Canada must move away from the “awful, colonial” piece of legislation known as the Indian Act, says former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould.
Ms. Wilson-Raybould says the country must work to rebuild Indigenous nations within Canada – a main focus of her newly released book on reconciliation entitled From Where I Stand.
In an interview ahead of its release, Ms. Wilson-Raybould stressed the book is not a political tool in an election campaign, as some have suggested.
She is running as an Independent in the B.C. riding of Vancouver Granville.
Rather, Ms. Wilson-Raybould said, it is the culmination of more than a decade of effort. She first considered writing it when she stepped down as Assembly of First Nations B.C. regional chief to run in the 2015 election for the Liberals.
“I heard all of the comments about the book being this tell-all,” she said in the interview.
“I do not want them to look at this as political. We are not going to solve or create that space for Indigenous people in the country if we think of these issues as being political. We are talking about one of the most important issues facing our country."
One of the central themes of the book is the impact of the Indian Act on Canada, including its goal to “assimilate" Indigenous peoples.
It also “discouraged them from participating in Canadian society,” Ms. Wilson-Raybould writes.
The act was passed by Parliament in 1876 and gives the federal government enormous power over the lives of registered First Nations people and bands.
Canada still has a lot of work to do on Indigenous issues that can only be achieved by working together, she said, adding it is a shared responsibility.
The book also details Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s professional journey, including being named to the justice portfolio – a job she was shuffled out of in January to the veterans portfolio.
In February, she resigned from Justin Trudeau’s cabinet.
In a four-hour testimony before the House of Commons justice committee, Ms. Wilson-Raybould also detailed how she felt pressure to intervene to help SNC-Lavalin, a Quebec engineering giant, to secure a deferred prosecution agreement.
She was ousted from the Liberal caucus, along with her former cabinet colleague Jane Philpott, in April. Ms. Philpott is also running as an Independent in the Oct. 21 election, in a riding in the Greater Toronto Area.
As she eyes re-election, Ms. Wilson-Raybould said that Indigenous matters and reconciliation are among the top issues in the campaign and beyond.
“I am hopeful that this book will contribute to some of that discussion, of course leading up to the election, but more importantly, [to] try to move beyond partisanship and address this issue in a major way," Ms. Wilson-Raybould said.
Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s book does not go into detail about her experience in the SNC-Lavalin controversy. On Page 205, there is a passing reference to the issue that engulfed the Trudeau government for the months leading into the campaign.
“In my recent testimony before the Justice Committee on February 27, 2019, respecting the SNC-Lavalin controversy, I observed the history of the Crown-Indigenous relations in this country includes a history of the rule of law not being respected,” Ms. Wilson-Raybould wrote.
Ms. Wilson-Raybould said she may write about the SNC Lavalin affair.
“I think there will come a time when I will turn to my mind to putting pen to paper and writing a book on that," she said, adding that time is not now.