By Scott Taylor
In the wake of astonishing testimony by Jody Wilson-Raybould at the February 27 Commons Justice committee hearing, there has been plenty of finger pointing and howls of indignation leveled at the Prime Minister and his senior officials.
As a result of the increased scrutiny, we are now aware of many of the more sordid details of the alleged bribery, at the centre of this burgeoning scandal. According to media reports, back in 2008, Saadi Gaddafi, the third son of the late Libyan President, came to Canada as a guest of SNC-Lavalin. The Quebec based engineering corporation was seeking to curry favour with Gaddafi the younger in order to land lucrative construction contracts in Libya worth millions of dollars.
Hired to protect Saadi during his stay was GardaWorld, but the services actually provided went far beyond close-in protection. It is alleged that Garda submitted bills to SNC-Lavalin totaling approximately $30,000 for debauchery ranging from high-class escorts, to tickets for a Spice Girls concert.
It was for the provision of such bribes that SNC-Lavalin faced criminal charges, which if convicted, would preclude this crown jewel corporation from bidding on any future Federal infrastructure programs.
Such a result would lead to a potential loss of jobs and even a relocation of SNC-Lavalin’s headquarters outside of Canada.
Thus, if we are to believe the frank testimony of Wilson-Raybould, Justin Trudeau and his top officials attempted to pressure the Attorney General into resolving this through a deferred prosecution arrangement: SNC-Lavalin pleads guilty, pays a fine and the criminal conviction is stayed.
While I applaud Wilson-Raybould’s courage and determination in standing her ground to preserve the independence of Canada’s judiciary system, I find it incredible that everyone involved in this saga seems to have lost sight of the Libyan elephant in the room.
Canadian corporations should not bribe foreign officials with prostitutes and Spice-Girl concerts to obtain contracts. That is sleazy business practice, which has no place in Canada, which prides itself as being part of the rules-based international order. So far, so good.
If found guilty, then SNC-Lavalin should suffer the forfeiture of future federal contracts. This would not eliminate jobs per se, but rather direct those same engineers and tradespersons to corporations that don’t gift prostitutes to foreign clients.
However, if we want to re-visit Libya and the Gaddafi family and start handing out punishment for indiscretions, we might find ourselves in a bit of a bind.
Canada took great pride in the fact that we led the NATO effort to effect regime change in Libya in 2011. The approved United Nations Resolution 1973 only authorized NATO to enforce a no-fly zone over the skies of Libya to prevent Gaddafi from bombing the Libyan rebels.
Led by Canadian Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard, the NATO Commanders jokingly boasted that they were in fact enforcing a ‘no-drive’ zone so that they could openly bomb Gaddafi’s troops on the ground.
We also armed the Libyan rebels in violation of the UN arms embargo, and it soon became apparent that the anti- Gaddafi rebels included more than a few unsavoury characters.
Far from being the democracy loving freedom fighters we wanted to assist, the rebels were a murderous collection of Islamic extremists (including al-Qaeda), human traffickers, and other criminals.
It was impossible to hide the true character of the rebels when their first act of victory was to film themselves brutally beating the 69 year-old Gaddafi to death on the streets of Sirte on October 20, 2011.
Following Gaddafi’s death, Canada and the rest of the NATO alliance turned their back on the Libyan people and simply proclaimed “victory”.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper was so overjoyed with Canada’s defeat of Libya that he staged a lavish victory parade on Parliament Hill, and bestowed the Order of Canada on General Bouchard.
Back in Libya, the fighting never stopped. That once prosperous nation devolved immediately into a failed state. The various militia groups refused to disband and instead established their own fiefdoms. At present, there are no fewer than three rival Libyan governments – all impotent – and an estimated 300 different militia factions in a country with fewer than 6 million citizens.
In terms of widening the crisis, in 2012, Taureg fighters armed from the unsecured Libyan arsenals, allied themselves with al-Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) to seize a vast swath of northern Mali. This brings us full circle to the current deployment of 200 Canadian military personnel to support the U.N. mission in Mali, which saw its origins in the fiasco we created by deposing Gaddafi in Libya.
So yes, let’s punish SNC-Lavalin if guilty of providing bribes to the Gaddafi family. But let’s also establish a full parliamentary inquiry to hold accountable those Canadian officials who participated in the 2011 destruction of Libya.
That’s the real crime.