POLITICS
02/12/2019 11:50 EST | Updated 02/12/2019 20:31 EST

Jody Wilson-Raybould Resigns From Cabinet In Wake Of SNC-Lavalin Scandal

The former justice minister has been keeping a low profile.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Jody Wilson-Raybould arrives at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, on Jan. 14, 2019 as the governing Liberals shuffle their cabinet.

OTTAWA — Jody Wilson-Raybould has resigned from cabinet.

The now-former veterans affairs minister announced her decision in a letter Tuesday addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

She thanked her constituents and Canada's veterans and their families. She also expressed her gratitude toward her political staff. She did not offer thanks to the prime minister.

"When I sought federal elected office, it was with the goal of implementing a positive and progressive vision of change on behalf of call Canadians and a different way of doing politics," she wrote.

"My resignation as a Minister of the Crown in no way changes my commitment to seeing that fundamental change achieved. This work must and will carry on."

She confirmed that she has hired Thomas Albert Cromwell, a former Supreme Court justice, for advice on what she is "legally permitted" to discuss related to "matters that have been in the media over the last week."

She signed the letter with "Puglaas" — a traditional Kwak'wala name given to her by her grandmother meaning "woman born to noble people."

Wilson-Raybould will also step down from her role as associate minister of national defence. She will remain a Liberal MP for British Columbia's Vancouver Granville riding.

The Prime Minister's Office released a statement to confirm that Wilson-Raybould submitted her resignation Monday evening. Cabinet ministers were informed about the decision Tuesday morning.

The government must now fill a vacant cabinet position with little over eight months until the next scheduled election.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan will take on the role of acting veterans affairs minister.

'Her presence in cabinet should actually speak for itself': PM

Trudeau told reporters Monday that he had met with Wilson-Raybould "a couple of times" during his two-day visit to the Lower Mainland. He tried to soothe the perception of tension between him and his veterans affairs minister.

"In our system of government, of course, her presence in cabinet should actually speak for itself," he said.

Earlier: Trudeau said he welcomes inquiry into SNC-Lavalin. Story continues below.

Her decision comes after a week of scrutiny following bombshell allegations of political interference reported by The Globe and Mail. Allegations surfaced that the Prime Minister's Office pressured Wilson-Raybould to help SNC-Lavalin avoid criminal prosecution.

The Quebec company, which offers a range of services across engineering, procurement and construction, is facing bribery and fraud charges. A conviction carries the risk of a 10-year ban on bidding for major federal projects.

Trudeau has denied his office pressured Wilson-Raybould, attorney general at the time, to negotiate a remediation agreement. He called the allegations of political interference "false."

A remediation agreement would allow The Crown to fine SNC-Lavalin rather than proceeding with a criminal trial. This is a new avenue for Canadian companies to mitigate damage after being charged with criminal wrongdoing. The measure was introduced in the 2018 budget.

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Despite the attention following the Globe story, Wilson-Raybould has kept a low profile, repeatedly declining to comment. She released a statement Friday explaining that her silence reflects her ethical duty.

"As the former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, I am bound by solicitor-client privilege in this matter."

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has called on the prime minister to waive solicitor-client privilege so Wilson-Raybould can speak freely about the SNC-Lavalin controversy.

Watch: Tory leader says the government's story "keeps changing"

Speculation over lengthy post-shuffle statement

Wilson-Raybould made history as Canada's first Indigenous justice minister and attorney general. They were two roles she served until mid-January when she was moved to veterans affairs.

Former McGill law professor David Lametti was tapped to replace her as justice minister and attorney general.

Hours after the shuffle, Wilson-Raybould published a lengthy statement with a list of 13 "legislative achievements." But one line defending her role as attorney general drew the most attention.

"It has always been my view that the Attorney General of Canada must be non-partisan, more transparent in the principles that are the basis of decisions, and, in this respect, always willing to speak truth to power," she said at the time.

Pundits and MPs have fixated on what Wilson-Raybould meant by stating she did her best to "speak truth to power." But the Liberal MP has not offered any clarity.

Ethics watchdog launches probe

Federal ethics commissioner Mario Dion announced Monday that his office will investigate an NDP complaint about the allegations of political interference in SNC-Lavalin's corruption case.

The prime minister said he welcomed the probe. "I think it's extremely important that Canadians can continue to have confidence in our system," he told reporters in Vancouver.

Opposition parties are also calling on the House of Commons justice committee to call nine high-profile witnesses to testify about the SNC-Lavalin allegations. They include Wilson-Raybould, the current justice minister, and senior PMO staff.

Members of the Liberal-dominated committee will meet Wednesday to review the NDP-Tory request to launch a study of the allegations — which has now led to the resignation of a cabinet minister.