Integrity has been on my mind lately. It’s important to me, mine and the integrity of those around me.
My actions need to line up with not only what is right but also what comes out of my mouth or the actions I take. If I make a promise to someone, I need to either keep the promise or know why I can’t and own up to it.
It’s one thing to make commitments to myself that I don’t keep — like losing weight or exercising more. It’s a whole other matter to do that to other people.
I expect the same from those around me. That’s a huge factor with me when it comes to those I will trust or respect at any level
The SNC Lavalin Affair
Recent news about the Canadian government has been bringing integrity to mind. The handling of the SNC Lavalin affair in particular.
Let me give you a quick recap of the situation.
Several weeks ago, The Globe & Mail, broke a story about political interference. The firm at the center of the story is SNC Lavalin. A large Canadian firm with political ties to political parties. They were facing charges of corrupt practices in another country.
They were after a deferred prosecution allowed under Canadian law. A deferred prosecution is like probation for corporations. The Public Prosecutor declined to grant one. The Attorney General, Jody Wilson-Raybold, received notice criminal charges would go to trial
The Attorney General reviewed the notice and the facts around the case. She has an option to override the Public Prosecutors decision. She didn’t feel it was appropriate in this case. She stuck to the decision.
She did so in the face of political pressure and interference. The news report set off a political firestorm in Ottawa.
A cabinet shuffle moved her to Veterans Affairs. A move widely seen as a demotion. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s response was to admit nothing. He also changed his story a few times.
Wilson-Raybold ended up resigning from the cabinet. The Justice Committee was tasked with holding hearings on the matter. They were to determine to the validity of the issues raised in the newspaper report. The former AG was called to testify. But she was bound by attorney-client privilege as well as cabinet confidentiality. This would restrict what she could speak about.
Trudeau issued an order-in-council to waive both attorney-client privilege and cabinet confidentiality. This gave the appearance she was able to testify unrestricted at committee. But, the order only covered her time as Attorney-Genera. Her time after that until she resigned from cabinet wasn’t covered.
It was an unusual move. It was one which should have should have shown unprecedented openness. Except for the time restriction.
Wilson-Raybold’s Testimony to the Justice Committee
Wilson-Raybold appeared before the Justice Committee. For four hours I sat and watched what I considered to be a stunning example of integrity and honesty unfold.
She read a thirty minute statement detailing the events as they unfolded. It detailed government officials exerting pressure on her to reverse her decision. The effort took place over several weeks and involved several officials.
A phone conversation with the country’s top civil servant included veiled threats. He informed her the PM was firm about what he wanted. For the AG to change her mind or there would be consequences.
She was poised, calm and careful in how she answered questions. Her responses were direct and consistent. At no time did she attack the PM, if anything she was being careful to not do so.
She did speak of a conversation she had during a meeting with the PM. She informed him of her decision and there was discussion. The discussion touched on a pending election in Quebec, his riding in Quebec and the coming federal election.
They also discussed possible job losses if SNC Lavalin was convicted. Upon conviction, they would be prohibited from bidding on federal contracts for ten years.
The Conversation With Justin Trudeau
She asked him directly if he was attempting to interfere with her decision. He assured her, no, it was her decision to make and only hers. It was the correct answer. An answer that should have led to the AG’s decision being respected.
That didn’t happen.
The PM didn’t engage directly in applying pressure, those around him did. They took it upon themselves to repeatedly explain to her what her options were.
The conversation with top civil servant Michael Wernick, first caught my attention. The exchange with the PM made it clearer.
The Feminist Who Isn’t
Our self-declared feminist Prime Minister could practice patriarchy with the best of them. Had a guy looked him in the eye, questioned his actions and then told him he’d made his decision — he would’ve heard him.
Instead, the female voice was ignored and pressure applied. Been there, experienced similar over the years. Speak with clarity, yet somehow, the male ear doesn’t hear.
Two of the Other Culprits Heard From
Gerald Butts, the principle secretary to the PM testified before the Justice Committee. He claimed he didn’t know Wilson-Raybold had made a final decision until her testimony. He supported the claim by questioning why she had not issued her decision in writing.
Is that the only way to hear a strong, articulate woman speak? Or is it harder to deny she informed you if she did so in writing?
Michael Wernick claimed a lack of a clear recollection of the phone conversation he had with the AG. Then he made what seemed to me to be an odd assertion. He spoke of not having worn a wire nor having a recording of the call. The suggestions seemed out of place.
Turns out, they weren’t.
The Conversation Recorded
The call to Wilson-Raybold went to her home and she had no one around to witness the conversation. She instead recorded it. This is not illegal in Canada. The ethics have been the subject of debate.
The recording was exactly what Wilson-Raybold had reported in her testimony. Even if Trudeau wasn’t aware of what was going on, she was being inappropriately pressured. Prosecutorial independence was being placed at risk.
She stuck to her guns and refused to bend.
The veiled threat came to pass during the ensuing cabinet shuffle. When the story broke in the news, she refused to respond. She invoked attorney-client privilege and said nothing.
Trudeau’s Response to the News
Trudeau pointed to her continued presence in cabinet as proof nothing was wrong. She resigned from cabinet the following day.
Her sense of personal integrity in upholding the truth drove her actions. Trudeau’s need to admit nothing and survive drove his actions.
Not long after, her colleague, Dr. Jane Philpott resigned from cabinet. She cited a lack of confidence in the handling of this affair.
My Take on the Matter
I watch this unable to take any meaningful action. I can form my own impressions. I’m not happy at all at what I see.
This self-declared feminist has shown me what he is not. He also has shown his lack of respect and integrity to those who would speak truth to power.
If he had the courage of the words he has spoken he would have heard the words on that tape and known the injustice. The content of that recording showed what has been wrong with this whole affair.
He could maybe… and that is a weak maybe… have claimed some level of ignorance of the true story until hearing that. There should have been no more denial at that point.
The right thing to do, is to uphold the respect and integrity he claims to value. He should have issued a full on apology to Jody Wilson-Raybold. He should have informed his caucus that as messy as this has been, the old way of politics has to end.
Instead, he went to the old way of politics.
He ejected both Wilson-Raybold and Philpott from the Liberal caucas. He used the recording of the conversation with Wernick as the straw that broke the camel’s back.
They will finish their terms as independent Members of Parliament. They will not able to run as Liberals in the next election.
The recording of the conversation sparks him to act but not the content of the conversation? Where is the openness, respect and integrity in that action?
I hope we have not heard the last of the two women who spoke truth to power and demonstrated integrity in politics.
It is true that integrity alone won’t make you a leader, but without integrity you will never be one. — Zig Ziglar