The recent quiet guilty plea of an SNC Lavalin executive is an example of the newest way to keep the public in the dark.
The CBC’s Elizabeth Thompson reported that Normand Morin, former vice-president of Lavalin pled guilty to five charges of contravening Canada’s election financing rules in an elaborate scheme of payoffs to Canadian political entities. The irony is that by pleading guilty the details of the scheme and the identity of the other persons involved will be kept from the public’s knowledge. This is the latest trend of secrecy so many illegal dealings can take place without accountability. And this is not an isolated event.
In the field of road safety and collision analysis similar acts are occurring on a daily basis. Trials are avoided not because someone is actually guilty of all accusations but because there is an advantage to be gained. The accused gains a advantage of leniency for cooperating with the crown. But unnamed entities who are also guilty gain an advantage by remaining hidden from the public. Prosecutors use the excuse of an accused’s cooperation as a reason to remove more serious charges without the public’s awareness of possible inner dealings. The accused gains a benefit, the un-named guilty parties gain a benefit because they remain unidentified but accountability for illegal acts suffers.
In the up-coming sentencing of Jaskirat Singh Sidhu a similar action is threatening to unfold. Mr. Sidhu was the truck driver who allegedly drove through a stop sign colliding with the bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos hockey team on April 6, 2018 at the intersection of Highways 35 and 335 in Saskatchewan. Mr. Sidhu pleaded no contest to the 16 counts of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death and other charges. By doing so the report of the investigating RCMP remains unavailable to public scrutiny and it may never see the light of day. That report would provide the grounds upon which the criminal charges were laid. But those grounds may not be reasonable as evidenced from other independent investigations. As reported by others the Saskatchewan transportation department failed to provide an adequate intersection sight triangle that might have allowed both drivers to avoid the collision. So the deaths might never have occurred even though Mr. Sidhu may have made an error. The importance of this failure has been down-played in reports by most news media. So the public may never know.
As indicated in the article by Elizabeth Thompson “Disclosure blocked by guilty plea”, crown prosecutors say that information about guilt cannot be released once the accused has plea guilty. Other reasons mentioned in the Lavalin case included the fact that other potentially guilty persons “were no longer with the company and the company cooperated with the investigation”.
Pleading guilty as a mechanism to avoid accountability needs to be placed on the public’s radar.