It appears that everyone got played, from the Canadian media to the Liberal Party and Jody Wilson-Raybould. The SNC Lavalin affair took out some of the biggest players in the Canadian government, including the prime minister’s principal advisor, clerk of the privy council, and the attorney general. It’s a stark reminder the election is on, even before the writ drops.
I will now perform the post mortem analysis, armed with new details that were hidden from testimony to the justice committee. The reality is this scandal had less to do with SNC Lavalin than it did with Jody Wilson-Raybould’s indigenous heritage. A campaign was afoot against the former attorney general by various partisan interests to undermine her reputation and hamstring Liberals from making legal progress on the Indigenous Rights Framework promise.
The only question is – was Jody Wilson-Raybould a completely unwitting target, or did she willingly participate at any point, against the interests of her party? Hopefully this assessment will provide her with a safer space to explain certain actions than the viciously skewed battle-ring constructed by Canada’s hyper-partisan media.
Please note that sources will be linked for your inspection, including archived copies of the same pages (where possible) in case originals are deleted from the internet.
This begins with a helpful timeline that puts agendas in greater perspective, followed by sections examining key players, the relevant conflicts between them, and the potential legal consequences for Canadian press freedom.
An Illuminating Timeline
2014 – Multiple charges are laid against SNC Lavalin executives, related to the Libyan bribery scandal.
February 13, 2015 – Sami Bebawi, the former vice president of SNC Lavalin construction, is released on bail for obstruction of justice charges related to the Libyan bribery scandal. Charges were originally filed in 2014, but the accused was delayed in returning to Canada. (original + archive)
February 11, 2016 – SNC Lavalin begins lobbying the prime minister’s office (PMO), Liberal cabinet ministers, and several opposition MP’s including Andrew Scheer (Conservative leader) and Jagmeet Singh (NDP leader) for a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA), after firing its bad apples from the company. (original + archive)
***Edit – After publishing, NDP candidates took to social media to deny Jagmeet Singh’s involvement. A link to the lobbying record between NDP officials and SNC Lavalin is now provided, to resolve that partisan attempt at misinformation. (original + archive) Also added is the full lobbying record of SNC Lavalin, identifying every government official from every party they met with, in an effort to secure a DPA. (original – click Monthly Communication Reports for chronological list)
July 8, 2016 – The Supreme Court of Canada rules on R v. Jordan, setting a precedent that defendants must be tried within 18 months of being criminally charged, or within 30 months if a preliminary inquiry is pursued. (original + archive)
December 12, 2017 – Justice Richard Wagner is appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. He was previously selected by former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Wagner is the son of a former Quebec Liberal cabinet minister and federal candidate for Conservative leadership. Peers describe his rulings as somewhat Conservative leaning, although he’s upheld Charter rights on significant cases favouring Liberals. (original + archive)
May, 2018 – A private member’s bill (C-262) by MP Romeo Saganash (NDP) to harmonize federal laws with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) passes the first reading, with Conservatives voting against it. (original + archive)
September, 2018 – The Liberal government implements deferred prosecution agreements (DPA’s) in the omnibus budget bill, bringing Canada up to speed with our trading partners – the United States, United Kingdom, and France – to ensure they don’t have an unfair advantage – also to protect employees and pensioners who were not involved in wrongdoing. (original + archive)
September, 2018 – While still Attorney General, Jody Wilson-Raybould battles with the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, Carolyn Bennett, over the implementation of an Indigenous Rights Framework. The Trudeau government promised this action, but Bennett was opposed to moving quickly enough for this to happen before the next election. She also opposed the Department of Justice having control of the legal aspects, despite the attorney general’s expertise. (original + archive)
End of October, 2018 – The Privy Council Office (PCO/Wernick) requests a legal opinion from the Department of Justice regarding the potential impacts if SNC Lavalin is criminally convicted. As attorney general, Jody Wilson-Raybould instructed her deputy minister to withhold that report. (original + archive)
This is arguably insubordination, for refusing to provide legal advice to the PMO. The request didn’t constitute pressure to offer a DPA; instead asking what happens when one is denied. The legislation enabling a deferred prosecution agreement had only been live for one month when the prosecutor denied this option to SNC Lavalin. Also denied was advice to seek outside legal guidance on using a DPA, by the attorney general.
