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Lava Jato Style Corruption Reaches Canada

Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau being taken to task by The Simpsons over the SNC Lavalin Scandal

Recently it was revealed that Canada’s Federal Police were stopped from investigating the Office of the Prime Minister of Canada, his top staff and the Prime Minister himself, by the Prime Minister. This follows the halt of inquiries by Canada’s Justice Committee and Ethics Committee by the ruling party in order to protect the Prime Minister from investigations. The matter at hand involves the Prime Minister, his top aids and the head of the public service pressuring the former Justice Minister to change the rules for a large corporation so they could avoid prosecution over corruption charges related to their activities in Libya a few years ago. The Justice Minister, Jody Wilson-Rayboult was pressured because the company in question demanded it from the Prime Minister’s office. She and the Judicial community pushed back and she was fired for not helping the Prime Minister and the company skew the application of law, an action that may have put her in legal trouble directly.

The Lava Jato scandal in Brazil is one of the most significant actions against corrupt practices ever undertaken by any modern state, and it began and was conducted by an independent and strong Judicial community in Brazil. The impetus for this move was the effect that corruption had on average Brazilians. A few years ago when there was a boom in Brazil’s economy, and billions of dollars were put into Olympic games and other nonsense that did nothing to improve the lives of people in Brazil, the public outrage encouraged an aggressive application of justice by those experts in Brazil. The end result was a coordinated state run push again large corporations and the political elites that enabled corruption in their system. It also lead to three former Presidents going to jail on charges of corruption. While not a perfect solution, the spirit put forth by the Justice community in Brazil should be commended, as corruption almost exists as a set of unbreakable laws in itself.

What is being vocally protested in the streets of Hong Kong and aggressively applied by Brazil’s Judicial community needs to be understood by those in Canada’s British Parliamentary system, as a change must be administered when a sitting Prime Minister can just decide that he doesn’t need to follow the law and can halt any investigations in turn. Some effects of corruption must be understood, because they are not limited to Asia or Latin America and are universally damaging to individuals, their families and community.

Corruption is bad for the economy, always, especially for the middle and lower class. The reason for this is that money and funds go to friends of elites, because it comes from and produces power. Investment in these situations goes to the most rich and powerful special interest groups, not projects for communities who need it as seen in the massive amount of debt Brazil incurred from the Olympics. There are cases where some of the best job producers are ignored for ideological reasons, while a large corporation was assisted that actively harms locals and permits passives human rights abuses in developing countries in which they operate. Those governments and their people should feel shame that a company being protected by their government was profiting off oppressive systems in states with weak legal protections.

Once corruption takes hold, it is almost impossible to eliminate, and in many cases these systems can target individuals as in the Norman case in Canada. Corruption infects the entire system and economy of a country, and pressures actors to not function in a productive manner. Actors becomes corrupted as they function to survive within a corrupt system. With money, energy and time working to elevate those who support corrupt regimes, so does the entire system work to support the elites at the top of those regimes. Admission isn’t based on the best, but who is connected to who, and justice often withers. This corrupt spiral doomed Brazilians to be eternally in need. Their Justice community, while not producing a perfect solution had to do something or everyone would lose.

Unfortunately a severe example comes from the Norman case in Canada, where an individual can be targeted for whistle blowing on a policy that he believes is bad for the country, and be punished by the government as a lone individual in an extreme measure against his career and personal finances. The same government that punished their Justice Minister for administering Justice, called journalists liars for reporting on it and decided for the first time in Canadian history that some laws apply to some, but not to others used the power of that same state to target a person in their country. While there are many examples in Brazil, it is often not that case that the head of the government itself takes on the attitude that they simply disagree with a law that applies to them so it will not be applied, and even in those cases where it occurred they were taken to trial and/or taken to jail. We do not choose which laws to follow or not to follow, its why some people go to prison and why we have a legal system, to ensure equality. To block the law from one person or a group of people creates as Technicolor Dreamcoat scenario and is frankly eye wateringly corrupt and backwards.

The application of law must be strict and demonstrate that corrupt practices, even by a President or Prime Minister, must be applied directly and without the image of favoritism or allowing crimes to go unpunished for a lucky powerful few. Even a King or Queen has limits to their power, and can commit crimes, so why can a Prime Minister unilaterally decide which laws apply to them? While no system is perfect, the system must show that it is based in justice and fairness. This was the outcome of 800 years of Western democratic values, and you cannot permit a leader or a different political ethos or ideology to dominate fairness in a democracy, because it gives power to a few who ensure that their absolute power corrupts, absolutely, and perhaps has in our examples above. The end result is that those challenging power fear for their reputation, economic stability and personal security. When a democracy reaches the point where journalists either have to echo the desires of those in power or fear their own freedom and security for criticizing that government, you no longer live in a democracy ruled by the tenets of freedom and equality. The government never should have to speak for you, if you have the intelligence and wisdom to speak for yourself. If they have to speak for you, it means you never had power of free representation and that government will never truly provide it for you. Freedom is paramount, and is not and should never be at the behest of a government official, even if they are the Prime Minister or President of your country.

 

Author

Richard Basas
Richard Basas

Richard Basas, a Canadian Masters Level Law student educated in Spain, England, and Canada (U of London MA 2003 LL.M., 2007), has worked researching for CSIS and as a Reporter for the Latin America Advisor. He went on to study his MA in Latin American Political Economy in London with the University of London and LSE. Subsequently, Rich followed his career into Law focusing mostly on International Commerce and EU-Americas issues. He has worked for many commercial and legal organisations as well as within the Refugee Protection Community in Toronto, Canada, representing detained non-status indivduals residing in Canada. Rich will go on to study his PhD in International Law.

Areas of Focus:
Law; Economics and Commerce; Americas; Europe; Refugees; Immigration

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