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Trudeau Violated Ethics Law in SNC-Lavalin Case, Watchdog Finds

OTTAWA, Ontario — Canada’s federal ethics commissioner found Wednesday that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had violated an ethics law in his handling of a corporate criminal case — a conclusion that could imperil Trudeau’s bid for a second term a few months before the national elections.

In a long-awaited report, the commissioner, Mario Dion, said Trudeau had used his office “to circumvent, undermine, and ultimately attempt to discredit” the former attorney general and former justice minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould, breaking a long-standing tradition of separating the justice system from political interference.

Wilson-Raybould has accused the prime minister and members of his staff of improperly pressuring her to settle a bribery case against a major Canadian engineering company, SNC-Lavalin, with a civil fine that avoided a criminal conviction.

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The ethics law does not provide any direct penalty for the provision of the law that the commissioner said Trudeau had violated.

“There’s no sanction except public shame and the political cost of that,” said Duff Conacher, co-founder of Democracy Watch, a government ethics group that filed the complaint against the prime minister.

But the political peril for Trudeau is high, as the report comes just before campaigning officially begins for Canada’s national elections in October, when Trudeau will press his case for another term in office.

Political turmoil has enveloped Trudeau since reports surfaced in February of Wilson-Raybould’s accusations, and his Liberal Party sank in the polls earlier this year because of the controversy. More recent surveys suggest that the issue had died down this summer, but the new report is likely to rekindle it.

New York Times