November 28, 2018 – Jody Wilson-Raybould texts with Gerry Butts (PMO) about the Indigenous Rights Framework, to advise she fulfilled an important part of her mandate letter from the prime minister. She advises she would publish the Attorney General Indigenous Litigation Directive the following day and she’s very happy about it. Wilson-Raybould indicates she negotiated with fellow ministers and notably, Conservative lawyers within the Department of Justice, to gain their approval. She fielded concerns from the PMO on this very day and presumably gained their support, because Butts doesn’t respond for a week and never dissents. (original + Scribd docs)
December 11, 2018 – Jody Wilson-Raybould texts with Gerry Butts (PMO) again, this time inquiring about changes the prime minister wants to the Attorney General Indigenous Litigation Directive (informal working title), what the outcome was at a cabinet meeting, and if she had approval to distribute these guidelines. She assures Butts that she made all the changes required by “Elder” (Elder Marques, senior policy advisor to the prime minister). They wouldn’t resume texting again until a month later. (original + Scribd docs)
December 19, 2018 – Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick (PCO) meets with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for lunch. Wernick testified that he attempted to contact Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould later in the day at her home, to discuss SNC Lavalin and the consequences of her decision on whether to intervene in the case. (Some phone tag ensued before the two got in touch.) (original + archive)
December 19, 2018 – Jody Wilson-Raybould meets with ex Conservative prime minister Kim Campbell at a coffee shop in Vancouver, for advice on political interference in the attorney general’s office and the latter’s experience with the David Milgaard case for comparison. (original + archive)
December 19, 2018 – Jody Wilson-Raybould calls Michael Wernick back about the SNC Lavalin matter and records the conversation without informing him. (Bear in mind there is a three hour time difference between Ontario and British Columbia.) (video analysis + full call audio + archive)
As with many journalists, lawyers, and pundits, I argue this is a breach of ethics and give reasons in a viral Twitter essay. The thread addresses cabinet confidentiality and solicitor-client privilege as different paths to arrive at the same conclusion. (original + archive)
January 8, 2019 – After a few days of phone tag, Jody Wilson-Raybould learns she’s being moved from the attorney general post and texts with Gerry Butts (PMO) about the appearance of being “pushed out”. (original + Scribd docs)
January 9 & 10, 2019 – Jody Wilson-Raybould is on vacation in Bali. She and Gerry Butts (PMO) have trouble getting in touch with one another, and she acknowledges her fate being in his hands. Butts responds that it’s okay if she wants to tune out and enjoy her vacation for the next couple days. (original + Scribd docs)
January 11, 2019 – While still on vacation, Jody Wilson-Raybould publishes the Attorney General of Canada’s Directive on Civil Litigation Involving Indigenous Peoples on the Department of Justice (DOJ) website. It’s important to read this document in its entirety, because it’s at the heart of the current controversy and what the former attorney general is trying to protect – from Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett, Conservative lawyers in the DOJ, and through negotiations with cabinet, the PCO (Wernick), and PMO (Butts/Trudeau/Elder). (original + archive)
January 14, 2019 – Dr. Jane Philpott is shuffled from Minister of Indigenous Services to President of the Treasury Board and Minister of Digital Government. Jody Wilson-Raybould is shuffled from the Attorney General’s Office and Minister of Justice, to become the Minister of Veterans Affairs. (original + archive)
In response, Wilson-Raybould publishes a poignant letter addressing Indigenous issues that was subsequently deleted from the Liberal website upon ejecting her from the party. (original PDF now missing)
February 7, 2019 – The Globe and Mail publishes an exposé that claims the PMO politically interfered in the SNC Lavalin prosecution and placed undue pressure on Jody Wilson-Raybould to offer the corporation a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA). Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Principal Secretary Gerry Butts (PMO), and Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick (PCO) all denied the allegation, that was based on an anonymous source. (archive for those without a subscription)
One point of contention is the leaker cited confidential information within the Prime Minister’s Office that only staff in the PMO or PCO would be privy to.
February 12, 2019 – Jody Wilson-Raybould resigns as Minister of Veterans Affairs. A number of anonymous sources leaked to media that senior government officials, including the prime minister, tried to negotiate with Wilson-Raybould for weeks leading up to this moment. They say the former attorney general had a number of conditions, such as apologizing and firing Gerry Butts, as well as Michael Wernick – but obviously that mediation was unsuccessful.
