Lost Opportunity: Wilson-Raybould Took Herself Out of the Game

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So Jody Wilson-Raybould was “surprised” that she was not invited to attend a meeting of federal opposition leaders with the prime minister? (CTV PowerPlay Feb. 18)  This is despite the fact she is not a leader of, and in fact is not even a member of, any political party. Of course this is the same Wilson-Raybould who was “surprised” when she was asked to vacate her old ministerial suite of offices on returning to Ottawa as an Independent MP after the last federal election, so perhaps no one should be surprised.

More importantly, this is also the same Wilson-Raybould who cavalierly turned down the prime minister’s offer to assume the role of Minister of Indigenous Services, where she would have had an unprecedented opportunity to effect real change for indigenous peoples from within the system, changes which she has repeatedly (and correctly) stated are long overdue. Certainly a number of her cohorts were surprised by her decision. Heather Bear, vice-chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, representing 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan, said at the time that she felt it would have been a positive step for the former justice minister to fill the role. “I would have welcomed her presence there in order to fix what we know is wrong with the system,” she said. Manitoba Metis Federation President David Chartrand agreed, calling Raybould’s decision “hypocritical” since she was willing to fill the role of Justice Minister, which he described as having a “choke hold” on indigenous people. According to Chartrand, it was “amazing” for Wilson-Raybould to be offered the opportunity to remake Indigenous Services, pointing out that she had valuable experience including her former role as the B.C. regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations. “Imagine now we have a First Nation leader, who is a lawyer, who is a regional chief, a prosecutor to actually now lead that file? Wow,” he said. “You couldn’t ask for a better picture.” (Toronto Star. Mar.7, 2019).

Evidently that was the prime minister’s thought as well, given the importance he has placed on reconciliation. Despite protesters’ claims that “reconciliation is dead” it is important to remember that much has been accomplished, even if much more remains to be done. As Assembly of First Nations national chief Perry Bellegarde noted, progress under the Trudeau government has been “unprecedented”. (CP, Oct 13.2019)

But Wilson-Raybould spurned the offer, saying she refused to be responsible for a file that oppressed her people. The irony. If she had accepted, she would legitimately be at the table now during the current Wet’suwet’en/Coastal Gaslink dispute, as a negotiator representing the federal government. Instead, she is reduced to offering her services as a ‘mediator’ from the outside.