Truth to Power - A Requiem for Indigenous Reconciliation? Did she throw the baby out with the bathwater?

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

March 2nd, 2019



If I’d been prime minster of this great land I might have done some things differently. For starters I would have kept my promise to bury the undemocratic first-past-the-post electoral system. Preferential balloting for 2019, then an information campaign leading to a referendum on proportional representation as was recommended in the last parliamentary committee on electoral reform.

I would have applied the carbon tax universally across Canada and used the proceeds to remove the HST (federal portion) on electric vehicles, electric heating and appliances, and to help defer the costs of provincial renewable energy production.

And I wouldn’t have shuffled Jody Wilson-Raybould (JWR). She is a formidable force to reckon with, as anyone watching her carefully crafted testimony before the Justice Committee last week could see. She spoke straight-up and convincingly from detailed notes, though some of the most damning quotations were only from secondary sources.

JWR testifying

Jody Wilson-Raybould: She spoke straight-up and convincingly

She said that nothing which had transpired was illegal. She had never been directed against her will, and while she sensed what she called ‘veiled threats’, no one had actually threatened her with anything. She simply got annoyed after some 11 people had asked or urged her to reconsider her position. Then she was shuffled to a different Cabinet position, but she could not talk about that. It was covered by Cabinet confidentiality.

So she spoke her ‘truth to power’, which according to Wikipedia is “a non-violent political tactic, employed by dissidents against the received wisdom or propaganda of governments they regard as oppressive, authoritarian or an ideocracy.” Is that really how Jody Wilson-Raybould saw the government she had been such a big part of for the last three and half years? And was that the political party of which she still wants to remain a member?

scheer mute

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer and his nodding fellow Tories.

The Commons Justice Committee will not resolve anything substantive against the PM, it has a Liberal majority after all. The Ethics Commissioner will not find that Mr. Trudeau’s actions were intended to benefit him personally. And the RCMP will ignore the idiotic request by Conservative leader Andrew Scheer and his nodding fellow Tories.

JWR, or Puglaas as she is considered in her native culture, will be expelled from the Liberal caucus at an appropriate time and may return to her earlier work as regional chief of her first nation. Or having had a taste of partisan politics may look to join one of the other parties.

Either of the other major parties would likely welcome her. She might be more comfortable, though, with the NDP, and Jagmeet Singh would, no doubt, embrace her. Though, despite his recent victory in Burnaby South, some of the NDP membership might wish it were her rather than him as leader.

Justin Trudeau recruited JWR. There was history between their fathers. And though she never actually served in a specific Cabinet role related to her aboriginal background, he must have seen her assisting with his goal of achieving indigenous reconciliation. We know that she was at least marginally engaged in that issue. The Clerk of the Privy Council mentioned that there was some friction between her and other ministers on that file.


Reconciliation is more than making amends for the residential schools fiasco.

Reconciliation is a complicated matter and evades a single or simple definition. But it is more than making amends for the residential schools fiasco. Trudeau had been hoping we would finally get beyond the 1867 Indian Act – the most discriminatory piece of legislation in Canadian history, if we ignore what happened with WWII Japanese –  Canadian interment. With JWR out of the picture, reconciliation is likely to be on the back burner until after the election, or perhaps even longer if Andrew Scheer becomes the next PM and follows Stephen Harper’s approach.

It would be interesting to see a poll on how Canadians feel about SNC Lavalin and whether it should have to go to court or be allowed to plea bargain it’s way out of its two decade old corporate bribery charge, in otherwise corrupt Libya.

JWR decided to support the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and force SNC to run the gauntlet of a trial. She must have known that her party, and likely those on the other side as well, would have preferred to see a remediation agreement – the way this kind of crime is handled just about everywhere else.

But she chose a red line – a hill to fight for and hold. And she may have won the battle. The PM cannot possibly get his new AG to override the DPP after somebody leaked this story to the Globe and Mail, and all that has transpired since.

But somebody else needs to ask who leaked what appears to be Cabinet confidential information. They would likely be in violation of section 38 of the Canada Evidence Act given that you’d have to be there to get this kind of detail. So perhaps it wasn’t the whole Truth to the power that we heard.

Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was a candidate for provincial office in Burlington where he ran against Cam Jackson in 1995, the year Mike Harris and the Common Sense Revolution swept the province. He developed the current policy process for the Ontario Liberal Party.

Background links:

SNC Deal –     Truth to Power –     Indigenous File

Reconciliation –     Cabinet Confidence

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20 comments to Truth to Power – A Requiem for Indigenous Reconciliation? Did she throw the baby out with the bathwater?

  • Louise F.

    Why no comment(s) from either Karina Gould or Pam Damoff??? Their silence speaks volumes. Please remind Karina that her future job won’t come with free daycare.

  • Fraser: aka D.Duck

    Treasury Board president Jane Philpott resigned Monday from the federal cabinet, saying she’s lost confidence in the way the Trudeau government has dealt with the SNC-Lavalin affair.

    “The solemn principles at stake are the independence and integrity of our justice system. It is a fundamental doctrine of the rule of law that our attorney general should not be subjected to political pressure or interference regarding the exercise of her prosecutorial discretion in criminal cases. Sadly, I have lost confidence in how the government has dealt with this matter and in how it has responded to the issues raised.”

    And that in a nut-shell speaks volumes.

    Trudeau’s sanctimonious feminist facade fades when a strong, intelligent and morally grounded individual refuses to concede to the political barrage of her colleagues when it comes to the Rule of the Law.

  • Peter

    With Minister Jane Philpott’s resignation, should we rename this piece – Requiem for the Trudeau Liberals? Did he throw the baby out with the bathwater?

  • Susan L.

    I wonder where we’d be today if Trudeau had prorogued parliament when this first happened.

    It’s worked in the past for someone else.

  • Ray Rivers

    Thank you all for your comments and perspectives – I noticed this opinion piece in the Globe recently and I thought you might find is edifying…

    I also noticed that Doug Ford has fired the province’s OPP deputy commissioner for speaking his truth – should we also demand a public inquiry and RCMP investigation there?

    • Fraser: aka D.Duck

      I love how you play the ‘shell game’! Do you & JT really think that we would be distracted by such a simplistic slight of hand?

      I voted out Wynne for her vices and lack of transparency and immoral aptitude. Instead I voted in a pompous arrogant bully. See gender plays no role with me. Truthfully I was hoping for Ms. C. Elliott or Ms. C. Mulroney to lead the PCs but now I know they don’t possess the character of JWR or Jane P to keep Ford in line.

      I wrote once under my pseudonym D.Duck about what it takes to be a public lead. I still stand by this and happily my vote for our current Mayor of Burlington appears to be rewarded. See, I have hope.

      There are good people out there. We just need to encourage them to stay true to the meaning of ‘Public Service’. Sometimes, that means a little nudge and other times it means a big stick.

      So to answer your question Ray; Yes we should demand a public inquiry & perhaps RCMP investigation into the firing of the Province’s OPP deputy. Rise and stand up to this bully before he makes me vote NDP.

      That Ray is the difference btw you and me. I have not drank the Kool-Aid where you are willingly and happily serving it. Me, I just want the best individual who places Canada or Ontario or Burlington over their party. Someone with common sense, a willingness to listen before talking, to be transparent, to admit to mistakes (we all make them) and learn from them, etc, etc, etc (see old post).


      PS: Butts is going to make a Butt-ugly mess of this tomorrow. It is a no Wynne (hilarious), no matter what proof Butts may have. Butt, his hubris knows no bounds.

  • Ray Rivers

    Gentlemen – You have put a lot of faith in the words you have parsed from the testimony of the former AG, except for what she said regarding legality. She said that the pressure she experienced was not illegal.

    • Philip Waggett

      Your observation of JWR’s comment on the legality of the pressure is quite accurate. You should have noted the following: 1. she is still a Liberal, 2. the attempt to obstruct justice is itself a criminal offence, and 3. trials often revolve around conflicting views and interpretations of both facts and law. All of these show the need for an INDEPENDENT judicial inquiry which will resolve what is the truth–JWR’s or the drama teacher’s.

      • Philip Waggett

        More properly, my last sentence in the previous post should read, “will resolve what is the REAL truth”.

