February 28, 2019 Editor

On the Record: Jody Wilson-Raybould’s Devastating Testimony on the SNC-Lavalin Scandal

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On the Record: Jody Wilson-Raybould’s Devastating Testimony on the SNC-Lavalin Scandal

Trudeau tried to pressure justice minister to cut deal to let corporation avoid bribery prosecution, she says.

By Tyee Staff February 27, 2019 | TheTyee.ca
photo above:Jody Wilson-Raybould: ‘I come from a long line of matriarchs and I am a truth teller in accordance with the laws and traditions of our Big House – this is who I am and who I will always be.’ Photo from Facebook

WN: I recently heard Justin Trudeau explain why he did not get riled by Trump’s various barbed jabs at him:  I’m a politician!

Sadly, a similar reason can possibly be cited for why he is not to be believed about this scandal…1

Not that all politicians are liars; not that all cops are bad; not that all prison guards are vicious; etc. But enough are often enough so to garner any attentive observer’s cynicism!

Malcolm Muggeridge called politicians largely “amoral”… A.J. Coates in The Ethics of War, discussed in my “Is There A Place For Dreaming?: Restorative Justice and International State Conflict” (also in Justice That Transforms: Volume One) writes:

The moral prohibition of lying, for example, makes good sense in the context of personal relations, but no sense at all in affairs of state. Telling the truth is a moral luxury that politicians and diplomats can rarely afford. More than that, the fulfillment of their public duty will require them not only to conceal the truth but to suppress it and twist it constantly (Coates, 1997, p. 36).

Even if one allows that Coates’ statement of inevitable necessity is right, one immediately asks: where does lying for the greater good (of the state) leave off, and lying for oneself begin? I discuss further ethical entanglements in granting politicians this right in the paper noted above. This quite apart from the philosophical issues of elevating the state to such an absolute position. (See on this philosopher Willam Cavanaugh.)2

Overwhelming corroboration of officialdom’s problematic behaviour patterns was conveniently published 25 years ago by Canadian criminologist Thomas Gabor in his favourably peer reviewed ‘Everybody Does It!’: Crime by the Public. In the Preface, the author writes:

Behaviour, in my view, is adaptive, and often driven by momentary self-interest.

This view of behaviour does not paint as flattering or as simple a picture of human beings as the more self-righteous view. Apart from noting the flaws in the self-righteous position, I wanted to take issue with the hypocrisy displayed by many citizens who routinely condemn what they consider to be our leniency towards convicted criminals, while they justify their own illegalities. Simplistic and Draconian policies may appeal to our tendency to project all that we find in ourselves onto some identifiable social group3, but they do nothing to help us understand or deal with criminal victimization (pp. xiii and xiv).

Perhaps most telling is Gabor’s assertion, based upon a wide array of research, that upwards of 90 percent of the population of Western democracies will engage in some kinds of crime or dishonest behaviour in “favourable” environments. He calls such crime by the public “repeat opportunistic” criminal activity.

The oft-bemoaned widespread cynicism about politicians by the public in democracies comes from equally well-established widespread observation… To the south of us there was dramatic testimony to that effect by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, response to which by the GOP politicians saw them acting like mini mafiosi, with Trump Ultimate Crime Boss calling Cohen a “rat” — widely used terminology for informers in the underworld… I reflect on that in the previous post.

Excerpting from my “War, Police and Prisons: Cross-Examining State-Sanctioned Violence” (also in Volume Three of my Justice That Transforms series), one reads:

I shall draw mainly on material from Thomas Gabor’s ‘Everybody Does It!’: Crime by the Public (1994), and Paul Palango’s Dispersing the Fog: Inside the Secret World of Ottawa and the RCMP (2008).

