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