RCMP considered charging Justin Trudeau over Aga Khan visit

Politics Insider for April 26: Trudeau calls for an inquiry; Ottawa braces for another convoy; panel warns about Neo-Nazism
Trudeau arrives on Parliament Hill, April 25, 2022 in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives on Parliament Hill, Monday, April 25, 2022 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

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Charge dodged: The RCMP considered charging Justin Trudeau with fraud after his trip to the Aga Khan’s Bahamas island, but decided against because it seems Trudeau had the authority to approve the trip himself, the Globe reports.

RCMP documents from 2019 reveal the Mounties looked at whether they could charge Trudeau based on the findings in a report from the federal ethics commissioner, which concluded that Mr. Trudeau had violated four sections of the Conflict of Interest Act. Investigators believed there were “reasonable grounds” to think fraud may have been committed, but a lack of clarity in federal rules that apply to accepting gifts stood in the way.

The relevant section of the Criminal Code has a provision which allows officials to accept benefits if they have written consent from the head of their branch of government. RCMP Corporal Michael Kiperchuk said in a briefing note to his superiors that “an investigation and prosecution under this section may not be in the public interest if it cannot be definitely determined whether or not Mr. Trudeau can simply provide consent to himself.”

Convoy inquiry: Trudeau called Monday for the establishment of an inquiry into the invocation of the Emergencies Act, CBC reports.

“This includes the evolution of the convoy, the impact of funding and disinformation, the economic impact, and efforts of police and other responders prior to and after the declaration,” the release said. Paul Rouleau has been named as the commissioner heading the inquiry. He was first appointed as an Ontario Superior Court justice in 2002 and then joined the Ontario Court of Appeal in 2005.

Critics say the inquiry should be more focused on holding the government to account.

“The Liberal government is doing everything in their power to ensure this inquiry is unsubstantial and fails to hold them accountable,” said a joint statement from Conservative MPs Raquel Dancho, Dane Lloyd and Gérard Deltell. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association — which is suing the federal government over its decision to invoke the act — said the inquiry does not appear to be focused on government accountability.

Accountability? In the Toronto Sun, Anthony Furey argues that the inquiry as conceived is a recipe for a cover-up.

There’s also no acknowledgement on their part that the inquiry should consider the question of whether Trudeau was even right to take this unprecedented step. The Liberals would clearly prefer this to be a trial of others — of the convoy participants and of the Conservative opposition, especially Pierre Poilievre, who is now gaining popularity by the day as he tours the nation for his Conservative leadership campaign.

Tried together: Furey points out that an inquiry doesn’t need to consider the guilt of convoy participants, because criminal trials will assess that. We learned a little about one such trial Monday, when prosecutors said that four men accused of conspiring to murder RCMP officers at the Coutts border protests will be tried together, CBC reports.

Chris Lysak, Chris Carbert, Anthony Olienick and Jerry Morin each face charges of conspiracy to murder, possession of a weapon and mischief. On Monday, the four, as well as 10 others facing less serious charges, made brief appearances in Lethbridge court as defence lawyers and prosecutors move the cases forward.

Two of the men have ties to Diagolon, a white supremacist group.

National security: In the Star, Susan Delacourt focuses on the national security questions to be raised, and the difficulty of considering them and sharing conclusions given that Rouleau has been instructed  to “take all steps necessary to prevent any disclosure of information to persons or bodies other than the Government of Canada that would be injurious to international relations, national defence or national security.”

A reckoning for the convoy protest — and the government’s response to it — is crucial. If it is true that Canada’s national security was truly at risk, as the U.S. ambassador and prime minister’s security adviser have more than hinted, there are bigger questions to confront than simply whether the emergency legislation was justified. One big, looming question: how to make sure Canada’s democracy isn’t tested that way again.

Get ready, Ottawa: While Canadian institutions wrestle with fallout from the convoy, Ottawa is bracing for a motorcycle convoy on Friday, the Post reports. Organizer Neil Sheard says in a YouTube video that there will be a “free-for-all” Friday if Ottawa police don’t allow hundreds of protesters to bring their bikes onto the streets around Parliament Hill.

DND trouble: An advisory panel on systemic racism and discrimination within the Canadian military warned Monday that the threat from neo-Nazism, white supremacy and right-wing extremism is getting worse, APTN reports.

“In addition to sexual misconduct and domestic violence, hate crimes, extremist behaviours and affiliations to white supremacy groups are growing at an alarming rate in both Canada and its Defence Team,” the report says. “It is becoming increasingly covert, and technological advances such as Darknet and encryption methods pose significant challenges in detecting these members.”

Calls in UN: AFN National Chief RoseAnne Archibald asked the UN on Monday to launch an investigation into Canada’s possible role in violations of human rights associated with residential schools, CBC reports. Archibald wants the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples to probe Canada’s role in the residential school system: “I don’t call them schools anymore because no school I ever attended had children buried in unmarked graves. Canada and the other UN member states must not look away.”

Crypto cold water: Cryptocurrencies are not a way to “opt out” of inflation and they will in no way replace the Canadian dollar, two Bank of Canada officials — Tiff Macklem and Carolyn Rogers — said in an apparent rebuke to Pierre Poilievre at Finance Committee on Monday, the Post reports.

Snake oil: Speaking of Poilievre’s attacks on the Bank of Canada, Tom Brodbek, in the Winnipeg Free Press, pours scorn on him as a snake-oil salesman making Trump-style attacks on the central bank.

This is Donald Trump-style politics. The former U.S. president made a political career out of lying to Americans and attacking the integrity of public institutions, such as the courts, intelligence agencies and the U.S. Federal Reserve. Poilievre’s tactics are very similar.

Sloan bags Stone: Veteran dirty trickster Roger Stone will act as a strategic adviser to Derek Sloan’s Ontario Party, the Post reports.

Fuddle duddle: John Horgan swore in BC QP, Global reports.

Outsider: Vicky Mochama has an interesting profile of Michelle Rempel Garner in Chatelaine.

Speculation: In the Calgary Herald, Don Braid wonders if Jason Kenney, who faces a challenging leadership vote May 18, might call a snap election if the number he gets is above 50 per cent, but not high enough to silence dissenters.

Numbers: In his last story for CP, Jordan Press has an interesting item on what the census will tell us tomorrow about how Canada is aging.

—  Stephen Maher