Gabor lists in a table amongst others “Varieties of Police Misconduct”:

  • Mooching – free coffee, donuts, cigarettes for protection
  • Chiselling – demanding free admission, price discounts, etc. for protection
  • Favouritism – license tabs, window stickers, courtesy cards used for immunity from traffic arrest for family and friends
  • Shopping – picking up small items like candies and cigarettes when a store is unlocked after business hours
  • Extortion – demanding payment for traffic violations in lieu of a ticket with points docked
  • Bribery – accepting cash or gifts in return for not being arrested
  • Shakedown – taking items of significant value such as ipods, laptops, etc. after a burglary, rationalizing that this will just be added to the insurance claim
  • Perjury – lying to provide an alibi for fellow officers

He argues that the above are threshold crimes, like threshold drugs, that lead too easily to escalation of seriousness.

The 1970 Knapp Commission in the United States was appointed to investigate police corruption in New York.  Excerpts from that commission and many other studies and reports are given as samplings below, all of which found that police corruption in Western democracies was widespread:

  • Small gratuities were accepted by constables from local businesses
  • payoffs in the thousands of dollars were received by senior officers from gamblers and narcotics dealers
  • police accepted payoffs by construction companies to ignore numerous city ordinances
  • bar owners paid off police to operate after hours and offer immunity to prostitutes, drug pushers, gamblers operating illegally on their premises
  • drug dealers allowed police to keep money and narcotics confiscated during raids in return for not being arrested
  • police in turn sold the narcotics for personal gain or to informers
  • gamblers made regular payoffs to keep their operations going
  • in Edmonton in 1987/88 ten police officers were charged with criminal offences including attempted murder, assault, theft, fraud and drug trafficking
  • one Edmonton police officer handcuffed and raped a prostitute, then brought cocaine to her to keep her quiet
  • an officer charged with sexually assaulting a female police officer shot and killed his wife, then himself
  • in 1991 a police officer kidnapped and sexually assaulted two young boys and a young girl
  • in the same year two officers were charged with impaired driving, and another was sent to prison for having sexually assaulted a shoplifter
  • in January 1988, a major scandal surfaced in Winnipeg that eventually indicted a provincial court judge, two magistrates, a Crown attorney, two other lawyers, and a provincial court judge
  • in 1991, a veteran defence lawyer often critical of police activity, was set up for a false charge of sexually assaulting a female client, that included a Winnipeg Free Press journalist and photographer tipped off to cover the story, and the client having been encouraged by police to tell a false story
  • there were also serious allegations from the inquiry into senior Manitoba justice officials using favouritism in prosecutions, and prosecutors in turn accused police of often withholding key information in a criminal investigations

Gabor comments:

The number of people involved in both the Edmonton and Manitoba scandals suggests that the criminality and unscrupulousness of police, lawyers, and judges often are not simply a matter of character flaws among a few ‘rotten apples’ but rather indicate the existence of conduct norms that are favourable to misbehaviour.  Ellwyn Stoddard has written about the informal code that fosters police deviance or ‘blue coat’ crime.  He found that criminal activity on the part of the police was widespread in most major departments (p. 144).

Stoddard found that honesty on the police force was a quality routinely to be squelched in new recruits.  Gabor quotes a police officer in Mark Baker’s book, Cops: Their Lives in Their Own Words (1985):

In any department, anywhere, you can take 5 per cent of the cops and they will be honest under any circumstances and they’ll never do anything wrong.  They are the priests of the department.  Five per cent on the other end of the spectrum would have become criminals had they not become policemen.  They are, in fact, criminals who happen to be cops.  The remaining 90 per cent will go whichever way the peer pressure goes (quoted on p. 145).

Gabor’s commentary on this is:

This formula sounds very similar to that provided by authorities on employee theft and other types of crime.  If it is correct, it tells us that most people are capable of dishonesty, that behaviour is largely governed by the situation at hand, and that the attitudes prevailing in a given milieu will have a lot to do with the type and extent of misbehaviour we can expect to find there (p. 145).4

Gabor quotes further from Baker:

Racism, corruption, brutality can slowly become institutionalized throughout a police department simply because so many officers are willing to be indifferent, to let standards erode from inattention, to go along and follow the crowd.  Slowly the pendulum swings toward criminality (quoted on p. 145).

