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Many people will read this book, as I did, because they were hugely inspired by Jody Wilson-Raybould’s courageous refusal to give a deferred prosecution agreement to SNC Lavalin, which caused her to lose her position as the first ever Indigenous Minister of Justice and Attorney General and ultimately led to her (likely illegal) expulsion from the Liberal caucus by Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau. However, there is only one direct reference to SNC Lavalin in the entire book, and only in her final speech in June 1995 do her claws come out, with her “experience things differently” swipe at Trudeau.
The book is a compilation of speeches and articles, and has the usual drawback of such anthologies, the same points are repeated again and again. This can’t easily be avoided as deletion of material covered in a previous chapter will usually destroy the unity of the chapter in question, but it can make for monotonous reading. In this book, the problem is particularly acute because the subject of the book is not so much Indigenous Canadians but for the most part First Nations people living on reserves (less than 343 thousand people at the time of the 2016 Census), with a concentration, for obvious reasons, on BC First Nations.
During the English language leaders’ debate from the 2019 federal election, Trudeau answered a question on “recognizing and affirming Indigenous rights” by spouting figures about boiled water advisories his government had removed or planned to, talking around the question. It is clear that to Wilson-Raybould issues like boiling water advisories, while far from unimportant, are essentially distractions from the main goal of dismantling the Indian Act and restoring Indigenous self-government. She believes that there is no prospect of solving the many problems facing Frirst Nations, by which she seems to mean essentially people living on reserves without making them more clearly self-governing.
In March 2013, as the AFN’s BC Regional Chief, Wilson-Raybould attacked the Conservative Bill C-27, First Nations Financial Transparency Act, which passed later in the month. Wilson-Raybould believed the bill, which would among other things require FN governments to publicize audited financial statements and the salaries and expenses of their chiefs was federal interference in FN affairs. She really doesn’t seem to believe that there was serious misspending by FN officials that a federal bill was needed to address. On p.112, she writes: “After Attawapiskat, the world is waiting”, but the problem at Attawapiskat that brought on disastrous housing conditions for the residents of this reserve was surely disgraceful mismanagement of the substantial funds available to the FN officials. Maybe there was a need for greater financial transparency after all. After Bill C-27, the gross overcompensation of some FN officials almost defied belief. If this was not the way to bring such outrages into the open, what would Wilson-Raybould have preferred?
Now that she is an independent MP, and no longer a Liberal, perhaps Wilson-Raybould will drop the Big Brother Justin Newspeak that occasionally infects this volume. If a FN government builds an athletic centre in a depressed economy that is economic stimulus. Improving its governance (see p. 108), however worthy an objective, is not, and it is an abuse of language to justify it in that way.