SNC Lavalin – its about “playing true”

By Christine Duhaime | March 14th, 2019

Sometimes non-lawyers ask me about the SNC Lavalin situation – some don’t get what all the fuss is about.

And I get why they don’t get it  – while most lawyers across Canada were troubled by the prospect of the interference in a prosecution by politicians for political gain occurring in Canada, I think it resonated a little less with non-lawyers.

Lawyers sit through long classes in law school and have to read sometimes upwards of 2,000 pages of caselaw per night, the material parts of which deal with ancient concepts of law and equity, constitutional law and the rule of law. The rule of law becomes part of our DNA and we bristle at the prospect of political interference in prosecutions because it isn’t just that there is interference in stopping a prosecution that is contrary to the rule of law, it also means that the opposite is possible, namely that there could be interference to commence a prosecution. If as a society, we cross the line and stop a justified prosecution for political gain, will we cross a worse line and commence a wrongful prosecution against an innocent person for political gain? They are just difference sides of the same coin.

The SNC Lavalin case is like a doping case in the Summer Olympics.

Imagine Canada has a superstar athlete who wins a gold medal in the 50 free at the Summer Olympics – arguably the hardest, most prestigious Olympic event there is.

At the medal ceremony, our superstar swimmer stands on the podium, receives his gold medal, the world sings “O Canada” and the whole country feels proud.

A few days later, we find out our star swimmer cheated and won the 50 free with the use of illegal drugs. Then we find out that he has been charged with doping in the past and cheated before.

He didn’t play true.

The World Anti-Doping Agency has to take some action. They decide to ban him from competing in swimming for two years. Two years is harsh – it means he will lose his endorsements, his coach and his entourage will be out of a job, and he will never recover because swimmers have a short competitive shelf life.

After the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency makes her decision, the head of the International Olympic Committee, who is a Canadian, asks her to change her mind. The head of the World Anti-Doping Agency is consistently lobbied to let this one untrue play slip by. She is asked to consider the harm to the swimmer of a two year ban and the harm to his family, his coach, his team. Jobs are at stake.

She says no, the agency has a duty to enforce the principle that athletes must play true and uphold the integrity of athletics, otherwise what do we stand for, if not integrity? The world is looking at us, she says, to make this right, to deliver justice.

The head of the Olympic Committee fires the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency and replaces her.

How do you think it ends?  #playtrue

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