UPDATE: Former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould says she spoke with the RCMP on the SNC-Lavalin scandal in the spring. For more on that story click here.
“The RCMP is examining this matter carefully with all available information and will take appropriate actions as required,” spokesperson Chantal Payette said in a statement to Global News.
“It would be inappropriate for us to provide anymore comments on this matter at this time.”
Ethics commissioner Mario Dion found that Trudeau improperly pressured former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to reach a deferred prosecution agreement with Quebec engineering giant SNC-Lavalin to help the company avoid criminal prosecution on fraud and bribery charges.
The report found Trudeau violated Section 9 of the ethics code, which prohibits any official responsible for high level decision-making in government from seeking to influence the decision of another person to “improperly further another person’s private interests.”
Now with renewed calls from the Opposition for a criminal investigation into the SNC-Lavalin affair, the RCMP’s language has shifted from last spring when the Mounties refused to comment. The RCMP generally refrain from commenting on investigations until criminal charges are laid.
Whether a criminal offence occurred is far from clear-cut, said Ottawa criminal lawyer Michael Spratt, adding that RCMP investigators may be looking at whether an obstruction of justice charge could be laid.
“It’s not clear that Trudeau didn’t obstruct justice,” Spratt said. “But it’s far from clear whether there would be any reasonable prospect of conviction.”
Spratt said the evidence shows the Prime Minister’s Office engaged in a concerted effort to interfere with the independence of prosecution, which could lead to an “obstruction of justice charge.”
According to the Criminal Code, it’s prohibited “to obstruct, pervert or defeat the course of justice in a judicial proceeding” in any manner. It’s also a crime to engage in any conduct with the intent to provoke fear in the Attorney General.
“The difficulty is (obstruction) would be very hard to prove. And there simply isn’t enough information,” Spratt said. He added that a public inquiry – which was called for by the NDP – would be the best avenue to investigate the ongoing scandal.
Another legal opinion, one from the former attorney general, said there was no crime.
In February, Wilson-Raybould – who was removed by Trudeau from the Liberal caucus – testified several times before a parliamentary committee that she didn’t believe the conduct of the Trudeau’s office amounted to a criminal action.
“In my opinion, it’s not illegal,” she said at the time. In an interview with The West Block’s Mercedes Stephenson, set to air in full this Sunday, Wilson-Raybould said she spoke with the RCMP amidst the SNC-Lavalin scandal in the spring.
Conservative leader Andrew Scheer said Wednesday there was enough evidence “to warrant an RCMP investigation.”
“Trudeau may never face a court of law in this scandal, but he will have to face the Canadian people over the next few weeks,” Scheer said during a press conference.
And former federal attorneys general Peter MacKay, who served under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and Douglas Grinslade Lewis, who served under Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, called on the RCMP to investigate the matter in an open letter last February.
“Ordinary Canadians, who do not benefit from political connections, have been charged under these sections with much less evidence,” the letter said. “We write today to urge you to ensure that you use all resources at your disposal to fully and fairly investigate any potential criminality.”
Meanwhile, Trudeau has said that although he takes “responsibility” for the SNC-Lavalin affair, he has refused to apologize for violating the Conflict of Interest Act.
“I’m not going to apologize for standing up for Canadians jobs,” he told reporters Thursday in New Brunswick. “That’s my job – to make sure Canadians and communities and pensioners and families across the country are supported, and that’s what I will always do.”