The president of the Canadian Bar Association is commending Jody Wilson-Raybould for her actions this week in holding the Government of Canada accountable, adding that the legal community will likely study them for years to come.
“I am very proud of her as a lawyer, that she put her ethics above any other consideration. She put the duties of her job and the duties of her profession above all else, and that is what lawyers are expected to do,” said Raymond Adlington during an interview.
The Yukon arm of the association is hosting a conference at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Mar. 1. That is why Adlington is in the territory.
In a watershed moment, Wilson-Raybould, the former attorney general and justice minister, testified on Feb. 27 that she had received “consistent and sustained” pressure from officials in the Prime Minister’s Office and others to green light a deferred prosecution agreement for SNC-Lavalin – to intervene politically, in other words, to insulate the engineering company from a criminal trial.
In choosing to not overrule the director of public prosecutions, whom chose not to offer a remediation agreement, Wilson-Raybould did her job in upholding the law, Adlington said.
“The independence of our prosecutors is one of the cornerstones of our Canadian criminal justice system. It’s always been apolitical. That’s our system. To politicize it is a dangerous shift, because then who gets prosecuted and who doesn’t?”
And, he said, Wilson-Raybould didn’t jump the gun. She waited until the time was right, because she had been bound by solicitor-client privilege.
“She did not speak until appropriately authorized by her client, the Government of Canada.”
Adlington called Wilson-Raybould “courageous.”
“It took a lot of courage to behave the way she did in the face of people coming to her and constantly asking her to reconsider,” he said. “The way that she conducted herself throughout this entire piece is what we should all aspire to in terms of our conduct with our clients. That this is what the rule of law is supposed to look like.”
To politicize a decision like this would be “inappropriate,” Adlington continued.
“It sort of harkens back to the ‘Lock her up’ era of two years ago,” he said, referring to the 2016 election campaign of President Donald Trump and his relentless attacks on Hillary Clinton. “That’s what it can move towards, if you start politicizing the prosecution process.”
It’s important to zoom out from the situation, it could be said, as the saga is far from over. That Wilson-Raybould testified is but one piece, Adlington said. Other officials, current and former, are likely to follow suit, including, reportedly, Gerald Butts, who was Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s most senior advisor (he resigned last month in the wake of the issue, the whisperings of which were first broke by The Globe and Mail on Feb 7).
“There’s been no findings that pressure was exerted or not exerted,” Adlington said. “She told her story.”
Trudeau has since attempted to dismiss that story, saying that he “completely disagrees” with her testimony.
“I strongly maintain, as I have from the beginning, that I and my staff always acted appropriately and professionally. I, therefore, completely disagree with the former attorney general’s characterizations of events,” he said, according to a transcript of his comments published by the Toronto Star.
Other MPs, Adlington said, have “mansplained” Wilson-Raybould.
Ultimately, he said, it’s up to Canadians to decide during the upcoming federal election what should happen and whether there should be a change in government, noting that the most appropriate forum for debate is within the political realm.
It’s a “Canadian tradition” that the attorney general and justice minister are held by the same person, Adlington said, noting that the association would welcome a review into whether they should be separated.
“There ought to be a public discussion, because we are a democratic society and this is something that shouldn’t be decided by a few, it should be decided by many, after sort of a rigorous consultation process around what are these roles, and do we want them filled by the same individual?” he said.
Contact Julien Gignac at email@example.com