Canada’s Trudeau dismisses ex-minister’s allegations of inappropriate pressure

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

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