Scandal and matriarchy: How Jody Wilson-Raybould makes me want to be a better lawyer

Jennifer TaylorThere were so many standout moments from Jody Wilson-Raybould’s testimony before the House of Commons Justice Committee on Feb. 27. But, for me, one line stood out the most:

I come from a long line of matriarchs and I am a truth teller in accordance with the laws and traditions of our Big House — this is who I am and who I will always be.”

That’s how Wilson-Raybould — the first Indigenous person to be Canada’s minister of justice and attorney general — concluded her opening statement, drawing on her ancestors, the legal system of the Kwakiutl nation and her own history as an Indigenous woman and lawyer.

This one line made me want to be a better lawyer, a better daughter, a better truth teller in my own life.

Wilson-Raybould’s testimony was the climax of the SNC-Lavalin scandal that has enveloped Canadian politics for the last month. For context, it happened the same day as Michael Cohen’s testimony before the oversight committee of the U.S. House of Representatives. Compared to our force-fed diet of Trump-related scandals, the SNC-Lavalin story has felt, at times, rather quaint and Canadian — even though it stems from criminal charges that the Quebec company bribed Libyan officials to secure contracts. SNC-Lavalin is currently on trial for these charges in Quebec.

On Feb. 7, the Globe and Mail reported that Wilson-Raybould had faced pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office to intervene in the SNC-Lavalin prosecution. The implication: The refusal to oblige was behind her recent cabinet reassignment (some said demotion) from Justice to Veterans Affairs (she has since resigned from cabinet). Instead of continuing with the trial, the political objective would be for the Crown and defence to negotiate a remediation agreement (aka a “deferred prosecution agreement” or “DPA”) under Part XXII.1 of the Criminal Code, a new set of provisions enacted (pretty quietly) last year. This agreement would stay the criminal proceeding and avoid the political and economic ramifications of a criminal conviction for SNC, which employs thousands of Canadians. MORE

 

Jody Wilson-Raybould’s father: ‘I think she was kicked in the teeth’

a man wearing a suit and tie: Bill Wilson, left, with former Assembly of First Nations grand chief Shawn Atleo ,at the AFN's general meeting in Calgary in 2009. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh)
Bill Wilson, left, with former Assembly of First Nations grand chief Shawn Atleo ,at the AFN’s general meeting in Calgary in 2009. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh)

Not long after the Globe and Mail broke the story alleging that Justin Trudeau’s PMO had pressured former Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to interfere in a criminal investigation involving Montreal engineering giant SNC-Lavalin, comparisons were drawn between the former lawyer from the We Wai Kai Nation and her father, Bill Wilson.

Wilson-Raybould, who was demoted to the Veterans Affairs portfolio, reportedly refused the order, reminding Canadians that she also comes from a formidable, constitutional-shaping political lineage; Wilson famously sparred with Pierre Trudeau in the 1980s.

He remains strongly vocal about Indigenous issues and critical of the federal government’s commitment to reconciliation.

The reality is that with Trudeau and this government, reconciliation is more a farce than the Conservatives.

The other thing is that she has a name—Puglass, which means “a good host”in the potlatch that signifies that she’s an honest, high-ranking person. My value system, which is obviously different than Trudeau’s, places a higher order on acceptance by the people of your integrity than allegiance to some company. MORE

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The Dzawada’enuxw First Nation files lawsuit against Canada on fish farms dispute

Dzawada’enuxw First Nation community members, including matriarchs, elected and traditional leaders, and artists, were in Vancouver Thursday to announce their decision to sue the Government of Canada.


At a press conference on Jan. 10, 2018, Chief Willie Moon, traditional leader of the Dzwada’enuxw Nation said the ‘zero tolerance’ policy for fish farms in their waters comes from the direction of their matriarchs and membership. Photo by Michael Ruffolo

The First Nation, from Kingcome Inlet, B.C., filed a statement of claim in federal court in Vancouver on Thursday, arguing the federal government authorized licenses for fish farms operating in their waters, without their consultation or consent.

The claim says the fish farm operations pollute and poison wild salmon and infringe on the nation’s constitutionally protected rights. Their case is the first ever rights-based challenge to the federal licensing process that fish farm companies rely on to operate along the coast of B.C. SOURCE