OTTAWA — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has addressed an ongoing judicial scandal that has cost his government two cabinet ministers by refusing to apologize or acknowledge he did anything wrong.
“This has been a tough few weeks,” Trudeau told a Thursday morning news conference on Parliament Hill.
In a scandal that Trudeau has tried to ignore for weeks, former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould has accused the prime minister and other officials in the federal government of pressuring her to snuff out a corruption charged against SNC-Lavalin, a huge engineering and contracting firm based in Quebec. Wilson-Raybould refused, saying that would constitute interference.
She says Trudeau reminded her to think about securing votes for the Liberal Party in the province.
When asked directly on Thursday if he would be issuing an apology for reportedly pressuring Wilson-Raybould to interfere in the corruption charge, Trudeau said he planned to make another formal apology on Thursday: to Canada’s Inuit people who live in the far North. (RELATED: Former Canadian AG Jody Wilson-Raybould Quits As Trudeau Embroiled In Growing Scandal)
“I will be making an Inuit apology this afternoon but in regards to standing up for jobs and defending our rule of law, I continue to say there was no inappropriate pressure,” said Trudeau.
Trudeau has said reconciliation with First Nations is integral to his government’s vision for Canada, but his apparent disdain for Wilson-Raybould, who is Indigenous, might not help that perception.
While Wilson-Raybould said Trudeau told her to intervene in the SNC-Lavalin case to shore up Liberal Party support in Quebec, Trudeau wrote-off the entire contention as an “erosion of trust” between his former Principal Secretary Gerald Butts and Wilson-Raybould. Butts testified before the House of Commons Justice Committee on Wednesday after he too resigned from the government. (RELATED: Canadian Treasury Board Secretary Jane Philpott Resigns Over Scandal)
As he has said since the scandal broke about a month ago, Trudeau reiterated Thursday that he will “stand up for Canadian jobs.”
Trudeau digressed from his explanation for several minutes to talk about how his leadership style was vastly different from his father, Pierre Trudeau, who was prime minister for 15 years. He talked about how “justice and fairness infused everything he did” and that he passed on this passion to his son.
The Trudeau government’s strategy for the past week has been to shift the focus from electoral support in Quebec to protecting Canadian jobs.
“SNC-Lavin puts food on the table,” Trudeau said.