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Keep justice minister and attorney general one role: McLellan report

Anne McLellan, leader of the federal task force on marijuana, listens to a question during a news conference in Ottawa, Tuesday December 13, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

The former Liberal minister charged with making recommendations on whether the roles of justice minister and attorney general should be separated is recommending no structural changes should be made.

Anne McLellan was asked by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to examine the possibility of splitting the two roles in the federal cabinet in light of concerns raised by former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould as part of the SNC-Lavalin affair.

The Prime Minister’s Office released McLellan’s findings this afternoon, just hours after ethics commissioner Mario Dion’s report concluded that Trudeau violated the Conflict of Interest Act by pressuring Wilson-Raybould to halt the criminal prosecution of the Montreal engineering firm.

McLellan says in her report she does not believe the two roles need to be split to protect prosecutorial independence and promote public confidence in the criminal justice system.

She says creating the dual role was a deliberate choice when Canada was formed at Confederation for “good reason” and that the country benefits from giving one person responsibility over key elements of the justice system.

McLellan recommends developing a detailed protocol to govern how ministers consult with the attorneys general in specific prosecutions and that parliamentarians, ministers and their staff be better educated on the roles of attorney general and justice minister – their independence in decision-making about prosecutions and the consequences of interfering with that discretion.

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