In this “explainer” article, The Globe and Mail summarizes the key players, events and outcomes to date of the complex SNC-Lavalin/Jody Wilson-Raybould story that has dominated domestic Canadian news this winter.
Appropriate Subject Area(s):
Social studies, current events
Key Question(s) to Explore:
- Who are the key players in the Jody Wilson-Raybould controversy, and what is the key issue?
Bribery, SNC-Lavalin, PMO, DPA, Attorney General
Introduction to lesson and task:
Political controversies centred in Ottawa often do not resonate far beyond that city. However, former Justice Minister/Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould’s claim that she felt pressured by the PMO (Prime Minister’s Office) to intervene in a bribery case being handled by the Public Prosecution Service of Canada continues to reverberate from coast to coast. Although neither Ms. Wilson-Raybould nor the Public Prosecution Service of Canada have claimed that laws were broken, she ultimately resigned from cabinet, as did Jane Philpott, who did so in solidarity. However, both have indicated they intend to run again as Liberals in the federal election later this year.
Prime Minister Trudeau, along with the clerk of the Privy Council and Mr. Trudeau’s top adviser at the PMO, Gerald Butts, have denied directing Ms. Wilson-Raybould to decide to use a new Deferred Prosecution Agreement, but opposition parties continue to press for a wider inquiry into the issue, arguing that Canada’s fundamental rule of law is at stake. Explaining that he was a distraction from the work of the government, Mr. Butts resigned, as did Michael Wernick, Clerk of the Privy Council. The Liberal committee to investigate the matter has adjourned, to opposition cries of “cover up.”
Since this story has the hallmarks of a political scandal that can affect the outcome of this year’s federal election, and since the key issues focus on a fundamental principle of democracy, students need to be familiar with key players and issues. To that end, using the attached article, students will work in groups to complete a matching exercise in which they identify who is who, who said what, and why any of this is important.
Action (lesson plan and task):
Introduce this activity by engaging students in a brief discussion about the controversy, summarized above. Ask whether students are aware of the stories and media coverage of these issues. Discuss their responses and answer their questions in general terms, before providing them with the articles, noted above, and this worksheet. The answers: PMO (g, i); Jody Wilson-Raybould (c, s); SNC-Lavalin (b, h, l, p); David Lametti (k); Andrew Scheer (q, d); Justin Trudeau (a); Gerald Butts (u, v); Michael Wernick (t); Tracey Ramsey (e); OECD (w); Pierre Poilievre (f); Senior government officials (m); DPA (j, r, o); House of commons justice committee (n) Note that several items in column #2 are excerpts from the articles but are not set in quotation marks in order to distinguish them from other items using direct quotes.
Divide your group in half approximately and provide the attached article, which they are to use as source material to match the items in column #1 with the appropriate items in column #2. There will be more than one match per item in several cases.
- PMO (g, i)
- Jody Wilson-Raybould (c, s)
- SNC-Lavalin (b, h, l, p)
- David Lametti (k)
- Andrew Scheer (q, d)
- Justin Trudeau (a)
- Gerald Butts (u, v)
- Michael Wernick (t)
- Tracey Ramsey (e)
- OECD (w)
- Pierre Poilievre (f)
- Senior government officials (m)
- DPA (j, r, o)
- House of commons justice committee (n)
(a) “The allegations reported in the story are false. At no time did I or my office direct the current or previous attorney-general to make any particular decision in this matter.”
(b) Employs 9,000 people in Canada.
(c) Claims she was pressured to consider a DPA.
(d) “…[W]rote Mr. Trudeau an open letter on Feb. 10 asking him to waive Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s solicitor-client privilege.”
(e) Accused the Liberals of trying to hide behind Parliamentary procedure with their vote to adjourn the meeting.
(f) [The opposition will use] “every tool in the parliamentary toolkit in order to pressure the government and the Prime Minister to stop his cover-up and let Jody Wilson-Raybould speak.”
(g) Prime Minister’s Office.
(h) One of the world’s largest engineering firms.
(i) Accused of pressuring Jody Wilson-Raybould.
(j) Deferred Prosecution Agreement.
(k) “As the Prime Minister said earlier today, neither the Prime Minister nor his office put my predecessor or myself under pressure nor gave any directives.”
(l) Paid bribes to Saadi Gaddafi.
(m) Said “vigorous debate” within the PMO or between the PMO and ministers should not be considered the same as pressure for a minister to act a certain way.
(n) Adjourned on March 13th, to cries of “cover up” by opposition MPs.
(o) Is new to Canada, but is established practice in the United States and Britain
(p) Would be barred from federal contracts for ten years if convicted, said she was unwilling to intervene because she trusted the public prosecutor’s judgment.
(q) Has written to the RCMP to ask for a criminal investigation into possible obstruction of justice.
(r) Sought by SNC-Lavalin to avoid being prosecuted.
(s) Former Attorney General.
(t) Clerk of the Privy Council.
(u) Former Principal Secretary to Justin Trudeau.
(v) Denied that Ms. Wilson-Raybould was removed as justice minister because of her refusal to order negotiations with the engineering company.
(w) Has warned it is monitoring the Canadian government to ensure it lives up to its obligations under its anti-bribery convention to safeguard judicial independence in the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.
Consolidation of Learning:
- Students discuss their work later, or in a subsequent class.
- Students can name some of the key players in the Jody Wilson-Raybould controversy and describe the key issue.
- Ask students to report when they notice news items on the continuing controversy.