Five conditions were reported but the leakers would only describe three, with no explanation why they withheld part of the information. This indicates again that only Cabinet, the PCO, and PMO would have been privy to these details, to be able to inform reporters. (original + archive)
February 18, 2019 – Gerald Butts (aka Gerry) resigns as Principal Advisor to the Prime Minister. His letter is distributed to the public and he cites anonymous allegations against him regarding SNC Lavalin as the reason for his departure. He says those allegations are false and reiterates his good working relationship with Jody Wilson-Raybould throughout. This positive relationship is supported by Wilson-Raybould’s similar recollections and the text messages they shared previously, in contrast to the media’s depiction as adversarial. (original + archive)
February 22, 2019 – Conservative MP Lisa Raitt, Deputy Leader of the Opposition, floats the idea that Jody Wilson-Raybould believed she was removed as the attorney general due to her position on the Indigenous reconciliation file. (original + archive)
February 27, 2019 – Jody Wilson-Raybould testifies at the justice committee. She claims to have faced undue pressure to intervene in the SNC Lavalin case and offer a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA). (original transcript + archive)
February 27, 2019 – Self-professed Liberal strategist (and lawyer) Warren Kinsella publishes a photo of his wife, Lisa Kinsella, hugging Jody Wilson-Raybould upon conclusion of her testimony. This caused a stir on social media where he also posted and it was deleted shortly after. However, the Google cache retained a copy from the original webpage. (original deleted + cache copy + archive)
February 28, 2019 – Social media and Liberal activist ‘Paddy O’Limerick’ commented about the photo Warren Kinsella posted on Twitter of his wife hugging Jody Wilson-Raybould, in connection with the SNC Lavalin scandal. (archive)
Kinsella responded by trying to obtain her personal information in a threatening way and the internet considered this a threat to dox her.
Concerned individuals reported the threat to Twitter, but the social media company declined to intervene because ‘Paddy’s’ personal information had not yet been published. They decided that threats to publicly identify a user’s name and address are within the terms of service. (original + archive)
While Twitter may condone this behaviour and driving women off the internet, I warned the parties that Pat (aka Patty, Paddy) is the wife of a police officer through my personal and professional knowledge. This is why she uses an alias, to protect the safety of her family. (original + archive)
It is unknown if doxxing is considered conduct unbecoming of a lawyer by any law society. I’m not aware of a professional complaint being filed, although additional considerations about Mr. Kinsella are addressed in a subsequent section.
March 4, 2019 – Dr. Jane Philpott resigns as Treasury Board President and Minister of Digital Government. She makes this decision in support of Jody Wilson-Raybould and claims she has lost confidence in this government, over the handling of SNC Lavalin. (original + archive)
March 6, 2019 – Former Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, Gerald Butts (aka Gerry), testifies at the justice committee. He doesn’t wish to quarrel with Jody Wilson-Raybould about their recollection of events, but denies putting pressure on the ex attorney general regarding SNC Lavalin. Instead he reports in their December 5, 2018 meeting that she was primarily concerned with the Indigenous rights and civil litigation directive. (original transcript + archive)
March 6, 2019 – Clerk of the Privy Council, Michael Wernick, testifies again and publishes a supplementary statement on the government website. In the last paragraph he warns the justice committee needs to investigate the Attorney General of Canada’s Directive on Civil Litigation Involving Indigenous Peoples that Jody Wilson-Raybould published on January 11, 2019, because ‘it marks a profound change in the legal landscape’. He advises it can be easily rescinded, and characterizes the question of support for Wilson-Raybould’s directive as an election wedge issue. (original + archive)
March 8, 2019 – A federal judge rejects SNC Lavalin’s application for judicial review of the prosecutor’s refusal to negotiate a DPA. The court cited the company’s failure to suggest there had been an abuse of process. (original + archive)
March 18, 2019 – Michael Wernick resigns as Clerk of the Privy Council. He cites the non-partisan duties of an impending election and that ‘there is no path to have a relationship of mutual trust and respect with the leaders of the Opposition parties’. (original + archive)
March 19, 2019 – The Trudeau Liberal government delivers the federal (election) budget, but it fails to gain much traction against the political sniping surrounding Jody Wilson-Raybould and SNC Lavalin. (original + archive)
March 19, 2019 – A photo is sent to Susan Delacourt (Liberal columnist at the Toronto Star and iPolitics) depicting Jody Wilson-Raybould, Dr. Jane Philpott, and Lisa Kinsella engaged in a post-budget chat at Chateau Laurier. Kinsella is Warren’s wife and his partner in the Daisy Group political consulting business. She was with Wilson-Raybould at the conclusion of the latter’s testimony as well. (original + archive)
March 20, 2019 – Retired judge, Brian Giesbrecht, publishes a screed against Jody Wilson-Raybould for her directive to the Department of Justice regarding Indigenous rights and how to approach civil litigation involving Section 35 matters. Giesbrecht claims that Jody Wilson-Raybould instructed federal lawyers not to appeal decisions against the government and a wide range of boogeyman allegations; but that simplistic regurgitation isn’t wholly true, nor is it a reasonable representation of the former attorney general’s guidelines. For context, Giesbrecht is a senior fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy – a known Conservative institution. He also published in Troy Media, that plainly states it is a Conservative operation. (original + archive)
March 21, 2019 – Dr. Jane Philpott gives an exclusive interview to Macleans and claims, “There’s much more to the story that needs to be told.” She encourages the government to tell Canadians the truth, but withholds what truth she’s talking about. (original + archive)
March 24, 2019 – Owner of the Daisy Group political consulting firm, Warren Kinsella, trades friendly repartée with ex Conservative prime minister Kim Campbell and brags about his nickname as the Prince of Darkness. (archive)
March 25, 2019 – An anonymous source leaks that Jody Wilson-Raybould recommended Justice Glenn Joyal for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. This information is highly confidential and she is criticized for backing a known Conservative, who took issue with Charter rights being used as a means of political activism to ‘govern from the bench’.
