Five things we learned from a written and audio submission made by former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to the House of Commons justice committee Friday.
On the cabinet shuffle
Trudeau’s former principal secretary Gerald Butts told the justice committee Wilson-Raybould was shuffled because they needed someone to fill in Indigenous Affairs and she refused. He said a minister has to serve at the pleasure of the prime minister and a refusal to be moved couldn’t stand.
Wilson-Raybould says she told Trudeau and his former principal secretary, Gerald Butts, she couldn’t understand the rationale for being part of the January cabinet shuffle, and that she had told them many times in the past that she would never take on a job of “delivering services to Indians” under the Indian Act and was shocked that she was then offered the Indigenous Services ministry.
Butts told the justice committee in March he didn’t know her position on that when the offer was made but acknowledged he should have known.
Wilson-Raybould also denies she ever referred to being attorney general as her “dream job” and instead said she thinks it was Butts who said it. Butts told the committee she called it her dream job when she was told she was being shuffled.
She said she took Trudeau at his word that the shuffle was not related to the SNC-Lavalin matter and agreed to take the job of veterans affairs minister, but said she made a decision to “immediately resign if the new Attorney General” issued a directive about the SNC-Lavalin case because it would confirm her suspicions she was moved for not intervening.
On her resignation from cabinet
Wilson-Raybould resigned from cabinet on Feb. 12, but told the justice committee in her live testimony that she couldn’t discuss the conversations she had with Trudeau on the reasons.
In her written submission, she is more clear about why she resigned, pointing to a comment Trudeau made to the media on Feb. 11.
“The Prime Minister stated publicly when issues about the propriety of the government’s conduct in relation to the SNC matter arose that my ongoing presence in Cabinet spoke for itself,” Wilson-Raybould wrote.
“I resigned the next day and I trust my resignation also speaks for itself.”
Some Liberals felt Wilson-Raybould didn’t like remediation agreements in general
Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s deputy chief of staff, Justin To, in a phone call with Wilson-Raybould’s chief of staff, Jessica Prince complained that Wilson-Raybould was not intervening in the SNC-Lavalin case because she “has a philosophical problem” with remediation agreements and ”wouldn’t even use it if we could.” He calls it ironic that Wilson-Raybould is in favour of restorative justice in some sense but not for SNC-Lavalin.
Prince tells him “that is absolutely not true.”
To apologized in a follow-up email and then Prince laid out for him all the things Wilson-Raybould had done in favour of remediation agreements.
Disagreement with her deputy minister
Nathalie Drouin, the deputy minister of justice, told the justice committee that Privy Council clerk Michael Wernick, had asked her office for a briefing on the consequences, including job losses, if SNC-Lavalin did not get a remediation agreement, but that once that document was prepared, Wilson-Raybould ordered her not to give it to Wernick or anyone else in the Privy Council Office.
Wilson-Raybould denies that she ever knew about the memo or that she ordered Drouin not to hand it over to Wernick. She also says given that she had told Wernick she had made her decision she was not sure why he would have asked for such an opinion anyway.
Former prime minister Kim Campbell
Prince alleges that in a conversation with Butts, he pointed to a case involving former prime minister Brian Mulroney and the case of David Milgaard, who was wrongfully convicted for murder in 1970, and exonerated more than two decades later. Butts allegedly told Prince that Kim Campbell, who was then the attorney general, was asked by Mulroney to review the case after Mulroney met with Milgaard’s mother. Campbell, who would replace Mulroney as prime minister in 1993, is reported to have told Mulroney she couldn’t because it would interfere in an independent process.
Wilson-Raybould says she fact-checked the story with Campbell in Vancouver the next day over coffee, adding the former Tory prime minister had a “vivid memory of the case.”
“She categorically denied what Mr. Butts had said and was quite offended and outraged by the comments. She adamantly denied the characterization not only of her as the Attorney General, but also of her former boss, Prime Minister Mulroney,” Wilson-Raybould wrote.
Mulroney was “too good a lawyer to intervene improperly in the matter,” Wilson-Raybould recounted Campbell telling her.
The Canadian Press