Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during Question Period in the interim House of Commons in the West Block on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, February 27, 2019. REUTERS/Chris Wattie
OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, facing the biggest crisis of his tenure, disputed testimony on Wednesday from his former justice minister that government officials inappropriately pressured her to help a major firm avoid a corruption trial.
The allegations by Jody Wilson-Raybould prompted the leader of Canada’s main opposition party to insist that Trudeau quit just months ahead of an October federal election.
Wilson-Raybould told the House of Commons justice committee that she had confronted Trudeau over what she said were persistent efforts by officials to help construction firm SNC-Lavalin Group Inc evade trial on charges of bribing Libyan officials.
“I strongly maintain, as I have from the beginning, that I and my staff always acted appropriately and professionally,” Trudeau told a televised news conference in Montreal.
“I therefore completely disagree with (Wilson-Raybould’s) characterization of events,” he continued, brushing off a demand from Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer that he resign.
Wilson-Raybould said officials imposed “consistent and sustained pressure” on her from September to December last year to ensure SNC-Lavalin pay a large fine rather than go to trial.
“In my view, these events constituted pressure to intervene in a matter and that this pressure, or political interference to intervene, was not appropriate,” she told the committee.
Reporting by David Ljunggren; Additional reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa; Editing by Peter Cooney