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I'm proud to work for SNC-Lavalin

Employees are your neighbours, your colleagues, your family and friends — and none of them had anything to do with the wrongdoings (and alleged wrongdoings) of former SNC-Lavalin leaders
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SNC-Lavalin headquarters are seen in Montreal, on Feb. 12. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi

By Andrew Karvonen

I am proud to work for SNC-Lavalin.

I have been watching this political “scandal” unfold and have been biting my tongue for too long, so I am voicing my own personal opinion.

This is not an “SNC-Lavalin scandal” as we hear it called in the media and by politicians, and that connotation infuriates me. It may be a political scandal, but it is not an SNC-Lavalin one.

I am employed by SNC-Lavalin and lead a significant component of our western Canadian business. That’s right, western Canadian business.

The political division in the country is large and the hatred spewed by much of western Canada to Quebec (and frankly vice versa) is at an all-time high.

I know as I was born, raised, live and work in Saskatchewan, the heartland of conservatism. This is simply demagogic politics at its ugliest.

I have read so many uninformed articles and angry comments here on LinkedIn and on Facebook where Canadians think punishing SNC-Lavalin employees is somehow getting back at Quebec or the Liberal government. This is insane.

I have thousands of SNC-Lavalin colleagues west of the Quebec border. They are as politically diverse as the rest of Canada. They are your neighbours, they are your colleagues, and they may even be your family and friends. None of them had anything to do with the wrongdoings (and alleged wrongdoings) of former SNC-Lavalin leaders.

This is not a western Canada versus Quebec issue. The majority of Canadians employed by SNC-Lavalin are outside of Quebec.

This is a political issue not an SNC-Lavalin one. All of my SNC-Lavalin colleagues should hold their heads high. We are all simply being used as a pawn in a political game without care for those innocent people affected.

I joined SNC-Lavalin through acquisition of another company after the scandals of a decade or two ago. The vast majority of the over 50,000 SNC-Lavalin employees around the world have a similar story.

Like me, most were not even here during the periods these acts were perpetrated by a handful of SNC-Lavalin’s former management. Like thousands of my colleagues from SNC-Lavalin, we are guilty of no crimes and we are tired of us being slandered, threatened with violence, and slapped around like a puck by politicians, the media, and worst yet, our fellow Canadians.

SNC-Lavalin’s troubled past is not new. If you think it is, then you have been hiding under a rock for a decade. Those responsible for the historic issues were fired by SNC-Lavalin years ago and some were criminally charged by the RCMP. Their actions (and alleged actions) disgust all of us.

It is in the past though. We have an entirely new board of directors, a new leadership team, and a world class ethics and compliance program that have been in place for years. The news media is largely failing to properly report the SNC-Lavalin side of this story and the affect it is having on my colleagues and the confidence the public has in the engineering industry as a whole.

I am proud to work for SNC-Lavalin. I work with the very best people in the industry who deliver world class projects every day to a client list of thousands. Our projects positively touch the lives of almost all Canadians and others in countries around the globe. From the power you use, the roads and bridges you drive on, the water you drink, the resources you use, and the environment you live in, our projects have almost certainly positively contributed to your life.

SNC-Lavalin has been pushing for a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) or remediation agreement (as they are called in other countries). They are used to prevent innocent people from being punished for things they had nothing to do with. This includes employees, contractors, supply chain, and shareholders.

It does not mean there is no restitution by SNC-Lavalin and it does not mean the individuals involved in any wrongdoing do not face personal criminal and civil prosecution. This is what appears to be lost in this story. A DPA simply protects those who had nothing to do with it while enabling the company to make restitution to society, and the actual guilty parties face personal prosecution.

Almost all Canadians have a vested stake in this boondoggle; if you own a mutual fund or pension plan in Canada, you are probably invested in SNC-Lavalin and you too are also an innocent victim of this political game.

Whether the present government stepped over the line during this process will be determined by the authorities or certainly by Canadians in the next election. If there is a scandal, it is a political one, and not an SNC-Lavalin one.

What is absolutely certain is many innocent Canadians are being hurt by this. The unanswered questions remain: Why is SNC-Lavalin not being invited to negotiate a remediation agreement? What is gained by trying to punish thousands of innocent people for the failures of a handful who are no longer there to be punished and have already been personally charged under the law? I will tell you what is gained; absolutely nothing.

Andrew Karvonen is senior vice-president, infrastructure engineering, Western Canada, at SNC-Lavalin in Saskatoon.

The photo associated with this story has been updated.

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