This source knew the former attorney general submitted a 60-page report in support of Joyal and the only people who would have known this fine detail are close colleagues in the Department of Justice, the PCO/PMO, or the ‘independent’ advisory board that was headed by former Conservative Prime Minister Kim Campbell. (original + archive)
March 25, 2019 – Chief Justice Glenn Joyal of the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench slams the government leaker and Canadian media for engaging in a political smear campaign using his name. Joyal corrects the propaganda and reports that he withdrew his name from Supreme Court deliberations due to his wife’s cancer diagnosis before a decision was made. (archive for those without a subscription)
March 26, 2019 – One day later, another anonymous source peddled more detailed information about Jody Wilson-Raybould’s thought process behind nominating Justice Glenn Joyal over Justice Richard Wagner. This leaker had such exclusive access to the highest levels of government that they must have received the former attorney general’s 60-page nomination report. These details indicate a serious breach in parliamentary security. (archive for those without a subscription)
March 26, 2019 – Self-proclaimed Liberal strategist (also attorney) Warren Kinsella slams Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as blameworthy for the leak about Justice Joyal and the Supreme Court appointments process. He claims the PMO is responsible for a campaign to smear Jody Wilson-Raybould. (original + archive)
April 1, 2019 – A preliminary inquiry concludes and a judge must decide if there is enough evidence to proceed with a trial against the SNC Lavalin corporation, regarding the Libyan bribery scandal. (original + archive)
April 1, 2019 – Bill C-262 (by Romeo Saganash, NDP) to harmonize federal laws with Indigenous rights enters the second reading at the senate level. The Assembly of First Nations urges support to pass this legislation (given that Conservatives voted against it). (original + archive)
April 2, 2019 – Former Principal Secretary Gerry Butts (PMO) submits his text messages with Jody Wilson-Raybould in response to her testimony at the justice committee, and to supplement his own statement. They largely confirm both parties’ recollections that SNC Lavalin was hardly mentioned. (original + Scribd docs)
April 2, 2019 – Jody Wilson-Raybould and Dr. Jane Philpott are ejected from the Liberal Party of Canada. The former shares an impassioned plea about remaining with the party, but the prime minister reports that trust is broken with the government caucus. (original + archive)
Wilson-Raybould urges, “… rather than letting authority be the truth, let truth be the authority.”
April 3, 2019 – Jody Wilson-Raybould attends the Daughters of the Vote event on Parliament Hill. She cites supporting the young ladies, but also ex Conservative Prime Minister Kim Campbell, whom she believes is an “amazing person”. (original + archive)
April 4, 2019 – Bullets are fired at the home of Toronto city councilor, John Filion, and CBC host, Anna Maria Tremonti. The event is so recent that police don’t know if the attacker was motivated by his municipal work, or possibly her coverage of Jody Wilson-Raybould. (original + archive)
April 5, 2019 – Conrad Black publishes a screed against Jody Wilson-Raybould in the National Post. He opens by accusing the former attorney general of advancing Indigenous causes at the “expense of the Canadian national interest”. Only after attacking her racial heritage does he continue with the SNC Lavalin matter. (original + archive)
For context, Conrad Black was publisher of the National Post and that newspaper was founded by fellows from the Fraser Institute, in an effort to broadcast more Conservative voices into Canadian media. This included Ezra Levant, Jon Kay, and Conservative Member of Parliament John Williamson. (original + archive)
Black cited his motivation as a response to the Globe and Mail; a publication the disgraced Lord deemed to be a Liberal platform. But the Globe and Mail has since revealed its own Conservative bias, when editor-in-chief David Walmsly overrode the editorial board’s endorsement of a Liberal government. In a haphazard fashion, it was changed to support one of the worst-performing Conservative leaders in Canadian history and silence the paper’s journalists. (original + archive)
April 5, 2019 – Now as an independent member of parliament, Jody Wilson-Raybould provides an interview to Mercedes Stephenson at Global News. The ex attorney general makes a valid point that she was never criticized or disciplined for her job performance prior to resigning from cabinet. Even as the Globe and Mail allegations broke pertaining to SNC Lavalin, the prime minister and principal secretary supported her. It therefore stands to reason that any criticism afterwards may be classified as a smear campaign. (original + archive)
Insofar as getting a fair shake from colleagues and media goes, it doesn’t appear that Mercedes Stephenson disclosed her conflict of interest with Jody Wilson-Raybould. In 2010 the journalist participated with Gerry Butts in penning a report for the G20 that praised the effect of climate change opening the Canadian Arctic for business. It was crass and harboured racist attitudes toward the Indigenous peoples and their traditional food sources. (Scribd doc)
Liberal Women Divided Over Indigenous Affairs
If you skipped it before, it would be prudent to read Jody Wilson-Raybould’s Attorney General of Canada’s Directive on Civil Litigation Involving Indigenous Peoples now. (original + archive) It was the most important work she did at the Department of Justice and the most controversial to Conservative opponents, as well as Michael Wernick (PCO) and nail-biters in the PMO.
