As the scandal involving the Prime Minister’s Office and former justice minister and attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould continues to grow by the day, everything that led up to it erupting last week is now getting a closer look.
That includes Wilson-Raybould’s involvement in the failed Indigenous rights framework that fell apart late last year.
Or more so, her apparent lack of involvement in what was supposed to be a game-changer for First Nations and the dismantling of the Indian Act.
“I feel the Prime Minister’s Office held (Wilson-Raybould) back on this work,” said Chief Judy Wilson of the Neskonlith Indian Band in British Columbia. “We were dealing mostly with Minister (Carolyn) Bennett who, as you know, rolled it out very terribly.”
Allegations surfaced last week that the PMO pressured Wilson-Raybould to intervene in a criminal case involving SNC-Lavalin. The Globe and Mail newspaper suggested in its report this was the reason why she surprisingly demoted from justice minister to veterans affairs last month.
Wilson-Raybould resigned earlier this week from her role as minister of veterans affairs.
It’s a scandal that doesn’t appear to be going away.
As for work Wilson-Raybould was doing as justice minister, chiefs in B.C. couldn’t understand why she wasn’t more involved in developing the framework. Rather, Bennett, as minister of Crown-Indigenous relations, took the lead.
“I think she was more or less sidelined in that work,” said Wilson on Nation to Nation Thursday. “We couldn’t understand why those two ministers weren’t working better together.”
The framework was promised exactly a year ago on Feb. 14 when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stood in the House of Commons delivering a speech that came with big promises. One of those included tabling legislation by last December.
It never happened as chiefs and Indigenous leaders pushed back against the process saying it was flawed from the get-go and never seemed to get any better.
Now the government is rolling the framework out in pieces, including the Indigenous Languages Act that was tabled earlier this month and the proposed Indigenous child welfare bill that still hasn’t reached the House of Commons.
“We have serious work before us with child and family legislation and language. This takes away from that work,” said Wilson.
Grand Chief Joel Abram of the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians said a draft of the child welfare legislation is weak.
It doesn’t respect First Nation jurisdiction or the need for proper funding in order for nations to take back control of child welfare.
In fact, the government is proposing First Nations or groups interested in controlling child welfare first have to make a deal with the federal government and another with provinces.
“It’s not true recognition of First Nation authority if you require ministerial agreements with the province or the feds,” said Abram.
Trudeau promised to table the legislation by the last week of January but as of Thursday there is still no word on when, or if it will.