OTTAWA, April 9, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — Conservative leader Andrew Scheer is challenging Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to “get on” with suing him for defamation for his remarks about Trudeau’s alleged role in the SNC-Lavalin corruption scandal.
Scheer announced Sunday that Trudeau’s lawyer, Julian Porter, sent him a letter threatening to sue him for his March 29 statement accusing Trudeau of political interference and lying to Canadians.
But Scheer has fired back and lawyered up, stating he stands by everything he said and that he and all Canadians would welcome a chance to have Trudeau and others testify in open court.
“If Mr. Trudeau believes he has a case against me, I urge him to follow through on his threat immediately,” Scheer said in a Facebook post. “Canadians want this scandal to be investigated in a legal setting where Liberals do not control the proceedings.”
I stand by every single criticism I have made of Justin Trudeau’s behaviour in this scandal. If Trudeau intends to sue me, if he believes he has a case against me, he should get on with it.
This is the letter my lawyers sent to Justin Trudeau today. pic.twitter.com/UcHShl8EaK
— Andrew Scheer (@AndrewScheer) April 7, 2019
Scheer also called the threatened lawsuit “an intimidation tactic” aimed at silencing the Conservatives, who have been calling for an independent probe of “Lavscam” since the scandal broke in February.
“This is what Justin Trudeau does when you stand up to him. He threatens you,” Scheer said. “He did it to Jody Wilson-Raybould and now he’s doing it to us. Like her, we will not back down.”
Former attorney general Wilson-Raybould contends that Trudeau and top Liberal officials inappropriately pressured her over four months to intervene in the criminal prosecution of Montreal-based global engineering firm SNC-Lavalin on corruption and bribery charges related to its past government contracts in Libya.
She testified last month to the justice committee that she believes she was moved from justice to veterans affairs in January because she refused to grant SNC-Lavalin’s request for a deferred prosecution agreement rather than a criminal trial. A criminal conviction would bar the engineering giant from receiving government contracts for 10 years.
Wilson-Raybould resigned from veterans affairs February 12, and Treasury Board president Jane Philpott quit in March, citing her lack of confidence in the Liberal government’s handling of the affair.
In what has been dubbed the “Tuesday Night massacre,” Trudeau turfed both Wilson-Raybould and Philpott out of the Liberal caucus last week, citing a breakdown of trust.
Trudeau’s principal secretary, Gerald Butts, resigned February 18 and Canada’s top bureaucrat Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick is retiring in April.
Wilson-Raybould implicated both men in her testimony and stated that Wernick made “veiled threats” regarding her job during a December 19 telephone call.
Both Butts and Wernick testified twice to the Liberal-dominated justice committee, which voted in March 19 to end its investigation without granting a second appearance to Wilson-Raybould.
In response, Wilson-Raybould sent the committee materials corroborating her initial testimony, including audio of her secretly taped call with Wernick, which the committee released March 29.
Scheer’s statement published the same day contended that the “documents and recordings are concrete evidence that proves Justin Trudeau led a campaign to politically interfere in SNC-Lavalin’s criminal prosecution. He personally gave the orders and when the former Attorney General refused to follow them and break the law, she was fired.”
Moreover, the former attorney general “repeatedly told the Prime Minister and his top officials that their actions were ‘entirely inappropriate’ and amounted to ‘political interference’. Despite her objections, the Clerk of the Privy Council pressured her and made it clear that her job was on the line,” Scheer stated.
Trudeau “also told Canadians what he knew to be false. He knew that his Attorney General had serious concerns about his plan to get SNC-Lavalin off of serious criminal charges. But he looked Canadians in the eye and told them that no one had raised concerns with him,” the Tory leader contended.
Porter’s letter alleges that Scheer’s statement contains “highly defamatory comments about Prime Minister Trudeau,” as reported in the CBC.
Trudeau “supports wide-ranging and vigorous political debate on matters of public policy. However, your statement, in its entirety, is beyond the pale of fair debate and is libellous of my client personally and in the way of his occupation as prime minister,” said Porter.
It is “entirely false” to suggest that Trudeau “personally subverted the judicial process” or “acted with malice and an improper purpose” in moving Wilson-Raybould to another portfolio, he said.
It’s also “entirely false” to suggest that Trudeau was aware of Wilson-Raybould’s concern that he was politically interfering in the SNC case but lied to Canadians about it, Porter said.
Scheer’s lawyer, Peter Downard, responded by letter Sunday that Scheer “will not be intimidated” and that the leader of the official opposition is performing his “constitutional duty” to hold the government to account.
If Trudeau “actually intends” to sue, he “must immediately take steps to preserve all relevant documents” and “to notify all members of his government involved in this matter, past and present, that they can expect to be called to testify,” said Downard.
If the prime minister does not proceed with the lawsuit, Downard added, Scheer will conclude that Trudeau “has properly acknowledged that Mr. Scheer’s statements were appropriate and grounded in evidence before the Canadian people.”