A full reading indicates she did not preclude government appeals against Indigenous claims, as the retired Conservative judge exclaimed. In fact, she walked an incredibly careful path to fulfill her mandate from the prime minister without hamstringing government lawyers from addressing Section 35 matters and civil litigation. Jody Wilson-Raybould did what she was instructed to accomplish. This despite opposition from Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett, and misogynist whisper campaigns that she was “difficult”.
Dr. Bennett carries herself like the white saviour of Indigenous peoples and it’s plain to see she resented any lived and legal experience from Jody Wilson-Raybould. Michael Wernick (PCO) went so far as to defend Dr. Bennett’s honour in his justice committee testimony and the policy spat he revealed between the women was widely covered by the media. It’s just unfortunate the narrative was spun to impugn the former attorney general as the party who was being “difficult”. That’s an entirely different ilk of putting pressure on Wilson-Raybould, to see her name destroyed if she didn’t come to another minister’s heel. (original + archive)
Moreover, Dr. Bennett came to Michael Wernick’s defence when he was appointed by Trudeau as Clerk of the Privy Council. Previously Wernick was the Deputy Minister of Indian (sic) Affairs under the leadership of former Conservative prime minister, Stephen Harper. These were cruel years to First Nations and he was part of the campaign that implemented spying and disruption tactics against Indigenous advocates. (original + archive)
Cindy Blackstock is only one example and she was tormented for filing a human rights claim as executive director of the First Nation Child and Family Caring Society. The Assembly of First Nations supported Blackstock and she eventually won in a ruling that blasted the federal government for discriminating against Indigenous children by underfunding child welfare agencies on reserves.
Wernick was tasked with an investigation into the spying allegations and he fudged a report to absolve the Conservative administration of any wrongdoing whatsoever. He was later refuted by the privacy commissioner who independently investigated and confirmed the anti-Indigenous spy campaign was in fact true. (original + archive)
In Wernick’s testimony to the justice committee, he acknowledged a policy stand-off between Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett and Minister of Justice/Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould. But Wernick never describes the policy they disagreed about and the only one it wouldn’t be is SNC Lavalin.
Dr. Philpott was the Minister of Indigenous Services and had to work with Dr. Bennett on the most regular basis out of all the cabinet ministers. Their jobs were related to serve the Indigenous population and both these women are physicians. But Dr. Philpott took a principled stand and supported Jody Wilson-Raybould, as an Indigenous attorney general, over Dr. Bennett and every other person in Cabinet.
Philpott repeatedly warns there is more to this story and she compels Cabinet to be honest with the Canadian people. She accuses the prime minister and his closest advisors of ‘shutting down the story’, but never reveals what part of the story she feels is being silenced.
Likewise, Jody Wilson-Raybould won’t disclose two of her conditions for staying with the party, before her unceremonious ejection occurred. The high-ranking government leakers who peddled that story to multiple news agencies won’t discuss those two conditions either.
Despite Gerry Butts tabling his text messages with Jody Wilson-Raybould, her Attorney General of Canada’s Directive on Civil Litigation Involving Indigenous Peoples is the one thing that can’t be mentioned – even though it was part of their recurring discussions and part of the justice committee evidence.
But key Conservatives are squawking about it and Micheal Wernick tried to make this directive an election issue. In some circles it’s been suggested that Jody Wilson-Raybould owed a deferred prosecution agreement to SNC Lavalin, to equalize the favoured treatment she’s been accused of giving to First Nations.
In a text conversation with the prime minister’s principal advisor, Wilson-Raybould further discusses the approval she needed from Conservative lawyers within the Department of Justice. The DOJ is supposed to be non-partisan, yet two of the highest-ranking officials in the country acknowledged needing that partisan buy-in to be able to proceed with the Indigenous directive. No one is questioning the tyranny of an attorney general needing to pacify the Opposition within the public service.
Jody Wilson-Raybould may have committed an ethical breach when she recorded Michael Wernick without informing him. It appears she may have been insubordinate when she instructed her deputy minister to withhold the legal opinion on SNC Lavalin from the Privy Council. This requires discipline.
