @susandelacourt

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