Disclosure: James Seale served in the Canadian Armed Forces for 30 years. He is presently Director of internal controls at Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions, currently on leave to run as the People's Party of Canada candidate in Outremont.
Big corporations can now avoid criminal prosecution in Canada – so long as they’re big enough to afford lobbyists.
As of September 19th, 2018 the Criminal Code of Canada was quietly altered to allow for what’s called a ‘Deferred Prosecution Agreement’ (DPA), essentially a special plea deal for the well-connected.
Don’t remember hearing of this? That’s because the Liberals did their best to keep it quiet by burying a clause allowing DPA’s in a last-minute addition to their 582-page Omnibus Budget Bill.
The Liberals were so successful keeping the DPA clause a secret, that even Liberal MP’s on the House of Commons justice committee studying the Omnibus Budget Bill were surprised.
Liberal MP Greg Fergus said at the time he was worried the change appeared to be designed to give those implicated in white-collar crimes “a little slap on the wrist”
“It seems we’re letting those with the means have an easier time of it than those who don’t have the means,” the Liberal MP opined.
The last minute addition of DPA’s into the omnibus budget bill came to be known as the ‘SNC-Lavalin’ clause, because it was added only after intense lobbying efforts from the Montreal-based construction giant.
Why was SNC-Lavalin so eager to amend the Criminal Code of Canada to allow for DPA’s? Because literally billions of dollars depends on it.
SNC-Lavalin is currently under trial for fraud & corruption charges for its role in bribing Libyan officials under the Muammar Gaddafi regime as well as defrauding Libyan organizations to the tune of $130 million.
If criminally convicted in court for corruption, SNC-Lavalin would be barred from bidding on federal contracts for the next 10 years – a potentially massive multi-billion dollar blow to SNC-Lavalin and its shareholders.
So in 2015, after SNC-Lavalin was formally charged with fraud & corruption, then SNC-Lavalin chief executive Robert Card suggested the company wanted to “arrange a deferred prosecution agreement with Ottawa to avoid prosecution and developments that might jeopardize the company’s work.”
At the time, deferred prosecution agreements (DPA’s) didn’t exist in Canada.
So what’s a large, multi-national corporation bent on saving itself billions of dollars to do? Lobby the federal government, of course!
Starting in 2016, SNC-Lavalin lobbied the federal government more than 80 times on the subject of “justice and law enforcement”. This includes high-level meetings with Finance Minister Bill Morneau, the Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains, Infrastructure Minister Francois-Philippe, as well as multiple meetings with the PMO, including Gerald Butts and various senior advisers to Justin Trudeau.
It didn’t take long for SNC-Lavalin’s lobbying to see results.
In the 2018 Federal Budget, the Trudeau government quietly included an amendment to the Criminal Code allowing for Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPA’s). By June 21st, 2018, the government passed omnibus Bill C-74 which included this amendment. As of September 19th, 2018 the Criminal Code now allows for the Deferred Prosecution Agreements that SNC-Lavalin was lobbying for.
But that was just the 1st part of the battle for SNC-Lavalin. Not only did they have to lobby to get DPA’s introduced into the Criminal Code, they also have to lobby to get the prosecutors to invite them to negotiate a DPA instead of continuing with the criminal court case.
This decision fell to the Director of Public Prosecution Service in Canada (PPSC), who on Oct 10. 2018 refused to negotiate a DPA with SNC-Lavalin. As a result of this decision, SNC-Lavalin shares dropped 14% that same day, illustrating how crucial avoiding this criminal court case is for the company.
SNC-Lavalin have since filed a judicial review of the decision, which is still pending; however, the new Justice Minister has suggested he may still force prosecutors to negotiate a DPA with SNC-Lavalin, despite protests from the Director of Public Prosecution Service in Canada.
That’s what led to the current scandal taking over the media. Trudeau’s former Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould was apparently being influenced by Trudeau’s PMO to force the Director of PPSC into dropping the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin and instead negotiate the special plea-deal known as a ‘Deferred Prosecution Agreement’.
But the real scandal is the fact that a big corporation like SNC-Lavalin was able to successfully alter the Criminal Code of Canada, and is now trying to successfully lobby itself out of a criminal conviction for corruption. This, despite the fact that the law allowing for DPA’s specifically precludes the use of DPA’s in a corruption case.
There’s a lot going on here, but the lesson being learned is that you can avoid criminal prosecution in Canada, so long as you’re a big enough corporation to successfully lobby senior levels of government.
Clearly this is an affront to our judicial system and the very Rule of Law itself. We can’t have two systems of justice, one for the powerful and wealthy and another for regular, non-lobbying Canadians.
This is one of the many reasons I’ve decided to personally run for Parliament as a member of the People’s Party of Canada.
The People’s Party is the only federal political party that is taking a stand against special interests and their corrupting influence on our government.
Allowing SNC-Lavalin to negotiate a ‘Deferred Prosecution Agreement’ instead of a criminal prosecution is a bail out by any other name.
Essentially, SNC-Lavalin has been arguing they are “Too big too fail” or “Too big to jail”
This is faulty logic. If big corporations that have demonstrated corrupt practices get off with just a ‘slap on the wrist’, then it becomes just another cost of doing business and corruption becomes more widespread.
We have to clean up Ottawa and stop the powerful influence of special interests from deciding what our laws will be.
P.S. Wondering why the Liberals are so keen to help SNC-Lavalin?
For one, SNC-Lavalin is now crucial to their new Infrastructure Bank. With a planned budget of $186.7 billion over the next 12 years, the new bank is giving contracts to SNC-Lavalin to build a number of projects funded by the bank, including the $6.3 billion REM light rail project in Montreal.
SNC-Lavalin is also known to be a big political donor to the Liberal Party of Canada. Only three weeks ago, the former vice-president of SNC-Lavalin was charged with an illegal political donation scheme that funneled more than $117,000 to federal political parties through employees of SNC-Lavalin. $109,000 of the donations went to the Liberals.
But surely there’s no connection.
P.S. Max tweeted this today;