Favouritism and discrimination are rampant on police forces in the enforcement of the law.  Law enforcement in fact is highly selective and often capricious.  In other words: police are human! – not saints, and not better or worse for wearing a badge than the rest of humanity.

The classic current Canadian story is of Robert Dziekanski’s death after having been tasered five times by the four attending RCMP officers.  The Wikipedia Encyclopaedia report says:

The officers have been subject to public criticism, both in the media and in formal proceedings before the Braidwood Commission of Inquiry. The officers were served notices of misconduct by the commission forewarning them the commissioner may include a finding of misconduct in its final report.[32] The warnings allege specific but overlapping grounds for each of the four. The collective allegations are that they failed to properly assess and respond to the circumstances in which they found Mr. Dziekanski. They repeatedly deployed the taser without justification and separately failed to adequately reassess the situation before further deploying it. The notices allege that afterwards they misrepresented facts in notes and statements, furthered the misrepresenting before the commission and provided further misleading information about other evidence before the commission. The four officers each sought judicial review to prevent the commission from making findings based on the notices.[33] The petitions were dismissed but at least two officers are appealing (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Dzieka%C5%84ski_Taser_incident, last accessed September 29, 2009).

One officer, “Corporal Benjamin Monty Robinson, is suspended with pay awaiting trial on charges of impaired driving causing death which resulted in the death of a 21-year old Vancouver man.[29][30][31] (ibid).”

Paul Palango includes several other stories of questionable RCMP activities in his Dispersing the Fog, and in his two previous publications about Canadian policing: Above the Law (1994), and The Last Guardians: The Crisis in the RCMP – and in Canada (1998).  A recent story the CBC reported reads:

Two B.C. members of the RCMP with First Nations backgrounds have filed lawsuits against their superior officers and high-ranking members of the provincial and federal governments alleging discrimination and harassment (http://www.rcmpwatch.com/rcmp-officers-sue-force-allege-racism/#more-1965, last accessed September 29, 2009).

Stories about RCMP misconduct across Canada abound.

Throughout his books on the Mounties Palango… connects rampant RCMP wrongdoing to the highest levels of Canadian political interference.  [A former senior ranking officer in the RCMP, whom I trust and who read this post, however commented:

Having personal knowledge of parts of what Palango writes about, I know that he is outright wrong in far too many instances. In many others, the conclusions he draws are simply fantasy. WN: I must say that that takes the wind out of my sails somewhat; certainly enough to tell readers to view this section having been forewarned. Others may wish further to enlighten me…]

At the beginning and end of his third book, he makes the case that from the election of Pierre Elliott Trudeau in 1968 on, billionaire Québecker Paul Desmarais has been the “kingmaker”:

He is the equivalent of former Chase Manhattan chairman and chief executive officer David Rockefeller in the United States – a kingmaker who decides who will lead the country and what its policies should be (p.11).

Palango in fact connects Desmarais to the Rockefellers, and in turn to the Trilateral Commission and the Chase Manhattan Bank, etc.  He compares this to the P2 Lodge in Italy where

It is entirely possible that virtually every senior politician in the established parties and most business executives of importance in that country are corrupt.  One estimate is that 60,000 people would have to go through the courts if everybody suspected were to be charged.  The anti-corruption campaign threatens to uproot the state itself (quote by Martin Woollacott in ‘Everybody Does It!’, p. 136).

Palango in turn connects these to the right wing Opus Dei in the Catholic Church, the Bilderberg Group,

Le Cercle, etc., while eschewing any kind of easy conspiracy theories.  He comments:

These various entities have one thing in common – to keep alive and vibrant such old-world concepts as the British and Holy Roman Empires, powerful political-economic-military alliances.  The driving force behind these groups is leading industrialists, the descendants of European and British royal families, and New World tycoons like Canada’s Paul Desmarais (p. 381).

