The report from the federal Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, Mario Dion, outlined that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau violated the Conflict of Interest Act by trying to influence then-justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to give SNC-Lavalin a way to avoid a damaging bribery trial.
Speaking to reporters in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that while he disagrees with some of Dion’s findings, he accepts the report.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has never denied intervening in the SNC affairs and he responded to the report that he accepts full responsibility but maintains that he is only protecting the jobs of Canadians when a reporter asked him in a press conference at Niagara.
But there is a part that was not addressed in the report, the McLachlin replacement, which led to the real fallout between the Prime Minister and Jody Wilson-Raybould, before the SNC Lavalin affairs.
Who is McLachlin?
Beverley Marian McLachlin is a Canadian jurist and author who served as the 17th Chief Justice of Canada from 2000 to 2017, the first woman to hold that position and the longest-serving Chief Justice in Canadian history.
McLachlin retired December 15, 2017, nine months before reaching the mandatory retirement age of 75 as Chief Justice. Her successor as Chief Justice of Canada is Richard Wagner.
Her retirement meant the government would have to choose a new chief justice and find another bilingual judge from western or northern Canada to sit on the nine-member bench.
The main fallout
Trudeau created an independent, non-partisan advisory board, headed by former Conservative prime minister Kim Campbell, to identify qualified candidates to fill the western/northern vacancy and submit a shortlist of three to five names for consideration. Trudeau had disagreed with Wilson-Raybould’s choice to replace Beverley McLachlin on the court in 2017.
According to the sources, one of the names on the eventual list was Glenn Joyal, who had been appointed in 2011 by former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper as chief justice of Manitoba’s Court of Queen’s Bench.
Wilson-Raybould then sent Trudeau a 60-plus-page memo arguing that Joyal should not only be added to the top court but should be named chief justice as well.
Only once before in Canadian history — in 1906, when Sir Wilfrid Laurier appointed his justice minister to the top judicial job — has a prime minister chosen a chief justice who was not already sitting on the Supreme Court.
Wilson-Raybould preferred a Manitoba Chief Justice Glenn Joyal, but Trudeau rejected that choice because he saw Joyal as too critical of how courts apply the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Well-placed sources say the former justice minister’s choice for chief justice was a moment of “significant disagreement” with Trudeau, Joyal has touted the Liberals as “the party of the charter” and whose late father, Pierre Trudeau spearheaded the drive to enshrine the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the Constitution in 1982.
The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss internal discussions about a Supreme Court appointment. Trudeau chose to appoint Alberta Judge Sheilah Martin to the top court and he promoted sitting Justice Richard Wagner to the role of chief justice. According to the report, this episode led Trudeau to doubt Wilson-Raybould’s judgment and soured the pair’s relationship long before the SNC-Lavalin affair.