'Erosion of trust': Justin Trudeau's opening statement on SNC-Lavalin controversy

Read prepared text of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's opening statement to reporters Thursday morning in Ottawa.

Trudeau: 'I have taken, and will continue to take, many lessons from these recent days'

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, speaking at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa Thursday on the SNC-Lavalin controversy, said, 'Ultimately, I believe our government will be stronger for having dealt with these issues.' (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

This is prepared text, including passages in English and French, of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's opening statement to reporters in Ottawa on Thursday, March 7, 2019:

Good morning, everyone. Thank you for joining us for this early morning press conference – as you know I have to be in Iqaluit in a few hours.

I know you've all been wanting to hear from me directly on the SNC Lavalin issue.

I've taken the time to review the testimony, to reflect on what has happened over the past few months and what our next steps should be.

Je tiens à faire le point sur ce qui me concerne à la suite des témoignages entendus. [I want to give an update on what concerns me following the recent testimonies.]

Comme vous savez, je me suis entretenu avec Jody Wilson-Raybould et le greffier du Conseil privé le 17 septembre dernier. [As you know, I met with Jody Wilson-Raybould and the clerk of the Privy Council on September 17.]

Durant cette rencontre, j'ai soulevé le dossier de SNC-Lavalin. Et comme vous l'avez entendu, j'ai reaffirmé que la décision revenait à la procureure générale. [During this meeting, I raised the SNC-Lavalin file. And as you heard, I re-affirmed that the decision was the attorney general's.]

Oui, j'ai mentionné que je suis le député de Papineau. [Yes, I mentioned that I am the member for Papineau.]

J'ai le grand honneur de représenter Papineau depuis plus de 10 ans maintenant. [I've had the great honour of representing Papineau for 10 years now.]

Et j'ai à cœur les familles, les travailleurs et les étudiants qui habitent mon comté. [And I care about the families, workers and students who live in my riding.]

Mais ce commentaire n'était pas de nature partisane. [But this comment was not of a partisan nature.]

It is our job as Parliamentarians to defend the interests of the communities we were elected to represent.

To be the voice of those communities in Ottawa.

I stressed the importance of protecting Canadian jobs, and reiterated that this issue was one of significant national importance.

Ms. Wilson-Raybould left that meeting saying that she would speak with her Deputy Minster and the Clerk about this matter, but that the decision was hers alone.

In the months that followed that meeting, I asked my staff to follow up regarding Ms. Wilson-Raybould's final decision – I realize now that, in addition, I should have done so personally, given the importance of this issue and the jobs that were on the line.

Trudeau speaks about Jody Wilson-Raybould

4 years ago
Duration 1:55
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to reporters in Ottawa on Thursday morning

In recent days, I have reviewed the testimony from the Justice Committee, including that given by Ms. Wilson-Raybould, Gerald Butts, the Clerk of the Privy Council, and the Deputy Minister of Justice and Deputy Attorney General, recalling various interactions.

Each of these interactions was a conversation among colleagues about how to tackle a challenging issue.

Each came at a time when my staff and I believed that the former Minister of Justice and Attorney General was open to considering other aspects of the public interest.

However, I now understand that she saw it differently.

What has become clear through the various testimonies is that, over the past few months, there was an erosion of trust between my office – and specifically my former Principal Secretary – and the former Minister of Justice and Attorney General.

I was not aware of that erosion of trust.

As Prime Minister and leader of the Federal Ministry, I should have been.

Après plusieurs témoignages, ce qui est devenu clair, c'est qu'au cours des derniers mois, la confiance s'est érodée entre mon bureau — plus précisément, mon ancien secrétaire principal — et l'ancienne ministre de la Justice et procureure générale.

Je n'étais pas au courant de cette érosion de confiance.

En tant que premier ministre et chef du Conseil des ministres, j'aurais dû l'être.

Many people have been sharing their advice, perspectives, and experience with me over the past weeks.

What is clear is that there are many different styles of, and approaches to, leadership.

There's one theory that the most effective leaders are adversarial, and tough almost to a fault.

That's not what I believe.

I believe real leadership is about listening, learning and compassion.

It is about the push and pull of robust discourse, and healthy debate.

It's about transparency and accountability.

One of the things central to my leadership is fostering an environment where my Ministers, caucus, and staff feel comfortable coming to me when they have concerns.

Indeed, I expect them to do so.

In Ms. Wilson-Raybould's case, she did not come to me, and I wish she had.