    • Mike

      Ray, that is true but the detailed and purposeful account of her testimony bears credibility. You can note that I said in my comments below that we need a public inquiry/ RCMP investigation to either hold the offenders to account or to clear them. Their only reason to avoid this is that they know if all the information (the whole truth) comes out, they will not likely be criminally charged but their actions will have been over the line and exposed their political interference and bias. Given Trudeau’s campaigning that he is a “different” politician and his government would be better, his credibility and brand will be destroyed. No wonder they are avoiding it. This would also allow other policy points like the economy and climate to get some focus while this gets completed.

      I shudder to think what budget deficit Morneau will (be told to) run now to buy their way out of this mess.

    • Peter

      Boiling down her 37 minute statement and hours of questioning into saying “She said that the pressure she experienced was not illegal.” is the ultimate in parsing and shows how desperate the Trudeau loyalists are if that’s the best they’ve got.

      Championing prosecutorial interference on behalf of the well-heeled and corrupt is a losing campaign message and will destroy their re-election bid. Sad to see a party that offered so much promise in 2015, descend into the moral abyss.

  • Susan L.

    This is no longer a question of who did what. That matter has been settled in the court of public opinion.

    The problem with this is, we are not discussing the various Party’s platforms. It appears that trying to mitigate the damage being done to the planet no longer matters at all. If this keeps up, there goes any action on climate change, gone without any discussion.

    At this point, it looks like Andrew Scheer doesn’t even need a platform to get elected. After all, it worked for Doug Ford.

    By the way, the same kind of thing is happening right now in Israel’s election too. “He stands accused of doing favours for wealthy friends in return for a “supply line” of pink champagne and expensive cigars and for getting positive media coverage.”

    • Don Fletcher

      This is not the only reason for voting Justin Trudeau out. How about a forecast balanced budget in 2040, the Trans Mountain Pipeline file, Bollywood dress-up trip, Aga Kahn paid for family vacation to Bell Island, etc, etc. I would rather see Chrystia Freeland as leader of the Liberals!

      You do have a good point though, Susan, that Andrew Scheer/ Conservatives need to more fully develop/ communicate their platform, and soon.

  • Stephen White

    The critical issue that remains unanswered is: why, after Wilson-Raybould supported the decision to have SNC Lavalin go to trial, did the PM, Wernick and everyone else mentioned during JWR’s testimony, keep hounding her to support a DPA? Once the decision had been made that should have been it. Why then did Butts, Wernick, Telfer, Chin and all manner of political flunkies and hacks keep pestering the Minister to support the DPA?

    One presumes that Trudeau appointed Wilson-Raybould to Justice Minister because he had confidence in her abilities. One also assumes that having made the decision in good faith that the PM and Cabinet would go just along with her recommendation recognizing the need for an independent and impartial decision. Despite this the PM’s has attempted to deflect attention from the real issue of corporate malfeasance by tossing up a series of ridiculous unctuous, morally sanctimonious and evasive pronouncements about jobs, the economy, etc. which are a feeble justification for meddling in something he and his colleagues should have known not to do.

    Ultimately, it comes down to an interpretation of Section 139 (2) of the Criminal Code of Canada:

    (2) Every one who wilfully attempts in any manner other than a manner described in subsection (1) to obstruct, pervert or defeat the course of justice is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years.

    I would submit there is enough evidence adduced to warrant an RCMP investigation. If the PM and his team are so convinced of the righteousness of their actions then let them say their piece and let an independent police review decide whether charges should be laid.

  • Mike

    A few points to remember in all of this:
    – JWR mentioned that SNC Lavalin did not qualify under the law (as written) for a DPA. She mentioned in her remarks and in answering questions that she did her own due diligence on this when she was provided the decision from the DPP. I’ve not read the law in question but I would think, given her attention to detail and the political focus of the case, she would be very critical in her review and decision on this.
    – Justin claimed that he and his cabinet and senior staff would act not just within the rules or law but within the spirit of them so as to not have perceptions of wrong-doing. He and his team seem to have completely disregarded that notion and proved they are just like most politicians. Say/do one thing in public and something else in the back rooms.
    – Justin seems to be all for supporting women, except when it will cost him his personal agenda. The fact that he allowed his office to send out the disparaging remarks about JWR at all, speaks volumes. I am sure this was a strategy devised by others (Gerry Butts) but it would not have occurred without his authorization. Then of course he denounced it when it didn’t work and the backlash built, saying he should have spoke sooner. It will be interesting to see Gerry Butts’ statements are to the committee and if they ask him about this. Of course without the potential for criminal prosecution I am skeptical that his presentations will be truthful in the sense of providing us the whole perspective versus selected pieces on info to attempt to water down the “truth” provided by JWR’s information.
    – The various government ministers (mostly the women) have been lined up to comment using the phrase “her truth” to describe JWR’s statements to attempt to say there is another truth which really means a perspective. There is only one truth but this government will not allow the information to come out so we can all see it. This is why we should have an RCMP investigation and/or a public inquiry. People need to be held to account for their deeds or appropriately cleared if this is all based on unfortunate interpretations.

