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Andrew Scheer hit with defamation lawsuit by PM

Canadian politics continue to heat up ahead of a federal election this year.

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Eli Ridder | Report

Opposition and Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer revealed on Sunday that he was hit with a defamation lawsuit from the prime minister regarding comments he made about the SNC-Lavalin affair at the end of March.

The letter from Justin Trudeau’s lawyer criticized what they called inappropriate comments in a statement made by Scheer on Mar. 29 in response to new documents tabled in the justice committee from former minister Jody Wilson-Raybould.

“The statement contained highly defamatory comments about Prime Minister Trudeau,” the letter reads. Scheer’s comments in March came amidst a fallout within the Liberal Party.

Trudeau has been under fire for the last two months over allegations that there was pressure on ex-attorney general Wilson-Raybould to interfere in criminal proceedings against Quebec construction firm SNC-Lavalin.

In an appearance before the House of Commons justice committee, she said top government officials asked her to help ensure a deferred prosecution agreement was extended to the company.

Trudeau ally Gerald Butts, who resigned from the Prime Minister’s Office earlier this year, defended the prime minister by saying there was no intentional inappropriate pressure on Wilson-Raybould to protest SNC-Lavalin.

The former cabinet minister later provided emails, a written statement and a taped recording to the committee with the top civil servant that appeared to back her part of the story where she insisted she warned PMO officials that their actions were inappropriate.

Scheer’s March statement, in part, accused the prime minister of “political interference”, of lying to Canadians and of corrupt conduct, to which the Trudeau legal camp said the Tory leader made false statements, and refers to the Libel and Slander Act of Ontario, which deals with “publicly published material” or comments that defame or disparage an individual or their profession — and is often used involving media stories.

“The prime minister supports wide-ranging and vigorous political debate on matters of public policy. However, your statement, in its entirety, is beyond the pale of fair debate and is libellous of my client personally and in the way of his occupation as prime minister,” Trudeau lawyer Julian Porter writes in his letter.

In response, Andrew Scheer’s lawyer said that the lawsuit has no merit and the leader himself defended his actions on social media, saying he “won’t back down” on Facebook, adding that “I stand by every single criticism I have made of Justin Trudeau’s behaviour in this scandal” on Twitter.

“Why do I welcome Justin Trudeau’s lawsuit? 1) Because he will finally be forced to testify under oath. 2) He will not be able to shut down the proceedings like he has in Parliament. Canadians will finally get the answers they deserve,” he added in another tweet.

The suit could escalate increasing tensions between the ruling Liberal Party and the opposition Conservatives ahead of a federal election on Oct. 23 later this year.

Scheer has repeatedly called for Trudeau to step down from the position of prime minister.


Image of Andrew Scheer from Wikimedia Commons. ■

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Campus

Trudeau outlines plan to pass trade deal

CUSMA will come before parliament.

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File photo.

After the new North American free trade deal approved by U.S. Senate, the Canadian government plans to ratify the deal next week.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke Tuesday in a news conference after a three-day cabinet retreat in Winnipeg, saying that it’s the government’s utmost priority to push forward with the Canadian-U.S.-Mexico agreement, known domestically as CUSMA, as millions of jobs depend on the new trade pact.

“On Monday, we will present a ways and means motion, and on Wednesday we will table legislations to ratify the deal,” said Trudeau, describing what will take place next week.

In order for the Liberals to pass this legislation in a minority government, they will neeed the support of another party in the House of Commons. Trudeau had expressed is hopes that all parties will negotiate and cone on ratification together.

“What we are doing is reminding everyone in the House and across the country of how important it is to secure the most important trading relationship for future generations.”

CUSMA has been on the top of the list of government priorities that were discussed during the cabinet meetings in Winnipeg.

The cabinet ministers also listened to expert guest speakers, who discussed other important matters including the fight against climate change, the current state of the country’s economy and pressing global affairs, among other critical matters facing the new minority government.

The trade deal, a result of a year of sometimes rocky negotiations with with the Trump administration, has been passed in the U.S. Senate and is awaiting the president’s signature. It has also been approved in Mexico.

Justin Trudeau said in Winnipeg “we are going to make sure we move forward in the right way and that means ratifying this new NAFTA as quickly as possible.”

Conservatives who are the main opposition, are generally supportive of the deal, but have vowed to grill the Liberals over its specifics when the House of Commons resumes sitting on Monday. ■

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Canada

Quebec's religious symbols ban survives ruling

The Court of Appeal would not suspend the law.

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Quebec’s contentious law banning religious symbols for public employees survived a key ruling on Thursday by the province’s Court of Appeal, however, it is not the final say on Bill 21 as more legal challenges await.

The court refused a motion by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the National Council of Canadian Muslims to suspend the law. The CCLA and NCCM argued the law was outside Quebec’s jurisdiction, was vague and violated rights guaranteed in the constitution. 

Quebec’s government claims the law aims to preserve secularism in the Francophone-dominated province. It specifically bans civil workers such as teachers and government service workers from wearing crosses, hijabs and other religious attire while working.

Multiple lawsuits have been filed against the bill claiming discrimination and that it is unconstitutional. Thursday’s 2-1 decision does not legally impact four separate lawsuits filed on a similar basis.

New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh came under fire during the federal election campaign for refusing to say he would intervene on the legislation. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was not certain either, and said his government “might” intervene.

All three of the justices wrote in their decision that the law is causing “irreparable harm” to those impacted, particularly women, CBC reported.

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Canada

Trudeau conciliatory after election, will not form coalition

The PM talks to the press.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who will keep the position after his Liberal Party won a strong minority, acknowledged on Wednesday his loss of support from the previous election with a conciliatory tone but ruled out a formal or informal coalition with another party.

It was during a half hour press conference at the National Press Theatre that Trudeau said his new cabinet will be sworn in on Nov. 20 and feature once again gender-equality as he aims to rebuild a broken image after a rocky year that saw Liberal polling drop.

Many analysts and political pundits have pointed out that a minority government — when a party receives less than 170 seats in the House of Commons — is not all bad.

Universal healthcare, the Canada Pension Plan, student loans, the official flag and more came about under Liberal minority governance, specifically Mike Pearson. Stephen Harper brought about tax reform, the Accountability Act and more with his first, minority term.

Trudeau confirmed during the early afternoon press conference that his government would charge ahead with the contentious Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project. The New Democrats, who are viewed as natural progressive allies to the Liberal minority, are opposed.

For his first moves, the prime minister said “our first priority will be to continue to lower taxes for the middle class”, legislation that could gain support from the Conservatives.

“We will also act on medically assisted dying as requested by the courts,” he added, a move that likely would be backed by the New Democrats. ■

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