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Canadian parliament holds emergency debate on alleged political pressure in SNC-Lavalin case

Staff Writer | March 1, 2019
Canada is facing "an unprecedented crisis" that "cuts to the very heart of the independence" of the country's judicial system, said opposition members of parliament (MPs) during an emergency debate on Thursday evening.
Jody Wilson-Raybould
Canada   Former Justice Minister and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould
The debate was held in the House of Commons a day after the country's former Justice Minister and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould alleged that she was pressured to drop a criminal prosecution against Montreal-based construction and engineering company SNC-Lavalin.

SNC-Lavalin was charged with fraud and corruption four years ago over allegations that it paid nearly 36 million U.S. dollars in bribes to officials in the government of toppled former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and defrauded Libyan organizations of an estimated 98 million dollars between 2001 and 2011.

In the testimony before the justice committee of the House on Wednesday, Wilson-Raybould alleged that 11 senior government officials, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's top two staff members, repeatedly urged her to consider offering SNC-Lavalin a deferred prosecution agreement that would allow the company to pay a fine rather than face a criminal trial.

Wilson-Raybould, who resigned from Trudeau's cabinet in early February, also mentioned that last September, Trudeau warned her that there would be dire economic and political consequences in the French-speaking province of Quebec where SNC-Lavalin is headquartered if the criminal prosecution against it proceeded.

On Thursday, the prime minister continued to disagree with his former attorney general's version of events that she characterized as political interference "in the exercise of [her] prosecutorial discretion," and said that the justice committee and Canada's ethics commissioner, who is investigating the matter, "will make a determination on what actually happened."

However, Conservative MPs repeated their calls for the prime minister to resign, as their leader Andrew Scheer formally requested that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police launch a criminal investigation into possible obstruction of justice in the SNC-Lavalin scandal.

"Canadians cannot have a prime minister who is willing to commit a crime to protect his political interests," said Scheer, who serves as Canada's official opposition leader.

The Globe and Mail, a national newspaper in Canada, broke the story in early February about alleged political interference in the SNC-Lavalin case.