If we were to view this situation through a tort law lens, it could be compared to a drunk driving accident. The drunk driver causes the accident, but the victim with injuries wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. In cases like these the victim is still entitled to damages, but they lose 25 percent of the settlement due to their part in the negligence for failing to wear a seatbelt. In Canadian law our judgment doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing.
It’s apparent there were extenuating circumstances for Jody Wilson-Raybould and a multi-faceted political campaign to deeply undermine her. It doesn’t seem even-handed to throw the baby out with the bathwater, and Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples along with it. The former attorney general’s Indigenous directive is at stake and this is a decisive moment in Canadian history. Whether Cabinet and mainstream media want to discuss this or not, the repercussions of excluding Wilson-Raybould for writing that directive will reverberate for decades. This also comes after the Conservative experiment with attempting to manipulate Senator Patrick Brazeau.
Dr. Philpott and Ms. Wilson-Raybould were willing to sit as back benchers and still contribute the wealth of their experience to representing constituents. Extraordinary investments were made in their professional development and it’s being wasted so a timid government can keep secrets about Indigenous issues as we head into an election. The Conservatives and NDP must not have wanted to be pigeonholed on reconciliation either, because it was their duty to know this and they chose to ignore or remain silent.
The truth of the matter with SNC Lavalin is that two executives were exonerated when everyone wasn’t looking. Lengthy court delays intervened to make this a non-issue; and the Jordan ruling may yet prevail to dismiss the case against the corporation. If SNC Lavalin is forced to trial, they could still plead political interference based on the government leakers and partisan media spectacle over the past two months, non-stop. This isn’t a justifiable reason to discourage women in politics, or sever communication with Indigenous partners.
On Warren Kinsella’s Inner Battle With Liberals
I’m well aware that Mr. Kinsella threatens lawsuits against his detractors liberally. We tangoed once before when his wife was an executive at ORNGE (the Ontario air ambulance) and that company was spectacularly scandalized. This section will begin by taking that elephant out of the room and thanking Kathleen Wynne for SLAPP legislation that was long overdue in Ontario. If Kinsella engages in silencing tactics anyway, perhaps the Ottawa bubble will pitch in for a Kickstarter campaign to fund a proper defence of press freedom. Preaching for Jody Wilson-Raybould to be allowed to speak her truth doesn’t mesh with censoring the analysts who know a thing or two about it.
It’s become necessary to address the Kinsellas because they’re ingratiating themselves to Jody Wilson-Raybould and implanting their influence in the SNC Lavalin matter. The former attorney general wouldn’t be familiar with the company she’s been keeping, or their conflict of interest with Indigenous issues that are being muffled by all the players.
Warren Kinsella projects himself as a Liberal strategist, and indeed he was integral to the Ontario McGuinty government. (archive) He was also a staffer to Jean Chrétien, who was eventually undone by Paul Martin in a Liberal family coup. McGuinty was turfed as one of the most shady administrations and these rifts within the party have never quite healed. (archive) You can gauge that damage through the behaviour of Sheila Copps, lately on social media.
Gerry Butts is the best friend of current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, but he was McGuinty’s principal secretary before assuming the same role with Trudeau. (archive) Both Kinsella and Butts were instrumental to the Liberal administration when the ORNGE bribery/kickback scheme was transpiring.
The maiden name of Warren’s wife is Lisa Kirbie. She was one of the most central figures to the ORNGE scandal, as the director of government relations. She handled the paperwork for ORNGE, to-and-from government, that was pivotal to the police investigation. (original + archive)
Uncovering the problems at ORNGE occurred because an issue of public safety arose for patients they were transporting. It ballooned into an alleged $4.7 million boondoggle and Kirbie was fired from the company in the course of the fallout. She was offered a severance package, but sued for more on the basis of damages for sexual harassment allegations that were filed after being terminated. (original + archive)
Before leaving the company, Kirbie secretly recorded executives in her effort to substantiate the allegations, that included holding Alfred Apps responsible for the ORNGE scandal as the “mastermind”. Apps was a lawyer for ORNGE and president of the Liberal Party of Canada. He adamantly denied Kirbie’s accusations, but was turfed as party president due to the bad press. (original + archive)
Not only did Apps leave his post at the helm of the Liberal Party, but he also resigned from Fasken Martineau. The law firm continued to represent ORNGE and Apps departed to practice with his brother. He says that departure had nothing to do with the ORNGE file. Nor has he ever been charged with an offence. (original + archive)
As a sidebar, Fasken Martineau is now representing Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, to defend against libel allegations levied by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau regarding the SNC Lavalin dispute. (original + archive)
Kirbie was dating Kinsella at the time of the ORNGE scandal and they married a short while later. It’s unknown what came of her wrongful dismissal suit, but her secret recordings never resulted in criminal repercussions for the company. Only the key colleagues she worked with were terminated or resigned in kind. Their reputations were also destroyed. (original + archive)
Continuing, Warren Kinsella is one of the grandfathers of negative attack ads in Canadian politics and he is proud to defend that strategy. (archive) He is a practising lawyer in Ontario, subject to the Rules of Professional Conduct. (original) He’s the owner/operator of The Daisy Group, a political and public relations consulting firm. (archive) He’s also a Sun Media columnist, who once skirted a libel suit brought by a diplomat based on a technicality. (original + archive)
Kinsella defended Ezra Levant’s Sun News Network when the channel was closed, as a matter of press freedom that ignored the bigotry and racism it promoted. It was a sister to the Sun newspaper where Kinsella publishes and he frequently appeared on their political television programs. (archive)
Sun Media was owned by Québecor until 2015. (archive) And former Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney remains Chairman of the Board at Québecor. (original + archive) Pierre Karl Péladeau is the CEO of Québecor and past CEO of Sun Media, as well as being the former Leader of the Parti Québécois. He’s best known for his political stance as a Québec separatist and ran for the PQ in a riding that is a stone’s throw from Justin Trudeau’s Liberal constituency. (archive) These are, or have been, the employers of Warren Kinsella.
