Since the Liberals took power in 2015, Ottawa has poured billions into programs and services for Indigenous peoples and vowed to “renew” the relationship. But many Indigenous leaders say there’s much more work to do
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets attendees at the closing ceremony marking the conclusion of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls at the Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec on June 3, 2019. After two and a half years of hearings, a Canadian inquiry released its final report on the disappearance and death of hundreds, if not thousands of indigenous women, victims of endemic violence it controversially said amounted to “genocide.” – ANDREW MEADE , AFP/GETTY IMAGES
OTTAWA—It started with a promise.
Like so many before him, Justin Trudeau spoke to Canada’s Indigenous peoples last February, and vowed to do better. For too long, he said, Canada has failed. It has fallen short of its own Constitution, which enshrines Indigenous rights even as successive governments neglected to recognize them.
From the floor of the House of Commons, the prime minister pledged to change that. At long last, Ottawa would work with Canada’s Indigenous peoples — hundreds of First Nations, Métis nations, and Inuit peoples of the North — on a new relationship, one in which the federal government recognizes their rights in new legislation and dismantles the colonial dynamic that has been so damaging for so long.
In short, it was key to the reconciliation between Canada and Indigenous peoples that Trudeau and his Liberals have championed at every turn since they took power in 2015.
And it fell apart.
Protesters denounced the initiative in rallies across the country. The Assembly of First Nations charged the process was dictated by Ottawa and called for it to stop. It even caused a rift in Trudeau’s cabinet between then-justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and others, according to Canada’s former top bureaucrat. In the end, the promised legislation was shelved, and the government shifted to tinkering with internal policy and passing bills to support Indigenous languages and child welfare.
It’s just one chapter in the story of reconciliation over the past four years, a deep and complex challenge the Trudeau Liberals hoisted on their own shoulders through their words and actions in government. Billions have poured into infrastructure and social services, yet advocates and leaders say there are serious shortfalls. And while efforts to “renew” the relationship have been welcomed, many also doubt the government’s willingness to truly challenge the colonial foundations that have wreaked so much harm.
With less than three months before the next federal election, Indigenous leaders and policy experts say the prominence of reconciliation under this government has brought some positive changes, but also halting progress and disappointment.
“When we talk about the niceties of establishing and maintaining these respectful relationships, that also has to be married with tangible, substantive change,” said Ry Moran, director of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation in Winnipeg.
“So long as we have these massive inequalities, we can’t really begin to have that conversation of reconciliation.” SOURCE
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OTTAWA — Former Liberal justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould is slamming the federal government she was once a part of for making only “incremental” progress on the Indigenous justice file and their promise to “decolonialize” Canadian laws and policies.
“My fear and disappointment is that despite sounding the alarm, providing the advice, pushing and challenging, sharing perspectives of lived Indigenous experience… the federal government has fallen back once again into a pattern of trying to ‘manage the problem’ with Indigenous peoples and make incremental shifts rather than transforming the status quo,” Wilson-Raybould said during a keynote address on Wednesday at the First Nations Provincial Justice Forum in Vancouver. They were invited by the B.C.-based First Nations Justice Council.
She appeared alongside fellow newly-Independent MP Jane Philpott to deliver a joint address called: “From denial to recognition: the challenges of Indigenous justice in Canada.”
“Since I spoke to the leadership of British Columbia this past November, there have been a few developments, things have changed a bit,” Wilson-Raybould said early in her remarks, to laughter. “Perhaps not fully unexpected but certainly an eventful time,” she continued, appearing to reference the months-long controversy surrounding her allegations that she faced a sustained effort from senior government officials to attempt to pressure her to interfere in a criminal case against the Quebec engineering and construction giant SNC-Lavalin.
Wilson-Raybould framed her comments as her reflections and insights from her nearly three years as Canada’s first-ever Indigenous justice minister and attorney general, presented with the aim of informing these Indigenous leaders’ ongoing efforts to change the current justice system.
She said that she had “no illusion” about the reality of the system she was taking the helm of, but said that over the course of her time in cabinet she fought to challenge the way things had been done. MORE
Independent MPs Jane Philpott and Jody Wilson-Raybould speak with the media before Question Period in the Foyer of the House of Commons in Ottawa, Wednesday April 3, 2019. Former cabinet minister Philpott says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau violated the law when he expelled her and Wilson-Raybould from the Liberal caucus. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Former cabinet minister Jane Philpott says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau violated the law when he expelled her and Jody Wilson-Raybould from the Liberal caucus.
