The minister of Justice said to be considering a separation of the role of attorney general
OTTAWA — The federal minister of Justice, David Lametti, said to ask if Canada would be better to separate the offices of attorney general and minister of Justice in the wake of the controversy around the engineering firm SNC-Lavalin. The idea has the support of people who personally know the work.
The ex-minister of Justice, which is located in the heart of the political storm was even asked to investigate the possibility of such a separation. During his testimony in the explosive in front of the justice Committee of the House of commons this week, Jody Wilson-Raybould stated that it believed to be relevant as the committee considers the separation of the roles of attorney general and minister of Justice.
The minister of Justice belongs to the political executive and reports to the prime minister. It should handle a federal ministry, with important statutory responsibilities. On the other side, the attorney general is a legal authority independent of who has the last word on how to deal with cases of charges by the bias of the public prosecution Service of Canada. It has the duty to protect its decisions from all concerns partisan.
The fact that Ms. Wilson-Raybould occupied both positions, as it is customary in Canada, and represents a major issue of the controversy to determine whether Justin Trudeau and his entourage have exerted undue pressure to allow SNC-Lavalin to obtain a repair agreement, and to avoid criminal prosecution in connection with corruption allegations.
In his testimony, Wednesday, Jody Wilson-Raybould referred to the case of the United Kingdom, where the two roles are distinct. The two posts are occupied by elected officials, but the attorney general does not sit in the council of ministers.
“The two hats worn by the minister of Justice and the attorney general in our country are completely different and I think it would be good to consider to rely on two separate people,” said the ex-liberal minister.
Ms. Wilson-Raybould has described a number of meetings in which she and her staff were in a hurry to exercise the option to legally charge the director of public prosecutions, Kathleen Roussel, to negotiate a repair agreement with SNC-Lavalin.
Last month, the clerk of the privy Council, Michael Wernick, told the committee that these discussions were perfectly legal and were not undue pressure on the attorney general, who would have been assured repeatedly assured by Mr. Trudeau that the final decision was left to him.
A version with which Ms. Wilson-Raybould did not agree, stating that it considered this pressure as inappropriate, even if it was legal.
Before the Empire Club of Toronto, David Lametti said that the director of public prosecutions was already functioning independently of the minister of Justice and attorney general, which creates an appropriate separation between judicial affairs and the government, according to him.
However, it acknowledges that the current controversy could justify a greater separation of roles, without specifying whether he was himself favourable.
“There are challenges and you need to try to differentiate between your hats and know when you are wearing your hat of minister, and when you have to put your hat of attorney general, he said. There are good arguments for the split.”
In contrast, the minister Lametti points out that “there is also a 150-year history of a common position that has worked well in Canada. The problems that we have experienced this week do not occur all the time and this may be an indication that the system can work”.
The former minister conservative of Justice, Rob Nicholson, who had already pronounced against the idea of separating the roles now claims to have changed his mind.
The former minister of Justice and attorney general of Ontario, Michael Bryant, believes that the separation of jobs could solve the problems of political interference. However, a complete independence of the attorney general with the government could mean that the ideological shifts following a change of government would not be reflected in decisions related to prosecution of the government.