By Jacques GallantPolitical Reporter
Thu., July 8, 2021timer3 min. read
updateArticle was updated 2 hrs ago
Independent MP and former Liberal justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said Thursday she will not run in the next election, calling out a “toxic” and “ineffective” Parliament that marginalizes “individuals from certain backgrounds.”
Wilson-Raybould announced the decision in a letter to her Vancouver-Granville constituents, saying she’s noticed a “regression” in Parliament since she was first elected in 2015 under the Liberal banner, and that she feels better equipped to push for change on the outside.
“Federal politics is, in my view, increasingly a disgraceful triumph of harmful partisanship over substantive action,” she wrote.
Her office declined the Star’s request for an interview.
The first Indigenous person to serve as justice minister, Wilson-Raybould said in her letter she would be sharing more details about her future plans soon.
“I have not made this decision in order to spend more time with my family or to focus on other challenges and pursuits,” she said.
During her tenure as justice minister, she clashed with the Prime Minister’s Office over the handling of a criminal case against Montreal-based engineering giant SNC-Lavalin, sparking one of the Trudeau government’s biggest scandals.
She briefly became veterans affairs minister in a 2019 cabinet shuffle before resigning amid the SNC-Lavalin affair, and was later expelled from the Liberal caucus along with friend and former cabinet minister Jane Philpott.
Wilson-Raybould told the House of Commons’ justice committee in 2019 that she felt “consistent and sustained” pressure and veiled threats from within government, including the PMO and the office of ex-finance minister Bill Morneau, to bring an end to the criminal prosecution. Trudeau denied any impropriety.
The scandal will be a key part of her upcoming memoir, “ ‘Indian’ in the Cabinet: Speaking Truth to Power,” set to be published in October.
In her letter Thursday, Wilson-Raybould appeared to refer to the book, saying her decision came about “through long reflection on and writing about my own experiences in Ottawa.”
“I know @Puglaas will not stop fighting for Indigenous rights & the well-being of all Canadians,” Philpott tweeted Thursday, tagging Wilson-Raybould, whose Twitter username is her Kwakʼwala name.
Wilson-Raybould is the second Indigenous woman to announce this year that she will not run for re-election while also calling out the toxicity of federal politics.
Mumilaaq Qaqqaq, who is Inuk and represents Nunavut for the NDP, said last month she will not run again. In an op-ed for the Star, Qaqqaq said she had faced racism and sexism in Ottawa while also confronting an ineffective federal government when it came to improving the lives of her constituents.
“I think the fact that Jody isn’t running again is something that the rest of Canada should reflect on as well and have those questions and look at the history, understand what she has gone through,” Qaqqaq told reporters Thursday at a news conference calling on the justice minister to establish a special prosecutor on crimes against Indigenous peoples.
“This is probably an incredibly difficult decision. I know it was for me.”
Wilson-Raybould’s tenure as justice minister was rocky at times, facing criticism from the courts over being too slow to appoint Superior Court judges as they struggled with case delays, and from criminal defence lawyers and advocates who found the government took little action on criminal justice reform.
In 2018 she introduced Bill C-75, a massive piece of criminal justice legislation, part of which included measures to diversify juries. That was in direct response to the murder acquittal of Gerald Stanley by an all-white jury in the shooting death of 22-year-old Colten Boushie, an Indigenous man.
The move was criticized at the time by some legal experts as a knee-jerk reaction to one case, but the bill was vindicated in a Supreme Court ruling last month that found the changes will indeed help to diversify juries and are constitutional.
More recently, Wilson-Raybould went public with a text message she received from Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett, which Wilson-Raybould described as “racist” and “misogynistic.”
Wilson-Raybould had tweeted at Trudeau to not call an election and instead take action in the face of the discovery of the remains of Indigenous children on the grounds of a former Saskatchewan residential school.
Bennett then texted Wilson-Raybould: “Pension?” — suggesting Wilson-Raybould didn’t want an election this year as it would jeopardize her ability to collect a pension.
Bennett later apologized.
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