Jody Wilson-Raybould, the country’s first Indigenous justice minister – who was expelled from the Liberal caucus after she refused to intervene in a criminal proceeding – will not be running in the next general election.
Ms. Wilson-Raybould announced Thursday that she has decided against seeking re-election because she is discouraged by the political system in Parliament, which she said is too focused on partisanship over the public good.
“From my seat in the last six years, I have noticed a change in Parliament, a regression,” she wrote in a statement. “It has become more and more toxic and ineffective while simultaneously marginalizing individuals from certain backgrounds. Federal politics is, in my view, increasingly a disgraceful triumph of harmful partisanship over substantive action.”
In her statement, she said she intends to continue to fight for Indigenous rights, social justice and solutions to climate change.
She said she was struck by the reaction to the “flurry of horrific reports” about unmarked and abandoned graves of Indigenous children at former residential schools.
“I have taken strength from reaction of this news by Canadians from coast to coast. I think Canadians are demonstrating that when we speak of our ‘legacy of colonialism’ it is not a reference to something in the past but to a reckoning that is taking place right now – one that requires transformative action today.”
Ms. Wilson-Raybould also has a memoir coming out in the fall that is likely to be released in the middle of a federal election. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is widely expected to call an election in August for September. The memoir is expected to touch on conversations Ms. Wilson-Raybould had with Mr. Trudeau that led to her resignation from cabinet and eventual ouster from caucus.
She and her cabinet colleague Jane Philpott resigned in 2019 after accusing the Trudeau government of political interference in criminal proceedings against SNC-Lavalin, the Montreal engineering and construction giant.
Both women ran as Independents in the 2019 election, with Ms. Wilson-Raybould winning her Vancouver Granville riding and Ms. Philpott losing in Markham-Stouffville. Ms. Philpott now heads the medical school at Queen’s University.
Ms. Wilson-Raybould was a British Columbia regional chief when she was personally recruited by Mr. Trudeau to run for the Liberals in the 2015 general election. After the Liberals won a majority, Mr. Trudeau appointed her justice minister and attorney-general – the first Indigenous person to hold those prominent roles in cabinet.
But her rising star quickly faded when she refused repeated requests to grant a deferred prosecution agreement to SNC-Lavalin, a Quebec company with strong ties to the government. She was demoted to veterans affairs minister.
The Globe and Mail later broke the story of attempted political interference in the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, which led to a parliamentary inquiry, the resignations of top Trudeau lieutenant Gerald Butts and Privy Council clerk Michael Wernick and a finding against the Prime Minster by Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion, who found that Mr. Trudeau violated the Conflict of Interest Act by improperly pressuring Ms. Wilson-Raybould.
In her Thursday statement, Ms. Wilson-Raybould said the political system needs to change and be more reflective. It must respond to the needs of Canadians, not the political advantage of those in power.
“The privileges we give political parties. The out-of-date norms of our first-past-the-post electoral system. The power of the Prime Minister and the centralization of power in the hands of those who are unelected. The erosion of governing principles and conventions to the point that there are limited or no consequences for wrongful acts undertaken for political benefits,” she said. “Canadians need to lead our leaders.”
During the SNC-Lavalin affair, the Liberals launched a smear campaign against Ms. Wilson-Raybould, for which Mr. Trudeau later apologized. Recently, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett had to apologize for sending a text message to Ms. Wilson-Raybould that suggested she was only interested in securing her pension – MPs must serve a minimum of six years to receive one – when she called on Mr. Trudeau to put off calling an election and focus instead on reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in the aftermath of the discovery of unmarked graves at former residential schools.
Ms. Wilson-Raybould called the text message “racist” and “misogynist,” saying it was “indicative of a pattern of behaviour” she experienced while in the Trudeau cabinet.
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