Former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould made a guest appearance at the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) summer meeting in Halifax on Thursday, where she took the opportunity to blast the Trudeau government on its United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) action plan.
“They – many of the people in positions of power – still do not get it,” she said in a roughly 40-minute speech to delegates.
“I have told many stories of sitting around with government colleagues and speaking about the recognition of Indigenous rights and the implementation of treaties and how to make transformative change to support self-determination including self-government – and it was like I was from a different planet.”
Wilson-Raybould was unceremoniously dumped from the Liberal caucus and party in 2019 after she spoke out against the Trudeau government and its handling of the SNC-Lavalin affair.
Since then she has written three books about her time in politics and her name is now being circulated as a potential candidate to replace recently deposed AFN national chief RoseAnne Archibald.
Wilson-Raybould was Canada’s first Indigenous justice minister.
B.C. is also in the process of implementing its own UNDRIP action plan where Terry Teegee, the AFN regional chief for the province, said things are going more smoothly compared to Ottawa.
He said part of the reason for this is First Nations are able to deal much more easily with a smaller provincial government as opposed to the massive bureaucracy in the nation’s capital.
“We’re four years into implementing our action plan for B.C. and I think the partnership there is good,” Teegee said. “There has been some progress with Sec. 6 and Sec. 7 agreements. Also, amendments made to a number (pieces of) legislation in British Columbia.
“I think for British Columbia – I suppose for the bureaucrats that are there – it is going to be a bit easier.”
In an interview with APTN News after her speech, Wilson-Raybould said the Liberals UNDRIP action plan lacks teeth. She said it will be up to Indigenous people to lobby the government hard for substantive changes.
“The UNDA legislation as it’s written on its face and the action plan do not contain the practical mechanisms that are required to implement or to operationalize the articles of the declaration,” she said.
“On the ground, in communities, we need to be realistic, we need to be practical, we need to develop those mechanisms. I called for that when I was minister of justice, the Prime Minister stood up in the House of Commons in 2018, committed to it, and the government hasn’t done that yet.”
Teegee agreed it will be an uphill battle to make Ottawa’s action plan meaningful.
“I think it’s going to be very challenging in terms of aligning many of these colonial laws that were based in genocide, that were genocidal, in ways, to align with UNDRIP and really acknowledge implementing our ability to govern ourselves,” he added.
David Lametti, the MP who replaced Wilson-Raybould as justice minister, also addressed the assembly. He said he believes the action plan is flexible enough to meet the varied needs of all Indigenous people.
“The action plan itself is something we use as a process to work together, and we can address questions like redress through the basic principles that are articulated in the action plan itself,” he said.
“So again, I’m optimistic that this will be transformational in a number of ways.”
Thursday was the final day of the assembly. AFN said 1,430 people participated by attending in person and online.