Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday rejected calls for his resignation amid allegations of corruption and political interference, The Guardian reported. Trudeau said his former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould, who testified against him and his aides on Wednesday, could be removed from the Liberal Party after failing to indicate she has confidence in his leadership.
“My team and I have always acted in a professional manner,” Trudeau said, refuting claims made by Wilson-Raybould that his government acted unprofessionally to influence her judgement to prosecute an engineering company, SNC-Lavalin, for bribery and fraud charges. Wilson-Raybould’s testimony comes months before Canada votes for a new government.
“I totally disagree with the former attorney general’s characterisation [of discussions] in her testimony,” said Trudeau, denying allegations that Wilson-Raybould was removed as attorney general for her refusal to back down from bringing charges against SNC-Lavalin. In 2015, the company was formally charged with corruption for allegedly bribing Libyan officials between 2001 and 2011 to secure government contracts.
Wilson-Raybould said she had spoken to Trudeau in September about what she claimed were persistent efforts by officials to help SNC-Lavalin evade trial on charges of bribing the Libyan government, Reuters reported. Wilson-Raybould said she had clarified she was not prepared to help the company avoid a now-pending trial.
“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 an inappropriate effort to secure a deferred prosecution agreement with SNC-Lavalin,” Wilson-Raybould had told the House of Commons on Wednesday.
Opposition Conservative leader Andrew Scheer formally asked federal police to investigate the claims against Trudeau’s government, AFP reported. In a letter to Royal Canadian Mounted Police Commissioner Brenda Lucki, Scheer accused Trudeau’s aides of attempting to obstruct justice. “The matter at hand appears, on its face, to be a gross violation of the law,” he said.
Wilson-Raybould claimed staff working for Finance Minister Bill Morneau had continued to pressure her to help the company even after being asked to stop. Wilson-Raybould was named the minister of veterans affairs in January and resigned from Trudeau’s Cabinet last month. Wilson-Raybould claimed her refusal to give in to government pressure to not bring charges against SNC-Lavalin had led to her demotion.
While Opposition leaders on Wednesday called for Trudeau’s resignation, a prominent Labour party minister extended support. “Of course I support the prime minister 100%... I am very clearly of the view that the prime minister would never apply improper pressure,” said Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, who is considered by observers a possible successor to Trudeau.