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‘Pay heed’ to words of top bureacrat on SNC-Lavalin affair, Trudeau says

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canadians should “pay heed” to the country’s top civil servant, who testified Thursday there was no inappropriate pressure put on Jody Wilson-Raybould to override a decision to prosecute SNC-Lavalin.

Taking questions from reporters after an event in St. John’s today, Trudeau called Privy Council Office clerk Michael Wernick an “extraordinary public servant” who has served Canada with “integrity and brilliance.”

Wernick told the justice committee probing the SNC-Lavalin affair that he warned Wilson-Raybould, justice minister at the time, there would be economic “consequences” to prosecuting SNC-Lavalin, including big job losses. But he maintained there was never any undue pressure from himself, Trudeau or officials with the Prime Minister’s Office.

Asked why Wernick and PMO officials kept pressing Wilson-Raybould on what was at stake after the decision had been made to proceed with prosecution, Trudeau said the government has a fundamental responsibility to preserve jobs and promote economic growth while respecting the rule of law and an independent judiciary.

“That is something this government has always done,” he said. “I would recommend that people pay close heed to the words of the clerk of the Privy Council. His service to this country over decades in the public service leaves him well-positioned to understand what institutions are grounded in, and make sure that we’re doing the right things as a government.”

The Public Prosecution Service advised SNC-Lavalin on Sept. 4, 2018, it would negotiate with the company on a Deferred Prosecution Agreement, which would have applied alternative penalties in order to avoid criminal proceedings against the Quebec-based global engineering firm for bribery and fraud charges related to contracts in Libya.

Wernick said he called the then justice minister and attorney general on Dec. 19, 2018, to discuss various issues — including the option of a remediation agreement.

During that call, Wernick said he spoke of the implications of prosecuting the company for employees, suppliers and communities. He said he told Wilson-Raybould that the prime minister and “a lot of her colleagues” were anxious about what they were hearing and reading in business media — articles warning that the company could close down or move if criminal proceedings went ahead.

Pressured to ‘get it right’

“I am quite sure the minister felt pressured to get it right, and part of my conversation with her on Dec. 19 was conveying context that there were a lot of people worried about what would happen … the consequences not for her, the consequences for the workers, and the communities and the suppliers,” he told MPs on Thursday.

Wernick said he did not cross any line in his exchanges with Wilson-Raybould, insisting the conversations were “lawful and appropriate.”

The justice committee is examining the growing controversy touched off by a Feb. 7 Globe and Mail report that Trudeau’s aides attempted to press Wilson-Raybould, while attorney general, to intervene in the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, and that exasperation with her lack of co-operation was one reason for shuffling her out of the Justice portfolio.

Former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould is expected to testify at the Commons justice committee next week. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Wilson-Raybould has remained silent on the issue, citing solicitor-client privilege. This week, she told the House of Commons that privilege is not hers to waive, and she hopes she is able to speak her “truth.”

Opposition Conservatives and NDP have been demanding the prime minister waive privilege so Wilson-Raybould can speak freely when she appears before the committee, expected next week.

Wernick said Thursday he doesn’t believe she is bound by solicitor-client privilege, but Trudeau repeated again, on Friday, that there are serious implications at play.

“This is something we do have to take very seriously because it’s a fundamental part of our justice system and indeed in this case there are two ongoing court cases,” he said.

Wilson-Raybould’s successor, Justice Minister and Attorney General David Lametti, is reviewing the matter, but has offered no timeline of when he could provide advice to the prime minister on privilege.

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List of Tourist Attractions Open Now in Ottawa

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With Ontario now in Step 3 of 2021 three-step plan for reopening, museums and other indoor attractions are allowed to reopen with capacity limited to not exceed 50 per cent capacity indoors and 75 per cent capacity outdoors.

Here is a list of Ottawa attractions you can visit starting July 16th.

Do remember to wear masks and buy tickets in advance.

Parliament Hill

Parliament’s Centre Block and Peace Tower are closed for renovation.

You can join for tours of the Senate of Canada Building (2 Rideau Street), House of Commons at West Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill, and East Block at East Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill.

When: Grounds open; guided tours of Parliament are suspended through the summer of 2021.
Where: 111 Wellington Street, Downtown Ottawa

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Ottawa performer leapfrogs from gymnastics to Broadway to TV

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A new AppleTV+ series set in a magical town that’s stuck in a neverending 1940s musical includes a pair of Ottawa siblings in the cast. 

Warren Yang and his sister, Ericka Hunter, play two of the singing, dancing residents of the village portrayed in Schmigadoon!, a small-screen series that takes its cues from classic musicals like Brigadoon, Wizard of Oz and Sound of Music, and skewers them with the offbeat comedic mastery of Saturday Night Live. 

In fact, you’ll recognize many of the names from SNL, starting with executive producer Lorne Michaels, creator of the late-night, live-comedy sketch show. Schmigadoon! also stars SNL cast member Cecily Strong and comedian Keegan-Michael Key, who hosted SNL in May. They play a New York couple who get lost on a hike and stumble into a strange town where everyone sings and dances. 

For Yang, a relative newcomer to show-biz, the series marks his television debut. For Hunter, the younger of his two older sisters, it’s the latest in a career path that began with dance lessons as a child more than 30 years ago. She attended Canterbury High School, Ottawa’s arts-focused secondary school. 

“Her dream was always to perform,” said Yang, 34, in an interview. “But that was never the path I thought was an option for me.” 

While his sister studied dance, Yang did gymnastics. He was an elite gymnast throughout his youth, ultimately leaving Merivale High School at 16 to train in Montreal, finishing high school through correspondence courses. He was a member of the Canadian National Team and received a scholarship to study at Penn State, majoring in marketing. 

A few years after graduation, Yang was working at an advertising agency in Toronto when he got a call from a Manhattan number. To his astonishment, they asked if he would be interested in auditioning for a Broadway revival of Miss Saigon.

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COVID-19: uOttawa to require vaccination for students living in residence

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Vaccination will be mandatory for students who want to live in residence at the University of Ottawa this year, with proof of vaccination and at least one dose required before move-in, or within two weeks of doing so if they can’t secure a shot before arriving.

Those who can’t receive a vaccine for “health-related reasons or other grounds protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code” will be able to submit a request for accommodation through the university’s housing portal, according to information on the university’s website.

Students with one dose living in residence will also have to receive their second dose “within the timeframe recommended by Ottawa Public Health.”

People who haven’t been granted an exemption and don’t get vaccinated or submit proof of having done so by the deadlines set out by the school will have their residence agreements terminated, uOttawa warns.

“Medical and health professionals are clear that vaccination is the most (effective) means of protecting people and those around them,” reads a statement provided to this newspaper by uOttawa’s director of strategic communications, Patrick Charette.

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“It is precisely for this reason that the University of Ottawa is requiring all students living in residence for the 2021-2022 academic year to be fully vaccinated. The University recognizes that some students may require accommodations for a variety of reasons and will be treating exceptions appropriately.”

Faculty, staff and students are also strongly encouraged to get vaccinated, the statement notes.

“Ensuring a high vaccine coverage in all communities is critical to ensuring an ongoing decline in cases and ending the pandemic. This will be especially important with the return of students to post-secondary institutions in our region in the fall of 2021.”

Neither Carleton University nor Algonquin College is currently mandating vaccination for students living in residence, according to the websites for both schools. But uOttawa isn’t alone in its policy – Western University, Trent University, Durham College and Fanshawe College have all implemented similar requirements. Seneca College, in the GTA, is going even further, making vaccination mandatory for students and staff to come to campus, in-person, for the fall term.

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