One representative high-end instance of criminal wrongdoing was the appointment in 2000 of the new RCMP Commissioner, Giuliano Zaccardelli by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, who like Trudeau and all Québecker prime ministers after 1968, according to Palango, were significantly controlled by the interests of Paul Desmarais.  Zaccardelli basically struck a deal with Chrétien: give Zaccardelli free rein to run the RCMP as he saw fit, and he would never investigate any aspect of Chrétien’s financial holdings, including the extensive connection to Paul Desmarais.  Palango writes:

Business links to Chrétien in China were a matter of public record.  He had worked closely with Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-Shing in one of Li’s companies.  The Desmaraises were just about the only Canadian capitalists making a killing in China.  It was clear to Chrétien that the end result of the Project Sidewinder investigation5 should it continue – would lead inevitably to an investigation of him, his extended family, and their considerable corporate holdings.  Power Corp. also had a large stake in China where it was heavily invested in a multitude of projects.  For Chrétien, protecting his corporate interests and contacts was much more important than the public interest (p. 16, italics added).

Palango comments at the end of his book:

In his oft-quoted 1887 letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton, Lord Acton wrote:

Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

What exists in Canada today is the very definition of absolute power.  It rests within the narrow confines of the Prime Minister’s office, the Privy Council Office, and the elite of the bureaucracy, where the intertwining of corporate and political interests is largely hidden from view by a thick fog of secrecy (p. 526).

As Muslim Congresswoman Ilhan Omar recently said (and was reprimanded for it by the Democrat Party leadership) with reference to the Israeli lobby and the blind faith pro-Israel stance in Washington:

It’s all about the Benjamins baby…

(Benjamin Franklin’s face is on the American $100 bill.) This is not to agree with the longstanding prejudice about Jewish people and wealth, but about fundamental greed controlling political power. Such a phenomenon is fairly ubiquitous, and includes all ethnicities..

At least this: it is not a stretch to think like father like son.6

So with the fog of police and government entities, so with the fog of war, so with the fog of prisons.  Once again, my thesis can be put in the form of a question:

How can we invest ultimate power of life and death in our military, police, and prisons (“state-sanctioned violence”), and in the politicians directing them, with their pervasive deceit, self-serving and criminal wrong-doing; and deny that widespread psychological and physical destruction of innocent civilians is the consequent norm?

In work with those directly impacted by crime, it has been often observed that their “normalcy” (called a “normalcy bias“) view of life is profoundly shattered once victimized. This is obviously one reason that we do not hold our politicians/corporate leaders to high law-abiding standards: we do not want our comfortable normalcy shattered. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu said in the context of South African apartheid:

The former apartheid cabinet member Leon Wessels was closer to the mark when he said that they had not wanted to know, for there were those who tried to alert them [about police and military savagery].(p. 269).

Maybe it’s about time that we, John and Joan Q Public, want to know — and do something about it!

A final observation: the entire North American continent has in the past two days been exposed to prima facie awareness that our most powerful politicians are liars — and often so much worse!… Years ago when I was moderating a panel at a “Christ and Violence” Conference in Abbotsford BC, then MP Chuck Strahl of the Reform Party — that later morphed into the Conservative Party — took strong exception to my indication that corporate greed drove most high-level American politicians, not commitment to democracy and human rights. Good Christian that he was, in his vehement denial, he either lied through his teeth, or (more likely I deem) pulled a “Leon Wessels“… God have mercy!


[Editor’s note: Former justice minister and attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould’s testimony before a parliamentary committee Wednesday was unprecedented in its revelations about attempted political interference in the legal system. Here are excerpts from her opening statement.]

For a period of approximately four months between September and December 2018, I experienced a consistent and sustained effort by many people within the government to seek to politically interfere in the exercise of prosecutorial discretion in my role as the attorney general in an inappropriate effort to secure a Deferred Prosecution Agreement with SNC-Lavalin. [An agreement would allow SNC-Lavalin to avoid criminal prosecution over allegations it had bribed Libyan officials.] These events involved 11 people… from the Prime Minister’s Office, the Privy Council Office, and the Office of the Minister of Finance.

This included in-person conversations, telephone calls, emails, and text messages… Within these conversations, there were express statements regarding the necessity for interference in the SNC-Lavalin matter, the potential for consequences, and veiled threats if a Deferred Prosecution Agreement was not made available to SNC-Lavalin. These conversations culminated on Dec. 19 with a phone conversation I had with the Clerk of the Privy Council.

