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Ethics watchdog blocked when trying to attain SNC-Lavalin evidence

According to Dion, he found himself seriously impeded by the inability to access cabinet documents, and that witness interviews were insufficient.

This article was published more than 1 year ago, information might not be accurate.

Dylan Gibbons Montreal, QC

In relation to the SNC-Lavalin scandal, a 63-page report was released Wednesday detailing Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion’s difficulties to access confidential information related to the affair.

In the beginning of his report, Dion details how he was denied access by the Privy Council Office, who, recent revelations have shown, were directly involved in the scandal he was trying to investigate, reports the National Post.

According to Dion, he found himself seriously impeded by the inability to access cabinet documents, and that witness interviews did not constitute sufficient evidence in his investigation into Trudeau’s role in the scandal.

“Decisions that affect my jurisdiction under the Act, by setting parameters on my ability to receive evidence, should be made transparently and democratically by Parliament, not by the very same public office holders who are subject to the regime I administer,” Dion wrote. “I am convinced that if our Office is to remain truly independent and fulfill its purpose, I must have unfettered access to all information that could be relevant to the exercise of my mandate.”

Due to the blocking by the Privy Council Office, Dion believes that he was unable to fully complete his investigation — even though what has been released is already quite significant.

“Because of my inability to access all cabinet confidences related to the matter I must, however, report that I was unable to fully discharge the investigatory duties conferred upon me by the act,” he wrote

This ties into Dion’s finding Prime Minister Trudeau guilty of violating a Conflict of Interest Act for exerting influence “directly and through his senior officials” to pressure then justice minister and attorney general Jody Wilson?Raybould. This was done with the hopes she would “overrule a decision by the director of public prosecutions to not grant a deferred prosecution agreement to SNC-Lavalin, the Quebec-based engineering firm, which is facing charges of fraud and corruption,” reports CBC.

Trudeau has conceded that what has happened is “not a small thing.”

“The decision by the Privy Council to not further extend into less relevant or non-relevant elements of cabinet confidentiality and solicitor-client privilege is an important one that maintains the integrity of our institutions and our capacity to function as a government without setting troublesome or worrisome precedents,” said Trudeau.

With all this in mind, Dion believes that Trudeau holds more blame than the other actors involved in the scandal, including the Privy Council.

“They acted in accordance with the general direction set by Trudeau in Sept. 2018 and did not receive instruction to cease communications, even once related legal proceedings had commenced,” wrote Dion.

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