On the political front, and despite Kinsella’s professed Liberal identity, he worked the John Tory municipal campaign and counts Nick Kouvalis as a best friend. (archive) John Tory is the former leader of Ontario Progressive Conservatives and in that time he ran against Dalton McGuinty for premier. (archive) Nick Kouvalis ran Kellie Leitch’s campaign for leadership of the federal Conservatives, that was widely denounced for racism, Islamophobia, and the pursuit of a snitch line. (archive) He also has a criminal record for drunk driving and an incident related to a different Conservative campaign. (archive) The beef between Canadian media and Kouvalis is that he embraced and defended the spread of fake news, as a source that gleefully libelled Justin Trudeau. (archive)
On April 1, 2019 Kinsella and Kouvalis collaborated again, for the purpose of a Sun News article that was a takedown of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Kinsella promoted Kouvalis as a trustworthy authority, and among their comments was a nod to #Gropegate (wherein Trudeau was accused of inappropriately touching a reporter). They further noted that PMJT can only win the impending election if he picks up more votes in Québec. Coincidentally, that’s where SNC Lavalin is located. (archive)
But in that article Kinsella forgot to disclose that he was the source of #Gropegate. He forgot to disclose that he advised one of Kent Hehr’s accusers, while also writing extensively about that #MeToo scandal that resulted in Hehr’s removal from the federal Liberal Cabinet. (archive)
Although Warren Kinsella vows he is a Liberal strategist, he has a history of batting for more than one team and sniping out more high profile Liberals than the Opposition could dream of. He was ejected from the Olivia Chow mayoral campaign and the feeling was apparently mutual. (archive) He’s attempting to assist the Conservative’s Andrew Scheer in the current election against Trudeau. (archive) In the Hill Times he’s attempting to assist the NDP’s Jagmeet Singh. (archive) All the while Kinsella claims to be close enough to the PMO to know that former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney is the (Conservative) leader that Trudeau speaks with most frequently. (archive)
He even harbours ill feelings toward former Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin and former Liberal Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. For the record, it was Martin who recruited Jody Wilson-Raybould on behalf of Justin Trudeau. (archive)
Kinsella has an interesting take on what constitutes a conflict of interest, but none could be more concerning than his precarious situation and attitude toward Indigenous matters.
In celebrating the Daisy Group’s 10-year anniversary, Kinsella boasted about some of his clients. They include: all levels of the Liberal Party, bar associations, law firms, the Department of Justice (where Jody Wilson-Raybould used to work), Indian (sic) Affairs (where Michael Wernick used to work), and a couple of First Nations. (archive)
Warren Kinsella fathered a child from the Carcross Tagish First Nation. He’s deleted most entries that cited his daughter, but kept one published that notes the reserve’s recent support for Jody Wilson-Raybould. (archive)
Other entries on Kinsella’s personal website that reference his Indigenous daughter are deleted from 2012, during Stephen Harper’s tenure. The following titles are no longer available:
Aug 2012 – In Carcross Tagish Territory Tonight
Sept 2012 – CTFN: This Is My Daughter’s First Nation
More recently he deleted an entry about his wife’s involvement with Jody Wilson-Raybould, surrounding her justice committee testimony. Now missing from the site is this title:
It should be noted that Lisa Kinsella joined the Daisy Group as a managing partner after leaving ORNGE. She’s originally from British Columbia, where Jody Wilson-Raybould calls home.
