Attorney General Lametti swears new oath in wake of SNC Lavalin affair

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Liberal MP David Lametti and his wife Geneviève Saumier arrive for the cabinet swearing-in ceremony in Ottawa on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

OTTAWA:  The swearing-in ceremony for members of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet had a new element added Wednesday: a revamped oath for the attorney general and justice minister.

David Lametti, who is continuing to serve in that position, had new wording incorporated into his oath as a result of the SNC-Lavalin affair.

One element of the battle between Trudeau and Lametti’s predecessor, Jody Wilson-Raybould, over whether the engineering firm should face trial was the fact that the attorney general and justice minister are the same person, but have two different jobs.

The attorney general is understood to be an independent position, exercising non-partisan judgment about prosecutions, while the justice minister is involved in political and policy decisions, which can include partisan considerations, made around the cabinet table.

The two points of view appeared to run up against each other in the SNC affair, with the attorney general of the day trying to maintain prosecutorial independence while the prime minister was urging her to intervene for what appeared to be partisan reasons.

A review Trudeau ordered into whether the two positions ought to be split concluded they didn’t, but suggested a new oath should be added for the attorney general to reflect their commitment to the rule of law.

The oath Lametti swore Wednesday was that as minister of justice he’ll see that the administration of public affairs is in accordance with the law.

As attorney general he pledged to “uphold the Constitution, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary and of the prosecutorial function.”

Lametti is one of 36 Liberal ministers sworn-in on Wednesday as the first official move of the Liberal minority government.

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