A few weeks later, on Jan. 7, I was informed by the prime minister that I was being shuffled out of the role of Minister of Justice and the Attorney General of Canada.

It is well-established that when the AG exercises prosecutorial discretion, she or he does so individually and independently. These are not cabinet decisions. I will say that it is appropriate for cabinet colleagues to draw to the AG’s attention what they see as important public policy considerations that are relevant to decisions about how a prosecution will proceed. What is not appropriate is pressing on the AG matters that she or he cannot take into account, such as partisan political considerations; continuing to urge the AG to change her or his mind for months after the decision has been made; or suggesting that a collision with the prime minister on these matters should be avoided.

Meeting the prime minister

This same day (Sept. 17) I have my one-on-one with the Prime Minister that I requested a couple weeks earlier. When I walked in the Clerk of the Privy Council7 was in attendance as well.

While the meeting was not about the issue of SNC and DPAs, the PM raised the issue immediately.

The prime minister asks me to help out — to find a solution here for SNC — citing that if there was no DPA there would be many jobs lost and that SNC will move from Montreal.

In response, I explained to him the law and what I have the ability to do and not do under the Director of Public Prosecutions Act around issuing directives or assuming conduct of prosecutions. I told him that I had done my due diligence and made up my mind on SNC and that I was not going to interfere with the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions…

The PM again cited potential loss of jobs and SNC moving. Then to my surprise — the Clerk started to make the case for the need to have a DPA — he said “there is a board meeting on Thursday (Sept. 20) with stockholders” … “they will likely be moving to London if this happens”… “and there is an election in Quebec soon”…

At that point the PM jumped in stressing that there is an election in Quebec and that “and I am an MP in Quebec – the member for Papineau.”

I was quite taken aback. My response — and I remember this vividly — was to ask the PM a direct question while looking him in the eye. I asked: “Are you politically interfering with my role / my decision as the AG? I would strongly advise against it.”

The prime minister said “No, No, No — we just need to find a solution.” The Clerk then said that he spoke to my deputy and she said that I could speak to the director.

I responded by saying no I would not — that would be inappropriate. I further explained to the Clerk and the PM that I had a conversation with my DM about options and what my position was on the matter…

Acting independently of partisan, political, and narrow interests

I imagine Canadians now fully understand that in my view these events constituted pressure to intervene in a matter, and that this pressure — or political interference — to intervene was not appropriate. However, Canadians can judge this for themselves as we all now have the same information.

Lastly, as I have said previously, “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.” In saying this I was reflecting what I understand to be the vital importance of the rule of law and prosecutorial independence in our democracy.

My understanding of this has been shaped by some lived experience. I am, of course, a lawyer. I was a prosecutor on the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. So I come to this view as a professional trained and committed to certain values as key to our system of order.

But my understanding of the rule of law has also been shaped by my experience as an Indigenous person and leader. The history of Crown-Indigenous relations in this country includes a history of the rule of law not being respected. Indeed, one of the main reasons for the urgent need for justice and reconciliation today is that in the history of our country we have not always upheld foundational values such as the rule of law in our relations with Indigenous peoples. And I have seen the negative impacts for freedom, equality, and a just society this can have firsthand.

So when I pledged to serve Canadians as your minister of justice and attorney general I came to it with a deeply ingrained commitment to the rule of law and the importance of acting independently of partisan, political, and narrow interests in all matters. When we do not do that, I firmly believe, and know, we do worse as a society.

I will conclude by saying this. I was taught to always be careful of what you say — because you cannot take it back — and I was taught to always hold true to your core values and principles and to act with integrity. These are the teachings of my parents, grandparents and community. I come from a long line of matriarchs and I am a truth teller in accordance with the laws and traditions of our Big House — this is who I am and who I will always be.

