Former Liberal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybold says the release of a new book detailing her final controversial days in the Trudeau government ahead of next week’s federal election was not the time to exact revenge on the prime minister.
Wilson-Raybold, who served as Canada’s first Indigenous Justice Minister and Attorney General, made the remarks in an exclusive interview with Granthshala News’ Don Frisson on Tuesday.
He resigned from Trudeau’s cabinet in early 2019 after clashes over how a potential criminal case against Quebec engineering giant SNC-Lavalin should be handled.
In a political memoir titled ‘Indians in Cabinet: Telling the Truth to Power’handjob Published Tuesday, Wilson-Raybould alleged that Justin Trudeau wanted him to lie to Canadians about what had happened, writing, “This man was not the leader I thought he was.”
“This is not my moment to avenge me,” Wilson-Raybould told Frisson of publishing the book, days before the September 20 election, in which Trudeau is seeking a third term in office.
He said he had announced his publication date before the Liberal leader called for mid-term elections last month.
“I think it’s important to convey my experiences in government and those experiences and the lessons I’ve learned,” she said. “I wanted to tell them.”
In the book, Wilson-Raybould describes a conversation with Trudeau, which later became known publicly as the SNC-Lavalin affair.
During a press conference on Saturday, Trudeau rubbished claims made by Wilson-Raybould for lying in the book.
“I didn’t want him to lie. I never would. I would never ask him that,” he said. “It’s not true at all.”
In August 2019, a federal ethics commissioner’s report concluded that Trudeau had violated conflict of interest rules by attempting to interfere in a corruption case against SNC-Lavalin.
The firm was accused of corruption over its dealings with the Libyan government, but citing the importance of saving jobs, the government began to explore the possibility of a deal – a deferred prosecution agreement. Wilson-Raybould, who was serving as Justice Minister at the time, was opposing the deal.
“As a cabinet minister at the center of perceived power in the government, I didn’t realize how deep the partisanship ran,” Wilson-Raybould told Granthshala News.
“The extreme nature of partisanship and the blind allegiance that I experienced is corrosive,” she said.
Despite this, Wilson-Raybold says he does not regret the time he spent in federal politics.
In 2015, Wilson-Raybould became Canada’s first Indigenous Justice Minister and Attorney General – a feat he said he was still “incredibly proud of”.
After being ousted by the Liberal Party in April 2019, Wilson-Raybould ran as an independent candidate for Vancouver-Granville in the last federal election. She became the first woman to be elected as an independent member of the Parliament of Canada.
Earlier in July, Wilson-Raybold announced that she would not run for re-election and would instead shift her focus to working outside federal politics to bring about change for indigenous peoples.
Speaking about her personal experience as an indigenous woman in cabinet, she told Granthshala News that she has faced discrimination and racism throughout her life and career.
“I know this is an experience that many women and individuals have in their work lives and it highlights to me how much we still need to do to make sure all voices are heard. Go, to eliminate systemic problems and discrimination – implied or otherwise biased in our system of government,” she said.
By retelling her story in her book, the 50-year-old is hopeful that other Canadians can learn some lessons.
“I would tell any young Indigenous person, young or old, any Canadian, that your voice matters and to get involved in politics,” she said.
With at least 75 candidates, a record number of Indigenous peoples are running in the federal election this year, compared to 62 in 2019. Wilson-Raybould said there is more work to be done.
“We still have a long way to go to make sure that we are not saying that we have diversity, for example, within our political party… but we really have to act on that diversity. And listen to those diverse voices,” he said.
“I will continue to use my voice. And I hope others do the same.”
— With files from the Canadian Press