Because, if it's a real relationship, and if we truly are a team, we can always acknowledge when we need to make adjustments.

Things won't always be perfect, but there should remain a constant level of openness and dialogue.

And that dialogue is crucial on a file as important as Justice.

Je ne surprendrai personne en disant que mon père et moi avons des styles de leadership très différents. [I won't surprise anyone by saying that my father and I had very different leadership styles.]

Mais une chose que j'ai toujours retenue de lui, c'est son engagement et sa passion pour la justice. [But one thing that I took from him is his engagement in and passion for justice.]

J'ai passé toute ma carrière politique à me battre pour les gens. [I've spent my entire political career fighting for people.]

Des enjeux de justice sociale à la protection des emplois canadiens, depuis mon entrée en politique, j'ai toujours œuvré à servir au meilleur de mes compétences les gens que je représente fièrement. [From social justice issues to the protection of Canadian jobs, since my entry into politics I have always, to the best of my abilities, tried to serve the people that I proudly represent.]

Le dossier de SNC-Lavalin n'a pas fait l'exception à la règle. [The SNC-Lavalin is no exception to that rule.]

SNC Lavalin is a company that employs 9,000 Canadians across this country.

They create many thousand spin-off jobs in peripheral industries.

They – directly or indirectly – put food on the table for countless families, as one of Canada's major employers.

But they are also a company facing serious criminal charges.

The context is a tough one, with potential job losses in the thousands.

These are the types of situations that make governing a challenge.

Trudeau on SNC-Lavalin

4 years ago
Duration 1:13
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to reporters in Ottawa on Thursday morning

And when there's an erosion of trust within the people involved, it further complicates what is an already difficult decision for the Attorney General.

This has been a tough few weeks.

Canadians expect and deserve to have faith in their institutions and the people who act within them.

Almost every day, as Prime Minister, I learn new things.

So I can tell you without a doubt that I have taken, and will continue to take, many lessons from these recent days.

Nous allons solliciter l'avis d'experts externes sur plusieurs dossiers qui sont liés aux enjeux soulevés au cours des dernières semaines.

Cela inclut notamment le double rôle de ministre de la Justice et de procureur général, ainsi que les politiques et les pratiques opérationnelles du conseil des ministres, de la fonction publique et du personnel politique sur des questions juridiques et de façon plus générale.

Going forward, we will be seeking external, expert opinions on a number of things as they relate to the set of issues raised over the past few weeks.

This includes the dual role of the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General, as well as the operating policies and practices across Cabinet, the public service, and political staff as they relate specifically to judicial matters, but also more generally.

Ultimately, I believe our government will be stronger for having wrestled with these issues.

This morning, I'm heading north to Iqaluit to deliver an official apology for the federal government's management of tuberculosis in the North from the 1940s to the 1960s, and the harms this created in Inuit communities.

This is an important day, and this apology will be another defining moment along the road to reconciliation.

Our government has said from the very beginning that there is no relationship more important to us than the one we share with Indigenous peoples.

That remains true, and we will work hard to advance reconciliation each and every day.

On Friday I'll be in Toronto, marking International Women's Day with incredible young leaders.

I plan to listen and learn from their lived experiences, as we talk about how we can work together to deliver true gender equality, in this country and around the world.

Et la semaine prochaine, et toutes les autres semaines qui suivront, mon gouvernement et notre équipe libérale allons nous concentrer sur la mission que les électeurs nous ont confiée — bâtir une économie forte, attirer des meilleurs emplois et créer de meilleures opportunités pour les Canadiens de la classe moyenne. [And next week, and in all the weeks that will follow, my government and our Liberal team will concentrate on the mission that voters gave to us — to build a strong economy, attract the best jobs and create better opportunities for middle class Canadians.]

Après tout, on est ici pour ça. [After all, that is what we're here for.]

Merci. [Thank you.]

Watch | Conservative Leader Andrew responds by repeating his call for Trudeau's resignation

Scheer repeats call for Trudeau resignation

4 years ago
Duration 1:26
Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer spoke to reporters at Pearson Airport in Toronto

Watch | NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says Trudeau didn't say enough and an inquiry is needed

Singh on Trudeau's explanation of the SNC-Lavalin controversy

4 years ago
Duration 1:10
Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh spoke to reporters in Toronto on Thursday.

Watch | Trudeau's full opening statement (in English and with English translation)

Justin Trudeau's opening statement

4 years ago
Duration 10:57
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to reporters in Ottawa Thursday about his handling of the SNC-Lavalin controversy.


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