Gilakas’la / Thank you.  [Tyee]

Please click on: Jody Wilson-Raybould’s Devastating Testimony


  1. Please also see this: from the Council of Canadians:

    Trudeau breaks more election promises with Trans Mountain pipeline project

    Last week, the National Energy Board (NEB) issued its reconsideration report on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion (TMX) project, saying it will have significant “adverse environmental effects” on orcas and Indigenous culture, cause significant climate pollution, and result in significant damage in the event of a worst-case oil spill. Despite these findings, the NEB recommended approval of the project, which the Trudeau government is using public money to pay for. The report also recommended 16 conditions to better protect marine life.

    A few days before announcing this decision, the NEB also rejected a motion supported by environmental groups, First Nations, municipal governments, and community groups to include a review of climate impacts in its review of TMX as it did for the Energy East pipeline in 2017.

    “Prime Minister Trudeau knows that if his government allows a climate review on TMX, the pipeline will be rejected. And this is a big conflict of interest because his government owns the project now. It’s clear he cares more about being a good pipeline CEO than being a good climate leader,” said Council of Canadians Climate Justice Campaigner Bronwen Tucker following the release of the NEB decision.

    These decisions break Prime Minister Trudeau’s election promises to give all energy projects a full climate review, ensure projects respect Indigenous rights, and to specifically redo the TMX assessment from scratch.

    “Trudeau can stop building pipelines the easy way or the hard way. The easy way is to stop bailing out pipelines and take real climate action that reflects the urgency of the climate crisis,” said Tucker. “The hard way is going back to court, facing a wall of opposition on the ground, and still losing because communities from coast-to-coast-to-coast know it’s time for a just transition to a fossil fuel-free future. We have the solutions, it’s time to start funding them instead of doubling down on an economy that’s going extinct.”

    Read Bronwen Tucker’s blog about the NEB decision.

    If you haven’t already, add your name to the petition and tell Trudeau to stop the Trans Mountain pipeline.[]

  2. This article, “Hope in Wilson-Raybould’s Boldness“, paints a rosey picture of how Canadian institutions — the press and the Justice Committee — came through big time. I cannot be so positive, but cannot deny the writer’s point either..[]
  3. This is classic scapegoating theory. Please see on this René Girard.[]
  4. In relation to this, Philip Zimbardo argues in The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil,

    Any deed that any human being has ever committed, however horrible, is possible for any of us — under the right or wrong situational circumstances (p. 211).


  5. See chapter 2 of Dispersing the Fog for more on this investigation that, after the deal struck by Zaccardelli and Chrétien, resulted in The Sidewinder file [evaporating] into the mists, and was never again pursued… (p. 17).[]
  6. With news of another Minister resigning, Jane Philpott, this article, “Trudeau’s Resignation Is the Liberal Party’s Only Hope“, ends with:

    Trudeau, like his father, needs to take a walk in the snow some night this week, and then step aside. He has one chance to save the Liberal party, by putting it in the hands of the women who stood their ground.  [Tyee] []

  7. Clerk Michael Werner made the following absurd claim — rebuttal following — see here, and further below where he is outed:

    “I’ve worked very, very closely, for three years, on almost a daily basis with the current government, the current cabinet and the current Prime Minister’s Office,” Wernick said. “In my observation, in my experience, they have always, always conducted themselves to the highest standards of integrity.”

    Whoa, sunshine, back up just a bit there.

    Justin Trudeau is the first and only prime minister in our history to have been found to have broken a federal law while in office and that law was an ethics law. How’s that for “highest standards of integrity”?

    Moreover, the current ethics investigation into this whole Wilson-Raybould matter is the fifth ethics investigation of a Trudeau cabinet member since 2015. Now this fifth investigation may come to nothing, but, so far, the office of the ethics commissioner is four-for-four in finding ethics violations.


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Wayne Northey was Director of Man-to-Man/Woman-to-Woman – Restorative Christian Ministries (M2/W2) in British Columbia, Canada from 1998 to 2014, when he retired. He has been active in the criminal justice arena and a keen promoter of Restorative Justice since 1974. He has published widely on peacemaking and justice themes. You will find more about that on this website: a work in progress.

Always appreciate constructive feedback! Thanks.

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