So Warren Kinsella and the Daisy Group have professionally represented First Nations, including the one where his daughter resides. (archive) But he also claims to have been an advisor to former prime ministers Chrétien, Martin, and Harper on Indigenous issues and doesn’t see it as a conflict of interest. Representing the government’s Indian (sic) Affairs didn’t ring any warning bells either. (archive)
To read the tone of Kinsella’s sentiments toward Indigenous peoples is confusing at best. He sympathizes with their suffering, yet also claims that Indigenous leaders bear much responsibility for the ongoing crises. He wields accusations that have been decried as racist, such as blaming elders for misappropriating their government reparations. For example, Kinsella took a hard line against Attawapiskat and Chief Theresa Spence. (archive)
He further describes his position at the Daisy Group as a government and public relations consultant who is “living in spin” and an “apprentice of the dark arts”. (archive)
On the serious side however, the Carcross Tagish First Nation is where the Klondike Gold Rush began. It was also one of the first Indigenous reserves converted to a fee simple municipality, as the Harper Conservatives formed government. The negotiations transpired under Paul Martin’s Liberals and came into effect in 2006. The agreement extinguished Indigenous rights in many regards and opened their land for mining, akin to SNC Lavalin interests. It also brought them into the Canadian taxation schedule. (original government link + downloadable PDF, 583 pages)
Warren Kinsella failed to see the irony when his daughter’s First Nation, the one that he represented, gave him a carving of a shark turning into a man. (archive)
Within six years of signing onto the fee simple municipality structure, the Carcross Tagish First Nation was fighting to change the agreement. A number of clauses in the settlement with government prevent that from happening, however. (original + archive)
The client list at Daisy Group is full of potential conflicts, between groups and governments, First Nations and governments, as well as various businesses and governments. Unfortunately Warren Kinsella’s policy to deal with these conflicts is not as prominently featured. (archive)
What Kinsella did to silence his detractors is possibly just as alarming. He sued Twitter because the social media giant didn’t remove a post that was critical of his adventures. Instead of going after the commentator for libel and proving the allegation, he forced Twitter to settle with him or face the prospect of setting a legal precedent that would undoubtedly affect its investors. Twitter settled with Kinsella for $200,000. (original + archive)
And then, somehow, Twitter became a Daisy Group client. (archive)
Only Jody Wilson-Raybould knows if the Kinsellas disclosed these details to her. Only she can tell us if she was aware that the attorney general’s Indigenous directive conflicts with the fee simple approach. Regardless of her knowledge though, SNC Lavalin has an interest in the way this plays out.
Potential Legal Consequences For Canada & Canadian Journalism
A number of leaks have now occurred from the highest levels of the Canadian government. Whether it’s about the policy on deferred prosecution agreements, deliberations for a Supreme Court judge, the Khadr settlement (archive), or Jody Wilson-Raybould’s conditions to Cabinet, only the PMO, PCO, or Department of Justice could be responsible for them. A campaign to remove the attorney general couldn’t be more clear and two of the people who aren’t behind this are Wilson-Raybould and Trudeau.
But as a country we are nonetheless facing a severe security breach. It must be investigated to resolve the integrity of the federal government and the sanctity of operations – especially with an election approaching. That would mean trying to obtain records from journalists that are supposed to be protected, to determine the identity of leakers.
Recently Vice News was responsible for setting a precedent that already stripped away journalists’ ability to protect sources, unless they are anonymous. As expected, the Canadian media resorted to using only anonymous sources after that decision. But now we have a national security risk that can only be mitigated by chipping away at what was left of press freedom and the new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada may become responsible for managing that outcome. (original + archive)
It is with great regret that I bring this to everyone’s attention. The reason I’ve done this is to spark a genuine, adult conversation about the consequential issues that are going on behind the superficial headlines. So long as we continue to believe the problem is over a DPA with SNC Lavalin, we will continue to fail at addressing these substantive threats to the Canadian – Indigenous relationship.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his lifelong friend, Gerald Butts, enjoy seeking sage advice in historical and contemporary literature. On that note this dispatch will close with a few words of that nature.
“The willingness to change one’s mind in the light of new evidence is the sign of rationality, not weakness.” Stuart Sutherland
(Full disclosure: When I took time off from journalism, I was the director of a federal Liberal riding association – the one that had to contend with Conservative Kellie Leitch. I have never participated in politics while reporting on them and my ethical values on managing conflicts of interest are set in stone. I guest lecture on matters of ethics and the partisan effect on press freedom, and I’ve been an advisor to the Inter American Press Association. I even managed to score myself a spot on Stephen Harper’s so-called ‘Enemy List’. I believe journalists have a fundamental right to vote and be knowledgeable about the issues, but that we cannot wear two hats at the same time and exploit our personal experiences for professional gain.)