Mid-day, former Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould issued a demotion letter that I think we can be pretty sure wasn’t vetted by the PMO. You might want to give it a quick peek — because it might not stay up long.
Wilson-Raybould, MP for Vancouver Granville, was demoted to Minister of Veteran’s Affairs today, a drop from the ninth to 30th place in cabinet minister precedence, observed CTV’s Parliament Hill reporter Glen McGregor.
Earlier in the day, McGregor’s Global TV colleague Mercedes Stephenson commented that “a number of Liberals” had told her that “Cabinet members and PMO were not thrilled with her performance” as Justice Minister.
Wilson-Raybould doesn’t explain why she thinks she was demoted, but she certainly leaves some big clues in her 1,100 word letter, which is followed by another 1,000 words in an annex.
And it’s worth noting that among the more than 2,000 words, Justin Trudeau are not two of them. Nowhere does she name the Prime Minister or thank him for the privileged of serving as Justice Minister for three years.
Frankly, it’s hard to understand to whom Trudeau was making his public display of displeasure with Wilson-Raybould — certainly he didn’t have to publicly drop her 11 cabinet levels. But as we’ve learned with the Burnaby South games, Trudeau can be quite petty.
Also keep in mind this is a lawyer’s letter about an employment separation. Wilson-Raybould makes a few points — all of which sum up to one big one: I did my job.
First, she provides the evidence that she acted on the mandate letter, arguing “[t]here is very little, if anything, in my mandate letter we have not done or is not well under way to completing.”
Then she addresses the more nuanced part of the job. It is not just to be the Minister of Justice, administering to the court system. It is also to be the Attorney-General of Canada and the top legal adviser to cabinet — and as such “demands a measure of of principled independence.” She says the AG “must be non-partisan…always willing to speak truth to power. This is how I served through my tenure in that role.”
Wilson-Raybould then continues, throwing out the PM’s own words that the relationship between Canada and Indigenous people is the “most important,” mentioning that “the work that must be done is well known,” and “legislative and policy changes based on the recognition of title and rights, including historic treaties, are urgently needed”. Toward the end of her letter she pledges to “continue to be directly engaged” in advancing “fundamental shifts.”
Remember, these words are being written by a woman of Kwakwaka’wakw heritage who was previously the Regional Chief of the BC Assembly of First Nations. And they are being written the week after a heavily-armed RCMP contingent used force to remove Wet’suwet’en activists from a ‘checkpoint’ on the road to a work camp for gasline workers. The line crosses lands where, courts have ruled, hereditary chiefs hold historic and traditional title. Those chiefs, it seems, were not part of the consultation and accommodations for the project.
And it also comes as the Trudeau government re-runs consultation and accommodation efforts with Indigenous people regarding the Trans Mountain Expansion Project. The Trudeau government’s previous consultations and accommodation with Indigenous people were stuck down by the Federal Court of Appeal last spring because they insufficient. Without a doubt, the Trudeau government wants to soon show its finance and big oil backers that shovels are in the ground. And that means ending the consultation, making whatever accommodations they decide upon and re-approving the project soon. Perhaps, once again, too soon.
Given the focus of her letter, and given the pipeline context, it’s hard not to wonder if Wilson-Raybould’s comments about independent advice and speaking truth to power might well be aimed at a PMO political mix that that is one part Indigenous policy meat-grinder and one part Trudeau marketing show.
And it makes you wonder if Wilson-Raybould’s public drubbing has come because, on matters of Indigenous title and consultations, she gave independent, non-partisan, “truth to power” advice — to people who didn’t want to hear it.