Political Canadiana-February 17, 2019

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Some of the most interesting pieces in Canadian political and historical news from February 10–17, 2019.

One of the most interesting issues in Canadian politics right now is the SNC-Lavalin controversy, where Justin Trudeau is alleged to have tried to pressure former Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould into allowing Quebec engineering firm SNC-Lavalin to pay a fine instead of being barred from applying for government contracts as a penalty for allegedly bribing government officials in Libya under a 2018 law that allowed “deferred prosecution agreements”.

  • Paul Wells provides a summary of the issue in Macleans magazine, as well as the dubious ethics surrounding it, including the efforts not only by senior Liberals, but by the leaders of the opposition parties, to work for SNC-Lavalin’s benefit. Wells also notes how the provisions that would allow SNC-Lavalin to do this are only a few years old even in the other countries that use them.
  • Law professor Craig Scott provides another summary of the legal principles that Wilson-Raybould was acting under, and why Trudeau’s alleged intervention is so problematic. He also reminds us that the “deferred prosecution agreements” were added by the Trudeau Liberals themselves in an omnibus bill, despite their own criticisms of Stephen Harper’s use of omnibus bills to rush legislation through Parliament without giving readers time to read them.
  • The Cracked Crystal Gaze II blog describes deferred prosecution agreements, and discusses the challenges of prosecution corporations as opposed to individuals.
  • Martin Patriquin wrote in IPolitics about how this issue ties into the sordid history of the sponsorship scandal in Quebec and how it arguably humiliates the Quebecois.

The situation isn’t quite as clear-cut as it seems, though. Quebec journalists have their own perspective on the issue:

  • Lise Ravary points out in the Journal de Montreal that many Anglophone Canadian pundits probably wouldn’t be as gung-ho about the issue if it were happening in some place like Toronto, and describes SNC-Lavalin’s history and efforts to clean up its act. All of the people involved with the alleged Libyan bribes no longer work for the company. Finally, Ravary points out the economic loss to Canada as a whole if thousands of employees lose their jobs from the company’s demise.
  • Michel Girard also writes in the Journal de Montreal about why the federal government doesn’t seem to want to do a deferred prosecution agreement, and the disastrous consequences that would come from the company’s demise.
  • Yves Boisvert writes in La Presse about how corporations should be punished. While he finds the penalties taken against corrupt individuals who worked for SNC-Lavalin to have been too soft, he doesn’t think going hard on the company would make up for it, especially given all the engineers, support staff and other employees who’d be harmed by the company’s destruction.
  • Alec Castonguay, writing in L’actualité, also discusses the economic consequences of SNC-Lavalin’s collapse, especially when so many peoples’ jobs depend on it not just in Quebec but across Canada, and its current management have tried to right the ship.
  • Even Anglo-Quebecois activist Phillip Berlach, writing on his No Dogs Or Anglos blog, known for his fierce criticisms of Quebec separatism, agrees with the Franco-Quebecois journalists about SNC-Lavalin’s value.

Other items of interest include:

  • In April 2018, Canada’s History produced a special online issue describing the Treaty relationships between Indigenous people and settler Canadians, and how we are all “Treaty people”.
  • The Canada West Foundation released a report outlining its criticism of Bill C-69, which is meant to update Canada’s process for approving energy pipelines, and its recommendations for how the bill could be improved.
  • Rachel Snow writes in the Two Row Times how Trudeau’s demotion of Jody Wilson-Raybould is just the latest in a series of blunders that have occurred in Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples on his watch.
  • The University of Alberta’s Faculty of Law blog describes the five sources of Indigenous law as described by Anishinaabe law professor John Borrows.
  • Doug Cuthand writes in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix about the importance of making First Nations child welfare a priority.
  • Dennis Gruending discusses Mark Abley’s biography of infamous Indian Affairs adminstrator Duncan Campbell Scott on his Pulpit and Politics blog, and Scott’s ghastly legacy.
  • Joyce Green and Gina Starblanket write in the Globe and Mail about how badly Justin Trudeau treated Jody Wilson-Waybould, and the pride they have in her.
  • Michael Jabara-Carley writes in the Strategic Culture Foundation about what he sees as the decline of Canada’s sovereignty and ability to be independent, tying it back to the original “Lament For A Nation” published in the 1960s by philosopher George Grant.

I will be trying to make these digests a weekly feature of my Medium site, in addition to writing reviews of Canadian historical and political books I’m reading. My current selection is Peter Russell’s Constitutional Odyssey: Can Canadians Become A Sovereign People? which I should have finished soon.

Passionately devoted to Canadian unity. Fascinated by Canadian politics and history. Striving to understand the mysteries of Canada.