Wilson-Raybould asks for ‘clarity’ before speaking to justice committee

Jody Wilson-Raybould says she wants “clarity” around what she can and cannot say, and an extended amount of time to speak, before she testifies to the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

The former justice minister and attorney general, who is at the heart of a controversy involving allegations of political interference against the Prime Minister’s Office in a legal matter, was expected to testify to the committee this week.

But in a letter to the committee’s chair Monday, Wilson-Raybould tells Liberal MP Anthony Housefather that while she is “anxious to appear at the first available time,” she also wants “as much clarity as we can in relation to the possible constraints on the matters about which I may properly testify.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has faced intense pressure from opposition parties and the public to waive any restrictions that would prevent Wilson-Raybould from speaking freely.

In her letter, the Vancouver—Granville MP names solicitor-client privilege, Cabinet confidence and the sub judice convention—which holds that those involved in matters being considered by a judge or court may not speak publicly about those issues—as the “possible constraints” to her speaking openly during her appearance before the committee.

Wilson-Raybould is expected to address her interactions with Trudeau, Privy Council Office Clerk Michael Wernick, and likely some former cabinet colleagues and senior PMO staff about the events leading up to her resignation as veterans affairs minister.

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When she does appear, the MP has asked for “an extended opening statement of approximately 30 minutes during which I propose to give the Committee my best recollection of all the relevant communications about which I may properly testify,” according to the letter.

“I will remain before the Committee to answer questions for as long as the Committee wishes.”

The lawyer and former First Nations leader resigned on Feb. 12 amid allegations from unnamed sources cited in a Globe and Mail story days earlier that Wilson-Raybould was pressured to intervene in the criminal prosecution of Montreal-based engineering and construction giant SNC-Lavalin, which is facing fraud and corruption charges related to its work in Libya.

Trudeau indicated in the House of Commons Monday that Wilson-Raybould will be permitted to address “relevant matters” during her appearance before the justice committee questioned by members of the Commons justice committee, but in a way that would not jeopardize the two active court cases involving SNC.

Last week, following a long silence on the matters, Wilson-Raybould stood briefly before the House on a point of order to say that she “understand[s] fully that Canadians want to know the truth and want transparency.

“Privilege and confidentiality are not mine to waive,” she said, “and I hope I have the opportunity to speak my truth.”