In the House of Commons, Philpott says the Parliament of Canada Act says MPs can’t be kicked out of their party groups without a vote and Trudeau ejected them on his own.
She’s asking Speaker Geoff Regan to declare that their privileges were violated.
A set of amendments in 2015 was meant to make it more difficult to remove MPs from their caucuses, to shift power away from party leaders and toward rank-and-file legislators.
Philpott says if Trudeau had followed the rules, it would have taken 90 Liberal MPs to vote to kick her and Wilson-Raybould out, and no such vote was held before Trudeau expelled them on the grounds that the caucus didn’t trust them any more.
The two former ministers have been thorns in Trudeau’s side in the SNC-Lavalin affair, with both resigning from cabinet over the way the controversy has been handled.
Riley Yesno: Why absence and silence was so powerful at Daughters of the Vote
Trudeau looks to the audience for a question following his speech to Daughters of the Vote in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Wednesday April 3, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
“Your seat is your power. By giving up your seat you’re giving up your power”.
That’s what Maryam Monsef, Minister for Women and Gender Equality, told me and the other two dozen or so delegates from Daughters of the Vote, who protested in the House of Commons by walking out on Conservative leader Andrew Scheer and turning our backs on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on April 3.
Run by the non-profit organization Equal Voice Canada, the Daughters of the Vote program is an initiative that brings together 338 women, gender-fluid and non-binary folk—one from every federal riding in Canada—to engage with women in politics, sit and speak in the House of Commons, and provide a platform for young leaders to have their voices amplified.
Although many of my fellow delegates and I didn’t say a word during our protests earlier this week, I think our messages were certainly heard.
The peaceful action attracted unanticipated media attention as reporters and journalists swarmed many of my colleagues following our exit from the House. The main question they wanted answered: Why?
Read more: The fall of the feminist Prime Minister
While I cannot speak on behalf of any of my peer’s individual motives, I know that some said they were prompted, at least in part, by the ejection of former ministers Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott from the Liberal caucus.Others said they protested in response to the policies, programs, and beliefs held by Scheer and Trudeau that have violent implications for their communities; such as Scheer’s anti-2SLGBTQ+ stances on marriage equality, or the Trudeau government’s sale of weaponry to countries like Saudi Arabia and large-scale environmental offences for example. Several people simply saw others taking action, and knew that this was a time to enact meaningful allyship and show solidarity. MORE
Daughters of the Vote discuss participating in politics, MPs being kicked out of caucus
WATCH ABOVE: An extended walk and talk with former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould
Former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould rejects the idea that by raising concerns about the SNC-Lavalin scandal, she may have helped boost Conservative prospects in the fall election campaign.
In an interview with the West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson, the now-independent MP for Vancouver-Granville said that while she understands concerns from her former caucus about how the scandal will impact their re-election chances, she thinks that is beside the point at the heart of the controversy.
READ MORE: Wilson-Raybould says anonymous leaks ‘trampling all over’ the confidences she still vows to uphold
“I don’t see myself as helping Andrew Scheer win the next election.,” she said, speaking from her Vancouver-area riding.
“I spoke my truth, I stood up for what was right and my belief in the institutions of our democracy and the necessary nature of those institutions remaining independent and upholding the rule of law … if politics ever overtakes the right thing to do, then we’ve lost already.”
WATCH: Video coverage of The West Block’s exclusive interview with Jody Wilson-Raybould
PM’s lawyer sent letter to Opposition leader about remarks made concerning the SNC-Lavalin matter
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says he stands by his criticisms of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after receiving a lawyer’s letter threatening a lawsuit. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has received a lawsuit threat from the prime minister regarding comments he made about the SNC-Lavalin affair.
Scheer says he received a letter from Justin Trudeau’s lawyer on March 31.
The letter from Trudeau’s lawyer Julian Porter took issue with what they term inappropriate comments in a statement made by Scheer on March 29 in response to new documents tabled in the justice committee from former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould.
“The statement contained highly defamatory comments about Prime Minister Trudeau,” it reads.
Trudeau has been under fire for the last two months over allegations that there was pressure on Wilson-Raybould to interfere in criminal proceedings against Quebec construction giant SNC-Lavalin. In an appearance before the House justice committee, she said top government officials asked her to help ensure a special legal deal was extended to the company.
