Jody Wilson-Raybould most recently served as the Independent Member of Parliament for Vancouver Granville. The following is an excerpt from his latest book, ‘In the ‘Indian’ cabinet: telling the truth to power, which will be published on Tuesday.
The sun was setting through the third-floor windows of the Signature Private Plane Terminal at Vancouver International Airport as I waited for the Prime Minister to arrive. The terminal is isolated and away from the congested main terminal and the public and media. My husband, Tim, had dropped me off and then parked me among the cars of the prime minister’s convoy to wait for me. PM is late. I had a creeping feeling that this was the beginning of the end. it was here. The time had come.
It’s been three days since Robert Fife’s front page story The trial against SNC-Lavalin set off a series of ongoing accusations over the Liberal government’s efforts to “pressure” me. As the story broke, the prime minister said “the allegation in The Granthshala”. This morning’s story is false. Neither the current nor the previous Attorney-General was directed by me or by anyone in my office to make a decision in this matter. The government’s response over the next 72 hours was a case study in pride – at once both to their surprise that they had been caught and annoyed that anyone could ever think they would ever do anything wrong. In the indigenous political world I came from, we always talked about how government practice was, for generations, to deny, delay, and divert attention to indigenous issues. I had heard that phrase – denial, delay and distraction – since I was a kid. The past three years have shown me that governments use that strategy to go far beyond their treatment of indigenous peoples. Sometimes all Canadians are treated with contempt. Some people were buying it on SNC-Lavalin’. And he was right to doubt it.
I wish it hadn’t come to this. I felt a familiar struggle within me that had lasted my entire life: a deep desire to confide in people. To expect the best out of them. Want them to do the right thing. An almost protective desire to see them do it right. And yet at the same time knowing that sometimes it doesn’t. That when people act a certain way over and over again, they are likely to repeat it, whatever my hope and desire.
While I was sitting in that room – a large room, all by itself – waiting for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to arrive, I asked myself why I felt I had to come out of this mess, to protect him. to try to help them. Especially when his government was digging deeper and deeper from time to time by not explaining how I was pushed to prosecute SNC-Lavalin so that they could enter into a Deferred Prosecution Agreement, or DPA. Especially when his office was asking its lawmakers to repeat lines they knew were not accurate.
I was worried sitting there. I could feel my unfulfilled hope that I would be proved wrong and that everything was not as terrible as it seemed. I wanted the government to acknowledge their wrongdoings and deal with them in an open and transparent manner. I knew the only way to deal with this was to speak the truth. complete transparency. It was as clear as sunlight to me. The Prime Minister had only to acknowledge that the efforts to apply pressure were not justified and take concrete steps to correct the wrongdoings. Deep down I think I knew better than I expected him to myself. However, at the time, I still wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt.
I saw the Canadian Armed Forces Challenger landing and walking to the private terminal. As the Prime Minister walked up the stairs, I heard him talking to someone moments before he entered the room. He greeted me with his usually physical and warm, hugs and expressions of appreciation. “I want you to continue to be a part of this government,” he said.
As always, the first time I met him at Whitehorse in 2013, he reflected on the good we can do for the country. Such is Justin Trudeau. Taking control and setting the tone. Trying to remind everyone in the room – in this case me – who is in charge. “I don’t think you leaked the story [to the Globe]He said. Until I told him otherwise, he added. A power play. He was trying to push the ball into my court.
Looking back, I don’t think the Prime Minister was aware of what I was going to say in this meeting. As it turned out, this was the first of three private meetings with the PM over the next 36 hours before I finally resigned from his cabinet. That resignation – and whatever it led to it – would kick me out of the Liberal caucus and then remove me as the confirmed Liberal candidate for Vancouver Granville in the 2019 general election.
PM and I haven’t communicated since the Granthshala The story broke – not even by phone – but the world around me had exploded. The public and media barrage was unlike anything I had ever experienced or had ever anticipated. And it was a similar firearm for the prime minister and his office. Intrusive, relentless, and everywhere.
I know the prime minister had always treated me as a challenger – not politically adequate, very free-thinking, and ultimately not part of the inner liberal crowd. I felt that I was foreign and incomprehensible to him. After all, I was on the other side of the tracks. I was an indigenous girl from Cape Mudge – a small fishing village on the southern tip of Quadra Island, just off Vancouver Island. I’m a quack’wack. The PM didn’t grow up in my neighbourhood, the kids I grew up with. None of his family went to residential school. My childhood memories are closer to Comox and Cape Mudgee than to Rockcliffe. My political reference was the Big House, not the House of Commons. To be fair, he didn’t choose how and where he grew up or who his parents were. But liberal? political party? not my world.
Snow cracked but not broken, I started slowly, reminding the Prime Minister where I had always stood. “I got into politics because there are issues I’m seriously committed to helping solve.” I remember for him, then one of our first conversations when he was recruiting me for the party. We were in Whitehorse, and we talked about our view of the country and how we had similar views. I joined the Liberal Party largely because I believed we shared those views, and because I thought he would be a good prime minister and make a good team. I believed everything I told him five and a half years ago. As I repeated that big airport room, I found myself surprised when I first realized I was wrong.
I got to the bottom of the matter. “Since you brought it up, I haven’t leaked the story, and it’s absurd and offensive, you’d suggest it.” I wondered if he knew I had warned his principal secretary, Gerry Butts, that Robert Fife had kicked me out of the elevator on the ground floor of the West Block after cabinet on February 5. Mr. Murali’s questions were so detailed that he indicated that something explosive was coming. I told the PM about the leak: “Why would I ever do that?” I came to meet Ottawa. For Indigenous peoples and all Canadians. I had traded my life because I knew it would enter federal politics, as did 337 others I knew. Taking it down itself, which in any scenario was the most likely result of the story being leaked, didn’t advance those reasons. Useless. Like much that had to be followed.
There is no question in my mind that the Prime Minister knew that SNC-Lavalin’s attempts were made to pressure me to avoid criminal trial, and although those attempts failed, thankfully they were wrong and he knew it. Were. Instead of addressing the issue publicly and accurately, the government was sending talking heads—the new attorney-general, David Lametti; Marco Mendicino; Arif Virani – To comment that the evidence now shown was not accurate or correct. I told him that he should tell the truth to the Canadian people.
It seemed that the Prime Minister was listening intently. “I never directed,” he said, referring to interference in my role as attorney-general in relation to the SNC-Lavalin prosecution. His public lines began to come, which were designed to deny responsibility and culpability. There are differences between pressure and direction, he emphasized. We spoke about our soon-to-be infamous meeting with the Clerk of the Privy Council on September 17, 2018, where I asked him directly, when SNC-Lavalin was raised, “Will you be politically interfering with my role? As a lawyer, my decision-common? I would strongly advise against it.” He reiterated in that airport room that I was not removed from being Minister of Justice and Attorney-General because of SNC-Lavalin. For which I thought to myself, oh yeah i remember scott brisson resigned from treasurySo, of course, you then had to move the attorney-general and two other ministers and raise two lawmakers to fill a position. good grief.
As he moved on, I suddenly said, “I don’t want you to say any more about what happened after September 17th.” I am still surprised that I said that. I know why I did it and why I wanted him to stop talking – I was trying to leave room for constructive solutions to the mess created by the PM and his office and, in my overly optimistic opinion , can still be found. Either the prime minister knew everything that had happened and didn’t care and was clearly lying to me and the country, or he didn’t know how to try to pressure them during the months after 17 September. what was happening …