Trudeau denies claim PMO pressured AG to drop SNC-Lavalin case

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The officials spoke on background Friday to The Canadian Press on condition that their names not be used, even as Conservatives and New Democrats demanded investigations by a House of Commons committee and the federal ethics commissioner into allegations that Wilson-Raybould was pressured by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's office to help SNC-Lavalin avoid prosecution.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Veterans Affairs Minister Jodie Wilson-Raybould attend a swearing in ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Monday, Jan. 14, 2019. Trudeau has not specifically said no pressure was applied, though other Liberals have.

He said if nothing happened, they should be comfortable coming before the committee and saying so.

The allegation raises multiple thorny questions: How independent is the federal prosecution service from political influence?

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Neither Wilson-Raybould nor SNC-Lavalin has responded to questions from The Canadian Press about the story. The answers are complicated.

"Given the disturbing reports of political interference by the Prime Minister's Office in the functions of the Attorney General of Canada, and given the minister of Veterans Affairs recent comments that '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, the committee hold no fewer than four meetings", reads the motion. CTV News has not independently verified the story.

The legislation was "designed to strengthen the twin goals of institutional independence and ultimate ministerial accountability", says the Public Prosecution Service of Canada Deskbook, which sets out guiding principles for prosecutors.

"Canadians deserve a government that is on their side, not on the side of a massive multinational corporation with deep ties to the Liberal Party", said Singh. "Because the Attorney General is fully accountable to Parliament for the prosecution function, the Act ensures a measure of oversight for the exercise of prosecutorial discretion".

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Earlier in the day, the Prime Minister faced a media scrum and according to several political pundits, the Prime Minister would not directly answer the question directly if his office had attempted to influence the Justice Minister. "I certainly haven't seen any yet", Lametti said. And the fact that the attorney general is supposed to be above political considerations does not mean he or she can't be involved in those discussions. "He takes those responsibilities very seriously". After lobbying by the company of government officials, including those in the PMO, the government included in its 2018 budget a Criminal Code amendment to allow such agreements to be negotiated in cases of corporate crime, as is done in the United States and the United Kingdom. In 2006, as MPs were studying the legislation, Department of Justice counsel Joe Wild testified on this point. She resisted those efforts, the newspaper said.

Under the law, the attorney general may issue a directive to the director of public prosecutions on how to handle a specific case, provided the directive is in writing and made public.

If the Prime Minister's Office was trying to pressure Wilson-Raybould on a decision on a criminal case, rather than just discuss general issues, that would violate a constitutional principle.

"Neither the current nor the previous attorney general was ever directed by me or by anyone in my office to take a decision in this matter, " the prime minister told reporters Thursday after a transit announcement in Vaughan, north of Toronto. There is also a broader duty of confidentiality that lawyers have in discussing their cases, though the rules are less black and white. The privilege covers legal advice, so that would require secrecy.

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