TORONTO — Canada’s former justice minister announced Tuesday that she was quitting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet — a move that follows allegations Trudeau’s office pressured her to avoid prosecuting a major Canadian engineering firm.
Veterans Affairs Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould released a letter announcing her resignation. She had been demoted from the post of justice minister last month.
The Globe and Mail newspaper reported last week that Trudeau or his staff pressured her to arrange a deal with Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin that would let it avoid criminal prosecution on allegations of corruption involving government contracts in Libya.
Wilson-Raybould said she has hired a former Supreme Court justice to advise her on what she can say publicly about the matter. The statement did not offer a reason for her departure.
Her resignation is a potential blow to Trudeau as he faces re-election this year. He has denied directing Wilson-Raybould to arrange such a deal.
On Monday, Trudeau said that he’d toldWilson-Raybould previously that any decision on the subject was hers alone. Trudeau also said her continued presence in cabinet should speak for itself.
She told him she was quitting later that night.
“Regardless of background, geography, or party affiliation, we must stand together for the values that Canada is built on,” Wilson-Raybould said in her statement.
The Globe and Mail reported Trudeau’s office pressured her to instruct the director of public prosecutions — as allowed by law — to negotiate a remediation agreement withSNC-Lavalin.
The agreement would have allowed the company to pay reparations but avoid a criminal trial on charges of corruption and bribery.
If convicted criminally, the company would be banned from receiving any federal government business for a decade. SNC-Lavalin is a major employer in Quebec and has about 9,000 employees in Canada and 50,000 worldwide
Trudeau’s office issued a short statement that said Wilson-Raybould informed Trudeau Monday night of her resignation and that he informed cabinet on Tuesday.
Wilson-Raybould became Canada’sfirst Indigenous justice minister when Trudeau appointed her to the post in 2015.
On Monday, Canada’s ethics commissioner announced an investigation into the allegation.
Opposition Conservative leader Andrew Scheer said Trudeau is trying to hide the truth and the scandal has thrown the government into “chaos.”
“Yesterday he tried to reassure Canadians that nothing unethical took place. In fact, he said that Mrs. Wilson-Raybould’s presence in cabinet should speak for itself,” Scheer said.
“Today her resignation speaks for itself.”
Rob Gillies, The Associated Press