Canada: accused of conflicts of interest, Trudeau takes his "mistakes" and defends himself


Justin Trudeau made "mistakes" on Wednesday after the release of a report accusing him of violating the Conflict of Interest Act by putting pressure on his Minister of Justice. But two months into indecisive legislative elections, the Prime Minister assured that he acted in the interests of Canadians.

The report of the Ethics Commissioner, an independent senior official, was like a bombshell in Canada: he concludes that Mr. Trudeau broke the law by pressuring his Minister of Justice to intercedes in favor of a Quebec company, SNC-Lavalin, to prevent him from being prosecuted for corruption.

"I take responsibility for the mistakes I made," responded the Liberal Prime Minister quickly. However, he explained that he was disputing some of the report's conclusions and reaffirmed that he had always acted to try to save jobs. "I do not have to apologize for defending the jobs of Canadians," he said at a news conference.

The Prime Minister and his entourage were plunged in February into the worst political crisis of his term after being accused by the former Minister of Justice and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould for exercising on her "inappropriate" pressures to avoid a lawsuit to engineering giant SNC-Lavalin, which she refused to do.

"The position of authority enjoyed by the Prime Minister and his Cabinet was used to circumvent, undermine and ultimately attempt to discredit the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the authority of Ms. Wilson-Raybould", said in a statement. a statement Mario Dion, Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.

Mr. Trudeau's entourage thus "improperly asked the Attorney General to take into account partisan political interests in this case, which runs counter to constitutional principles," the statement said.

Following this case, which broke out in February, the Prime Minister had asked a group of experts to report on the need to change the current system, which means that the Minister of Justice also holds the position of Attorney General, supposedly to be independent.

Mr. Trudeau released this report a few hours after the release of the Ethics Commissioner's report concluding that this "double hat" can be maintained.

SNC-Lavalin scandal

SNC-Lavalin attempted to obtain from the government an amicable settlement of the fraud and corruption charges related to its activities in Libya, which would have allowed it to pay a fine and avoid harsher penalties for trial.

Mr. Trudeau has always denied having acted inappropriately, highlighting the many job losses related to a possible conviction, which would have deprived the company of lucrative public contracts for 10 years.

But his star had faded following the scandal: at the head of polls since his election in 2015 against the Conservatives, Justin Trudeau had seen his approval drop. The Liberals, long distanced, returned to the level of the Conservatives in the intentions of vote.

At the end of 2017, the Prime Minister had already been found guilty of violating the conflict of interest law for twice paying for his guest on the Bahamas' private island of the Aga Khan, spiritual leader of the country. Ismaili Nizarites, a Muslim movement.

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer said the head of government was "totally unforgivable".

"Canadians understand that we need to be vigilant with those who want to abuse the power of their position and engage in this kind of corrupt behavior, and I think it will be a priority in this election," he said. -he adds.

The political storm triggered by the SNC-Lavalin scandal led to the resignation of two senior officials close to the Prime Minister and the resignation of two ministers, including Ms. Wilson-Raybould, who were later expelled from the Liberal Party.

She praised a report that "confirms my position from the beginning" that there have been "many attempts to influence my decision inappropriately". Ms. Wilson-Raybould will stand as an independent candidate in the upcoming legislative elections.

Headquartered in Montreal, SNC-Lavalin, which employs approximately 9,000 people in Canada, was charged in 2015 with paying C $ 47 million (€ 31 million) in bribes in 2001 and 2011 to obtain contracts in Libya during the regime of Muammar Gaddafi.

At the end of May, a Canadian judge ruled that there were sufficient evidence to summon the company to appear.

15/08/2019 07:41:29 –
Montreal (AFP) –
© 2019 AFP

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