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Critics call for new rules for retired judges in wake of SNC-Lavalin affair

As Justin Trudeau again refused to apologize Thursday after ethics commissioner Mario Dion found the prime minister violated the conflict of interest law by attempting to interfere in the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, some critics turned their attention to the role played in the affair by three former Supreme Court of Canada judges.

Dion’s damning report put the blame squarely on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s shoulders for pressuring his former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to cut a deal to allow the Quebec engineering firm to escape criminal conviction.

But the report released Wednesday also shone a harsh light on the conduct of retired justices Frank Iacobucci and John Major and former chief justice Beverley McLachlin, who got involved to differing extents at the company’s behest.

And it has prompted new calls for tougher guidelines for former judges.


The Dion report shows a cosy relationship between the PMO and SNC-Lavalin — it existed without Wilson-Raybould’s knowledge — as they worked to persuade her to engage “someone like” McLachlin without disclosing the fact that discussions had already taken place.

Michael Spratt, an Ottawa defence lawyer whose partner is an NDP candidate and daughter of retired Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour, agrees there is a need for new ethical guidelines.

Spratt said Iacobucci appeared, not only to be advocating SNC’s case, but also to be “using credentials to craft government policy on their behalf, and (to) interpret new laws.”

He said the risk to the reputation and credibility of the high court is real when former judges are so involved in controversial matters.

“I think there’s a real risk especially in hyperpolarized political times (with) that level of involvement, whether it is drafted by the government, which I think is the worst, or whether it is plied through a private relationship and private law firms. I think that involvement, especially of Supreme Court of Canada judges, has a real risk of undermining public confidence in the Supreme Court.”

Read Tonda MacCharles’s full article: Toronto Star

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