SNC-Lavalin, the engineering firm at the centre of a political scandal engulfing the Liberal government, has lost its bid for a judicial review of the Director of Public Prosecution’s decision to proceed with criminal prosecution of the company on corruption charges.
The company has been seeking a remediation agreement to avoid criminal proceedings related to bribery charges linked to contracts in Libya.
Today’s court decision means the Montreal-based engineering and construction firm will likely only get a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) now if Minister of Justice and Attorney General David Lametti overturns the public prosecutor’s Oct. 9, 2018 decision. The company does have the right to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.
The court ruling by federal Judge Catherine Kane says the decision by the director of public prosecutions is not an administrative decision but an exercise of prosecutorial discretion, “which is not subject to judicial review, except for abuse of power.”
A remediation agreement, according to the ruling, is defined as “an agreement, between an organization accused of having committed an offence and a prosecutor, to stay any proceedings related to that offence if the organization complies with the terms of the agreement.”
The court acknowledged that the threshold to strike an application for judicial review is high, but found that the threshold had been met.
Political pressure, veiled threats
Former justice minister and attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould has alleged she faced intense political pressure and veiled threats from various government officials to overturn the public prosecution director’s decision to proceed with criminal charges.
During a news conference in Iqaluit today, where he was delivering a formal apology for past mistreatment of Inuit with tuberculosis, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked if he will act to help SNC-Lavalin in the wake of the federal court decision.
He repeated his line that the government sees creating and protecting jobs as a fundamental responsibility, but he would not intervene in a decision on whether the company should have an alternative to prosecution.
“In the specific question of a DPA, that is the attorney general’s decision to make,” he said. “That is what I have been consistent on for many months. And the attorney general will make that decision.”
Trudeau was also asked if Philpott and Wilson-Raybould can remain in the Liberal caucus. He said they’ve both indicated they want to remain in the Liberal Party and that they share the government’s values and objectives when it comes to economic growth, reconciliation with Indigenous people and the environment.
“Obviously there are going to be reflections and discussions but I will remind people that we are a party that values diversity of opinions and perspectives,” he said.
Earlier this week, Trudeau said he was still considering the status of Wilson-Raybould in the caucus after she confirmed she would be seeking re-election in her Vancouver Granville riding under the Liberal banner.
“This is obviously not a situation or a decision to be taken lightly and we will continue to reflect and work on this issue,” Trudeau said during a funding announcement in Charlottetown.
During her testimony before the Commons justice committee, Wilson-Raybould was asked if she still has confidence in the prime minister. She declined to answer, saying the question was not relevant to the hearings.