She later provided emails, a written statement and a taped recording to the committee. MORE
Michael Wernick called it a “profound change in Canada’s legal landscape.”
Jody Wilson-Raybould appears at the Senate legal and constitutional affairs committee on June 20, 2018. PATRICK DOYLE/CP
OTTAWA — Jody Wilson-Raybould’s text messages with Gerald Butts focused on the release of a historic directive on civil litigation involving Indigenous peoples, not just SNC-Lavalin, according to evidence submitted to the Commons justice committee.
The former principal secretary tabled texts between him and the former attorney general as evidence to the committee as part of its study of the SNC-Lavalin affair and allegations of political interference. Butts told the committee earlier that the directive was “the biggest contentious issue” between him and Wilson-Raybould around mid-December 2018.
Wilson-Raybould texted Butts on Nov. 28 to give him a heads-up that she intended to release a directive for civil litigation involving Indigenous peoples “at a big gathering in BC” the next day — formalizing a major government-wide policy shift to ditch adversarial litigation in favour of reconciliation.
“Even all the DOJ lawyers ([including] conservative ones) are good with it,” she wrote, adding that release of the directive “ticks off yet another mandate letter commitment.” MORE
‘The trust has been broken,’ says Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs Grand Chief Stewart Phillip
Independent MPs and former cabinet ministers Jane Philpott, left, and Jody Wilson-Raybould speak to reporters before question period in Ottawa, a day after being removed from the Liberal caucus. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)
The Trudeau government is defending its commitment to reconciliation as a growing number of Indigenous leaders and youth say they’re discouraged by his decision to eject two key figures on the file from the Liberal caucus.
“I’m very disappointed that it had to come to this,” said Linden Waboose, a 22-year-old from from Eabametoong First Nation who sits on the Nishnawbe Aski Nation Oshkaatisak Council, an advisory network of ten youths aged 18-29 from Northern Ontario.
“I feel like [Trudeau] doesn’t value that relationship he committed to in 2015.”
In her testimony before the Commons Justice Committee during its investigation of the SNC-Lavalin affair, Wilson-Raybould said she would not apologize for being a strong advocate of transformative change for Indigenous peoples.
As she was being shuffled from her justice post, she warned senior people in the government that it would not look good for the government.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, wants the prime minister to apologize to Jody-Wilson Raybould and Jane Philpott. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)
In text messages to Gerald Butts, Trudeau’s then-principal secretary, she wrote that the “timing of pushing me out (which will be the perception, whether true or not) is terrible. It will be confounding and perplexing to people.”
That perception is already being echoed by some.
“I think there is irreparable harm and damage done to Prime Minister Trudeau’s vision and stated intent to carry forward the reconciliation agenda,” said Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs Grand Chief Stewart Phillip.
“The trust has been broken.” MORE
Jody Wilson-Raybould lives up to the name she was given, her father says
The former AG talks to Maclean’s about recording her call with Michael Wernick, her relationship with Gerry Butts and the dangers of blind loyalty
Independent MP and former Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould speaks to reporters before Question Period on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, a day after being removed from the Liberal caucus on Wednesday, April 3, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
There are two ways this might go now for Jody Wilson-Raybould: creation of an icon or writing of a footnote. To her admirers, the former justice minister’s attributes seem lastingly potent. She was the woman who rose higher in federal politics than any previous Indigenous politician, only to be driven out on a point of principle. To her critics, including many of her former Liberal colleagues, she just wasn’t a team player and didn’t understand the compromises high office demands.
Wilson-Raybould, 48, was first elected a Liberal MP in Vancouver in 2015, having been recruited by Justin Trudeau on the strength of her record as a B.C. First Nations leader. He made her his first justice minister, then demoted her to Veterans Affairs early this year. Wilson-Raybould suspects she fell out of favour after resisting months of pressure from Trudeau and senior officials to use her power as attorney general to give SNC-Lavalin a way of avoiding a bribery trial through a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA).
Trudeau denies that was the reason. But Wilson-Raybould quit his cabinet as the controversy raged, and he kicked her out of the Liberal caucus on April 2, along with her ally, former Treasury Board president Jane Philpott. The following afternoon, she sat with Maclean’s for this extensive interview, which has been edited for length and clarity. (To read our interview with Jane Philpott, go here) MORE