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Wilson-Raybould, out of cabinet, seeks place in Liberal caucus

Wilson-Raybould, out of cabinet, seeks place in Liberal caucus

Former cabinet minister Jody Wilson-Raybould will be called before the House of Commons justice committee to address allegations she was pressured by the Prime Minister's Office not to prosecute a Quebec engineering giant.

The former justice minister and attorney general, who resigned from cabinet last week, has sought legal advice from former Supreme Court justice Thomas Cromwell amid questions over the SNC-Lavalin controversy.

Speaking with journalists, Wilson-Raybould said she is still consulting with legal counsel on what she can say without breaching solicitor-client privilege rules.

Trudeau has rejected the allegations in the Globe's report but the accusations have cost him his principal secretary and close friend, Gerald Butts, who resigned Monday despite denying he pressured Wilson-Raybould.

Citing stories that emerged over the weekend that quoted unnamed government sources about Wilson-Raybould being "difficult to get along with", the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs called it an "attempt to save face and initiate damage control about the purported wrongdoings of your office by attacking and discrediting a prominent Indigenous woman". I apologized to Jody Wilson-Raybould because I wasn't quick enough to condemn in unequivocal terms the comments and commentary and cartoons made about her last week.

"My reputation is my responsibility and that is for me to defend", Butts wrote in a public letter.

Trudeau and other Liberals are also suggesting there is no need for a public inquiry into this, something they are expected to vote on later today, thanks to an Opposition motion.

The committee met behind closed doors Tuesday and agreed to invite Wilson-Raybould. "Privilege and confidentiality are not mine to waive and I hope that I have the opportunity to speak my truth", she said.

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Yet, whatever Trudeau heard, it can't have been too bad or he would not have sanctioned the witness invitation to the justice committee.

Wilson-Raybould was the justice minister for more than three years, until she was moved in January to veterans affairs.

During question period, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer peppered Trudeau with questions about the September 4 refusal by the director of public prosecutions, Kathleen Roussel, to negotiate a remediation agreement with SNC-Lavalin, which faces charges of bribery and corruption related to government contracts in Libya.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian PressLiberal MP Jody Wilson-Raybould arrives to a caucus meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on February 20, 2019. The former minister said she would remain in the Liberal caucus, and another lawmaker said she will indeed be called to speak to the justice committee. "Have an independent hearing that is not run by the hand-puppets of the Liberal members of the justice committee".

Asked about this in the House of Commons on Wednesday, Trudeau bobbed and weaved. "I can assure all Canadians - that unlike the leader of the opposition - we will always stand up for good jobs right across this country every step of the way while making sure we respect the independence of the judicial system", Trudeau said.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, asked about the chances of the government losing its focus, said "we are working very hard to ensure that doesn't happen".

Butts has confirmed that Wilson-Raybould briefly raised the matter of SNC-Lavalin during a meeting in December; he advised her to speak with the clerk of the Privy Council, Michael Wernick.