A Judge’s Misjudgment on SNC-Lavalin


Convivium, 16 August 2019

Former Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci broke no rules handling the file that has ethically compromised Justin Trudeau but his role seems unbecoming, argues Father Raymond de Souza.

The ethics commissioner’s report was damning on the conduct of Justin Trudeau. But there are more figures in this tale than the prime minister and more worrying behaviour than just the prime minister’s illegal bullying of his attorney-general. 

Another aspect that raises questions is the role of former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci, who served on the court from 1991 to 2004. There is no question of Justice Iacobucci engaging in illegal or unethical conduct. But there is a question of what is becoming for a former supreme court justice.

NC-Lavalin bought the best influence money could buy. In 2018, as it was lobbying at maximum intensity for the government to change the law to exempt it from a criminal trial for alleged overseas bribery, it named as chairman of its board of directors the former clerk of the privy council, Kevin Lynch. The clerk is the prime minister’s deputy minister and head of the civil service. He would call the actual clerk, Michael Wernick, to press SNC-Lavalin’s case, namely that the clerk should pressure the attorney-general to reverse her decision regarding SNC. It was grossly improper for the clerk to exert such pressure, as the ethics commissioner has found. It was at least mildly improper for him to even take Lynch’s call on that matter. Wernick subsequently resigned, the first clerk to do so in a political and legal scandal.

The collusion of the former and actual clerks to influence the attorney-general to favour SNC-Lavalin was clearly out-of-bounds, if not strictly illegal. The case of Iacobucci is more complicated but still troubling.

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