    I can appreciate the government being concerned about job loss and the politicians being concerned about votes but when they are in power, they need to respect the red lines of holding these offices and this crew seems to either not have learned after 3+ years or just ignores them. Problematic either way. Glad there is an election. Both parties can now invoke shades of the past ……. “Harper’s Conservatives” by the Liberals and “Sponsorship Scandal 2.0” by the Conservatives.

    • Philip Waggett

      I too am looking forward to Butts’ appearance before the Justice Committee. While the Liberal members will undoubtedly lob several softball questions at him, expect the Conservatives & NDP go for jugular–I hope he’s rehearsed his best “deer in the headlights” look! I’m sure the part-time drama teacher has helped him learn his lines.

  • Ray Rivers

    Thanks for your comments – Scheer’s is an idiotic request because Canada’s former Minister of Justice and Attorney General, who is at the centre of all this, has already said there was nothing illegal. What then would we expect the RCMP to investigate when no crime has been committed?

    Second, on the ‘most damning comments’, they were the ones supposedly from Telford and Butts, which she claims she had received in a text message from her chief of staff. It was second hand information at best – she could not swear that the phrase “some interference” for example actually been spoken spoken, only that her staff told her it had been. As a top flight lawyer she would know that.

    And no I haven’t seen Katie Telford in years and she never asked me to write this piece. I’m just calling it as I see it.

  • Peter

    Please don’t dismiss JWR’s unwillingness to go along with the PMO’s lobbying for the DPA because she “simply got annoyed”. That continues the Liberal’s whisper campaign that “she’s difficult to get along with”. She demonstrated a lot of courage to say no in the face of continuous pressure.

    Listen to what she described as her motivation, “The history of Crown-Indigenous relations in this country includes a history of the rule of law not being respected…And I have seen the negative impacts for freedom, equality and a just society this can have first-hand.”

    The RCMP will decide if the members of the PMO should be charged with a obstruction of justice. Even if it’s not a criminal act, her point is when the ruling political party wants to use its power to apply different rules for the wealthy and powerful like SNC-Lavalin versus everyone else, they cynically entrench a unequal and unjust society.

    That the PM’s chief of staff was willing “to line up all kinds of people to write op-eds” to provide cover for their disagreeable actions is reminder that we need to consider the source of what we read and understand these op-eds are designed to obfuscate for partisan ends – not for the truth and to do what is right, but to maintain the current power dynamic.

  • Don Fletcher

    I concur with your assessment of Jody Wilson-Raybould and her most credible testimony. I find it curious that you would dilute it with your “most damning quotations were from secondary sources” comment and take a potshot at Andrew Scheer for making an “idiotic request” for a RCMP investigation. She said “no,means no” and that should have been the end of the dialogue for our feminist PM.

    Obviously, the Conservatives were right, Justin Trudeau is just not ready (and may never be).

    We all suffer to some degree from cognitive dissonance, but you, Ray, appear to have a particularly severe case.

  • Philip Waggett

    Ray, you are absolutely right that it wasn’t the whole truth to power remembering that Trudeau did limit the scope of JWR’s testimony. There is no evidence that JWR herself leaked the sordid attempt to undermine the rule of law in the PMO’s office but certainly someone did; I hope Telford didn’t ask you to write this op-ed. And by the way, any attempt to obstruct justice can result in the laying of the charge–the major reason we need an RCMP investigation or a public inquiry. Trudeau’s failure to initiate either of the latter two actions will merely confirm what most of us suspect–he is guilty!